Days of eHealth – Data Spaces and The Digital Transformation in Healthcare

16th September 2021

Days of eHealth at the Slovenian Digital Center were organized in light of the Sloveninan presidency of the Council of the European Union between August 30 – September 3, 2021. The event uncovered how digitization and data are transforming healthcare. Representatives from Slovenia, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Finland and Israel exchanged experiences and good practice examples while focusing on the European Health Data Space.

Modern technologies must provide the greatest benefits for the patient and the patient must be at the center of this transformation, was one of the main messages from the participants of the Days of eHealth conference, which took place between August 30 – September 3, 2021 at Slovenian Digital Center. 

Events focused on the European Health Data Space and exchange of experience and good practice examples from Slovenia and abroad with representatives from the EU presidency trio, Slovenia, Portugal and Germany, as well as guests from other leading countries in the field of digital health: Israel, Finland and Spain. 

European Health Data Area – Challenges and Opportunities

“The European data space has tremendous potential to accelerate the digital transformation of European health systems, making them more sustainable and accessible. We have a historic opportunity to contribute to the successful implementation of the European data strategy adopted last year. economic growth,” said Mark Boris Andrijanič, Minister for Digitalisation of Slovenia. According to his predictions, the winners of the digital age will be those who will be able to take advantage of the use of large databases.

Coherence and good use of data depend on standards and common goals. Bleddyn Rees, founder of the ECHAlliance (European Connected Health Alliance), highlighted the importance of establishing good cooperation between all stakeholders within ecosystems. The permanent cooperation and network among various stakeholders increases the efficiency of the whole system and drives healthcare forward.

Ray Pinto, Director of the Digital Transformation Company, DIGITALEUROPE, presented the state of digitalisation of healthcare within the EU, the use of artificial intelligence and interoperability in this field. He emphasised that we will experience tremendous changes in the coming years, partially also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn accelerated the dialogue on the political stage and in the economy. Mr. Pinto presented the ranking of European countries according to e-health standards, with Slovenia ranking quite low on the list. “Slovenia must not give up, because it is doing a lot of good work and things are moving for the better quickly. It also has a lot of very capable programmers who create important digital solutions,” he added.

Finland: Experience and opportunities for secondary use of data

Finland developed during the past 100 years from a poor agricultural industry to a developed society with high education, social and health care service standards. A high level of trust allowed the country to build the health sector and data sharing capabilities. They have had a regulated process of using healthcare data for secondary uses since 2019 and FINDATA is a centralized institution that grants/rejects proposals for secondary use.

On the EU level we don’t lack good standards, our problem is limited adoption. At the moment, the incentive structures for investments in health IT at each healthcare organization, do not favor investing in connectivity with others as stated by Dipak Kalra, President at The European Institute for Innovation through Health Data

Israel: National eHealth Program and Implementation in Practice

Israel has a lot of opportunities for startups, with startup meetups and various networking events. The ecosystem is actively looking for matches for healthcare challenges, but in the end it is all about the partnership between hospitals, HMOs and startups. Dr. Michael Halberthal from Rambam Medical Centre, Israel: “We would not be relevant if we would not be involved in innovation & research.” At the Rambam Medical Center they have an incubator with IBM, their own medtech company and basic research group at the university. Funding is always a battle with their Ministry of Finance, but they get additional funding through philanthropy.

Michael Halberthal: “If you work in healthcare, you need to be born optimistic, otherwise you cannot wake up in the morning.”

The role of digital literacy in healthcare

Modern societies are increasingly digitalized and ICT is increasingly integrated into our daily lives. Adequate digital literacy is also important for the development of society, and its absence makes it more difficult to integrate into society. The user must always be considered when introducing new technologies.

“When we ask ourselves if it’s time for a testing environment in Slovenia, the answer is that we’re too late. We have some living labs, but they are not sufficiently supported. The Think Tank of the HealthDay.si community is currently finishing up an action plan regarding that,” said Urška Rauter Gaber, a HealthDay.si community and ACSELL project representative.

The discussion on the role of digital literacy in healthcare, as an important competence of healthcare professionals as well as patients, concluded the Days of eHealth. With the help of technology, digital solutions and artificial intelligence, we want to achieve a sustainable system that would promote innovative solutions such as digitalization of healthcare, remote monitoring of patients and advanced analytics, which must be focused on the best treatment outcome for each individual patient.


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