Warsaw, 25th April 2023
Position of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers: regulatory changes announced
by the Ministry of Health will affect the development of telemedicine companies in Poland
- Telemedicine is one of the strongest trends in how the world develops nowadays, and Poles are valued specialists and programmers who create great tools in this field of innovation.
- The Ministry of Health has announced that new regulations are to combat “prescription machines” – unfortunately, the solutions may in real life also affect companies offering remote medical consultations, whose purpose might be to provide a patient with an e-prescription.
- Telemedicine companies in Poland contribute to greater access to healthcare for patients. Too restrictive regulations, especially in the light of the introduction of a harmonised, cross-border e-prescription within the EU, court the risk of pushing domestic companies out of the market and replacing them with entities registered outside the country.
- The Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers appeals to the Ministry of Health to be open to dialogue and not to proceed with hasty amendments which are therefore imperfect, and additionally far-reaching and affecting the development of telemedicine in Poland.
Telemedicine is the future of medicine around the world as it facilitates access to medical care for patients, primarily in the context of system overload and staff shortages. The possibility of obtaining a quick diagnosis (e-consultation) and appropriately selected therapy (e-prescription) is a solution for those patients who cannot wait in a long queue to see a doctor. These are people who are simply sick and require immediate treatment or suffer from a chronic condition and merely need to quickly purchase a prescription to ensure they continue to take their medication.
During COVID-19, telemedical solutions were considerably promoted and widely used with the approval of the Ministry of Health. Some of them, such as the e-prescription, were ahead of their time and, having entered into force shortly before the outbreak of the pandemic, enabled patients to safely continue therapy. For some time, however, we have been observing a disturbing shift in the practice of the Ministry of Health by tightening the regulations in the direction of limiting or simply excluding the possibility of benefitting from telemedicine. Presently, solutions are being announced that are to be a blow to the so-called “prescription machines”. And one should stress in this context the fact that no court or administrative authority has confirmed the widespread occurrence of this type of phenomenon, and it only exists in press publications. In fact, most of this market consists of entities in which issuing (or not issuing) a prescription is always preceded by a remote medical consultation.
Telemedical services do not work automatically and are not conducive to fraudulent prescriptions for an uncontrolled amount of drugs. Honest websites, before they decide to prescribe a specific pharmaceutical, collect medical history from patients using an IT system that supports their work. It is always the doctors’ task, thanks to which they can fully devote their time to their patients. The doctors during the teleconsultation are also fully responsible for the diagnosis and therapy prescribed to their patients on this basis. The fee applies to a medical visit, and it is a g cheaper than a visit to a stationary facility – therefore, these portals significantly increase the price availability of medical services.
In addition to price, time is another principal factor. Due to staff shortages, access to doctors in Poland is limited. The problem concerns not only specialists, but also general practitioners, especially during periods of increased incidence (such as the flu season or a pandemic). This is a major obstacle both for working people, who often must change their professional plans to make it to a doctor’s appointment, as well as the elderly (who often require immediate advice), or for example those chronically ill who need to maintain the continuity of treatment. Telemedicine and similar solutions to an e-prescription following a remote consultation effectively remedy these problems. Now even in crisis situations – for instance, a sudden lack of constantly taken medications or an unforeseen trip abroad – patients can safely continue their therapy.
An important fact in the context of the plans of the Ministry of Health is the work on the implementation of a cross-border e-prescription at the European Union level. The introduction of this solution will mean that an e-prescription issued in an EU member state can be filled in any other EU country. Under normal circumstances, these circumstances would be considered as an opportunity – Polish innovative companies could internationalise and conquer foreign markets. However, if proposed solutions are adopted in Poland, companies registered in the country will have much worse conditions for doing business than their foreign competitors. The latter, in turn, will be able to freely enter the Polish market. As a result, instead of expanding their operations and conquering European markets, Polish companies may be pushed out of the domestic market and replaced by foreign entities.
If the scenario presented above comes true, taxes paid by reliable and honest telemedicine companies will not go to the Polish budget.
Another extremely important thread is the question of entrepreneurs’ trust in the state. A whole series of regulatory initiatives, such as the introduction of e-prescription, were intended to foster the development of telemedicine. Companies operating ethically and caring for the well-being of their patient had the full support of key decision-makers in introducing products increasing the availability of medical services. Such a sharp turn undermines trust in the state and its laws alike, both of which are particularly important when doing business.
To sum up, Telemedicine is one of the strongest trends in how the world develops nowadays. Creating digital services, supporting the work of doctors, building patient databases that have their treatment history built-in- this is the future of medical services. A future from which there should be no turning back – especially in Poland, where we suffer from an obvious shortage of practicing doctors, which results in gigantic queues for patients.