A completely new, modern Latvian digital health platform to be developed

  • 2021-12-06

What should the patient digitalization strategy be, and how can patients, doctors, and other medical professionals benefit from innovations in the health sector? Last week, for the second year running, these and other urgent topics were discussed at the Health Data Summit Riga 2021: Digital Leap for Improved Patient Care, the largest summit related to patient data. Over many hours, patient stories, the daily experiences of doctors, and opinions from respected local and international experts were transmitted online.

‘Today, with the support of the World Health Organization office in Latvia, the Ministry of Health is working on the digital health strategy. The first improvements are expected as early as next year
while in the coming five or six years, we are looking at a completely new, modern digital health platform that will function as a strategic tool to facilitate access to healthcare and improve its
quality and efficiency. At the same time, it is important to improve remote communication between patients, general practitioners, and second and third-line care specialists across Latvia.
We aim to organize healthcare specialists into a single virtual team that will share its view of patient conditions and strategies and gathers together all health documents in the digital environment', said Minister of Health of Latvia Daniels Pavļuts. The Minister explained that the Ministry of Health has plans to create a central data storage point to collect patient data from
different registers and institutions, making it available to any healthcare specialist.

During the summit, the experts repeatedly noted that the health system should always focus on patients and their interests. At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has yet again highlighted
the need for digitalized patient data to make the healthcare system more efficient, convenient and available.

Harijs Gals, a Member of the Board of the Lung Cancer Patient and Relative Association, and Baiba Ziemele, the founder of the Patient Organization Network in Latvia and the President of
Latvian Alliance of Rare Diseases, noted that in the absence of a structured and single digital data system, there are no comprehensive data available and this may prevent patients from
receiving proper treatment. ‘Many don’t understand why it is necessary to change the system and make health data available from one source. For example, when I go to a doctor, I take a pile of
documents trying to explain to healthcare specialists that I cannot have certain treatments due to the rare condition I have. As my condition is not even included in the E-Health system, I often
come across doctors who are simply unfamiliar with this and cannot understand what is happening to me. We cannot expect every doctor to know all about rare diseases, but in case of an acute need, for example, an accident, I may not have all these documents with me and that may put my life at risk. If all my data and test results were available from one source, they would be clearer and would make it possible to provide the necessary help much quicker’, explained Baiba Ziemele.

During the summit, healthcare sector experts and leaders stated repeatedly that technical aspects and patient trust and confidence that their data are safe are very important for a successful data digitalization. Minister of Health of Denmark Magnus Heunicke said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of trust. Trust in the government and vaccines, trust among people, trust between the public and private sectors. The purpose of digitalized healthcare is to put the patient and their health, not the diagnosis, in focus. However, when developing any digital solution, we must be extremely careful about patient confidentiality. Without trust, data digitalization is pointless. To build that trust, patients should have access to their data and be able to see how healthcare sector leaders and companies ensure the safety and cybersecurity of their data.’

There were two expert panel discussions at the summit. In one of them, experts discussed cooperation between the public and private sectors. For many years, this model of cooperation has been implemented in other industries and has great prospects in the healthcare sector. Karina Sotnika, founder and CEO of WorldUpstart Corp, noted that successful cooperation between the two sectors is key to motivating new companies to get involved in healthcare processes. 'With respect to cooperation between the public and private sectors, both parties can drive innovation – the public sector with its demand and the private sector with its supply. Our task is to generate the right incentives. Ten years ago, researchers were judged based on their number of publications or participation in conferences. If this incentive were shifted to, say, creating new companies and an appropriate program was developed to help those research projects, we could expect new solutions that could be integrated into healthcare. Stories of success from other colleagues would motivate other sectors to get involved, and many would want to become creators of innovations. The key is to create the right ecosystem in the right place for the right players!’

At the Summit, many people noted that the pandemic increased the need for data availability to improve public health policies and promote early patient access to healthcare services. Access to
high-quality and representative data and the use of innovative technologies will facilitate a transfer to patient-focused healthcare. That is why the summit participants urged the government
to increase investments in the Latvian healthcare system and support the necessary reforms to help implement technologies and solutions in the sector. Cooperation is extremely important, too.
Working together, the government, healthcare organizations and professionals, patient organizations and partners of the sector will achieve the common goal, i.e., to create a positive impact on public healthcare.

Health Data Summit Riga 2021: Digital Leap for Improved Patient Care was held on 26 November. It featured many top-level participants, practitioners, patients, sector leaders and founders of new companies from all over the world, including Minister of Health of Latvia Daniels Pavļuts; Minister of Health of Denmark Magnus Heunicke; the CEO of the Children's Clinical University hospital in Latvia Valts Ābols; Global Head of Artificial Intelligence, Intel Health and Life Sciences Prashant Shah; WorldUpstart Corp founder and CEO Karina Sotnika; Andrew Warrington, EMEA Healthcare Industry Senior Manager, Microsoft; Director for Health Systems and Products at the European Commission Andrzej Rys and many others.

The main objective of the summit was to raise awareness of the patient data problem in Latvia, learn from the experience of specialists and leaders from other countries and look for solutions for
the successful integration of hi-tech solutions into the healthcare system.

For more detailed information about the summit, see www.healthdatasummitriga.eu.

The online Health Data Summit Riga 2021 was organized by the Ministry of Health, the National Health Service and AmCham Latvia along with Novartis Baltics and Roche Latvija. Partners of the
summit: The Nordic Council of Ministers'; Office in Latvia, Microsoft Latvia, AbbVie, Janssen.