The budding European market for clinical decision support systems could be propelled into growth with the development of more robust technologies, according to a new report from Frost & Sullivan, which says this is being driven by concerns over patient safety. In fact, it estimates that 2005's revenue of $239 million could almost double by 2012 to reach $431 million.

"With patient safety an issue of increasing concern across Europe, vendors must seek to create a strong relationship between clinical decision support and enhanced patient safety,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Kiran John. "Robust, scalable and proven CDS systems will effectively address the demand for better patient safety."

CDS systems assist clinicians in making treatment decisions, by issuing alerts and reminders, assisting with diagnoses, image recognition and providing therapy planning and review capabilities. But the European market is extremely disjointed and diverse, says F&S, and has been hindered by low awareness amongst healthcare authorities, which in turn is discouraging government-funded research into CDS technologies and restraining the market. However, this looks set to change as healthcare systems eventually become more aware of the use of CDS systems in improving patient safety but - in the meantime - growth is likely to be spurred by the growing implementation of enterprise wide solutions with CDSS functionality and their overall role in healthcare delivery.

F&S believes the CDSS sector will see a greater share of innovation and product development over the coming years, but warns vendors they will need to plough funds into research and explore new strategies for creatively testing the solutions because these systems affect patient outcomes, and secondly due to the political, economic and technological factors that have thus far impeded adoption. “Continual product development and testing will be essential for ensuring greater accuracy, reliability, interoperability and scalability, and encouraging wider uptake,” explains Mr John. "CDSS providers capable of delivering solutions with these attributes stand to win lucrative contracts."

The market is currently populated by both large and small-medium vendors, some of which only have single specialty offerings: “Specialist participants already possess the expertise needed to carve distinct niches for themselves,” elaborates Mr John. "However, they will have to concentrate on building strategic alliances in order to increase their visibility in the industry, as well as to have more effective access to decision makers."

A change in stakeholder attitudes to CDS systems should help drive up the market, but vendors must understand the ins and outs of the enormous shake ups in healthcare delivery that are being put in place. Doing this, and developing superior, more robust product offerings, could lead to government contracts worth millions, reveals F&S, adding that it's an opportunity to cash in on the major healthcare changes taking place.

Overall, it predicts steady growth over the next few years, speeding up from 2008-9.