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How to handle digitalization of healthcare?

21st July 2021

Digitization of health care has been talked about for many years. Its goal is an effective way to improve the quality of treatment and patient care. It can be done in various ways. The first option is a centralized approach, requiring a large investment. The second option is decentralized, slower and based on the needs of patients, doctors and other health professionals. Experts on digitization and innovation presented their experience during EIT Health Morning Health Talks 2021 series, which was organized in Czechia by DEX Innovation Centre, the local EIT Health Hub.

The top challenges in healthcare digitalization

The so-called EHR (Electronic Health Record) system is a digital version of patient files that allows authorized physicians working in the ward or on site to view medical records. “Despite successful digitization, doctors face a number of problems,” says Josef Dvořák from the innovation agency Direct People. There are many EHR systems and they often cannot communicate with each other. “Apart from the mutual incompatibility of systems, the problem is also an administrative burden. Doctors spend up to half of their time entering data into the system. There are other problems apart from the bureaucracy, such as false alarms and potentially fatal system errors when ordering medicines. As a result of the EHR, there are significant shares in the burnout syndrome of medical staff,” adds Dvořák. If digitization focuses only on technology, the result may be unsatisfactory. EHR systems should serve people, address their needs and, above all, make the work of healthcare professionals easier. All digital tools and systems should be created in cooperation with end-users, which is confirmed by Tomáš Vavrečka from Phillips. “Customer needs are at the heart of our strategy,” he says. “This way, a system can be created that is sufficiently simple and usable in medical practice.”

Sofia Couto da Rocha, head of the Transformation and Digital Innovation project in Lusiadas Saúde, Portugal, has a similar view. “Digital transformation is always about people. Unfortunately, this is sometimes forgotten.” The decentralized digitization of health care was accelerated, among other things, by the COVID-19 pandemic. “People were afraid to meet and we registered increased demand for online medical services and consultations. In just seven days, we developed the #TodosPorUm application, which during the pandemic evaluated the user’s symptoms, based on a questionnaire and, if necessary, referred the client to medical staff,” adds da Rocha. Almost 400,000 queries have been passed by the application and the functionality of the chat was verified by 3,800 paramedics. And what is going to happen after COVID-19? “I hope that digitization in diagnostic services will develop further beyond COVID and that digitization will go beyond telemedicine,” says Teigu Schutte, Mobiguity.

In Czechia, we should mention the open-source application zScanner as an example of good practice. zScanner is an application available on Google Play for private phones of doctors and nurses which provides fast, easy and secure clinical image documentation (e.g. documentation of wound and subsequent treatment). Thanks to the use of their own devices, the application was easily accepted by healthcare professionals. Data security is one of the most important aspects of digitization. “Innovators and technology providers must design their tools with patient privacy in mind. The protection of personal data from the very initial design is not only a competitive advantage, it has become a precondition,” claims Ioana Stupariu, Privacy Expert, Healcloud. The goal of digitization should not be digitization itself, but better and more precise treatment, decrease the workload of doctors and other health professionals and better access to healthcare services. Successful digitization is  easy, technologically secure, user-friendly and does not require high investment.

Interviews are available at https://youtu.be/3EhWgS0ax30 and https://youtu.be/LYL0-CUax-w

The 2021 EIT Health Morning Health Talks

EIT Health Morning Health Talks is a regional discussion forum and networking platform with the aim of co-shaping and improving the healthcare innovation ecosystem in regions classified as “moderate” or “modest” innovators on the EU map. Regional key opinion leaders, policymakers, authorities, innovators, start-up leaders, investors and healthcare professionals bring to the regional table some of the most urgent healthcare challenges faced by the European healthcare systems, such as digital transformation, AI in healthcare, Value-Based Healthcare, data donation, cybersecurity, and healthy living. The conclusions in the form of recommendations, white papers and reports are presented to the decision-makers on the local and European level to improve the health of all EU citizens.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has delivered a tough lesson, especially for healthcare systems. Our aim is to help increase the resistance of healthcare systems in Europe. The 2021 edition of EIT Health Morning Health Talks event series, organised in 13 countries, is focused on discovering practical aspects of digital health operation in different regions, and the best local practices and lessons learnt from the previous year, which was mainly dominated by the pandemic. Our experts and guests are discovering options around the collaboration of healthcare providers and innovators and the implementation of new, cutting-edge solutions in healthcare with the aim of improving patient care. The main aim is to collect the most practical case studies and perspectives from Central, Eastern and Southern European regions regarding the development and implementation of innovative approaches and digital health solutions.” – says Monika Toth, RIS Programme Manager at EIT Health InnoStars.

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