Digital transformation is advancing in Greece

8th February 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an accelerator. An account of what is happening in the last year was given during the Panhellenic Congress on Economics and Health Policy 2020, organised online between 7 and 10 December 2020 and is given in this article.

The congress focused on analyzing the multi-facet impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Greek Healthcare system. The digital transformation and the new innovative digital services were high on the agenda, and several sessions were dedicated to the benefit of implementing digital health solutions. Laura Magahy, the Executive Director of Sláintecare, in a keynote speech, chaired by Dr. Ioannis Kotsiopoulos, Secretary-General of Healthcare Services of the Greek Ministry of Health, presented the 10-year programme to transform health and social care services for the Irish people.

A session was dedicated to depicting the use of digital technologies and big data analytics to improve the effectiveness in the healthcare sector. In the session, which was led by the Hellenic Pharma Industry Association (SFEE) and focused on both the public sector restructuring and evidence based health policy the government led transformation programme was presented by Dr Kotsiopoulos and Mrs Niki Tsouma, Governor of HDIKA, the National Digital Governance & Social Security Organisation, and as well as the private sector contribution in that respect, Nikos Kostaras, General manager IQVIA and Nikos Moropoulos, Senior Associate of PLANET, a major consultancy in Greece specializing in public sector restructuring.

The congress fostered experience sharing and within this context the Scottish digital health response to the COVID pandemic was presented by Prof. George Crooks in a session chaired by Dr T. Vontetsianos and was elaborated in a panel discussion with important key opinion leaders, Dr Mina Gaga, Prof. Yiannis Tountas, and Prof Antonis Politis.

The session entitled “Telemedicine in Primary Healthcare: An imperative need at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic” focused on reviewing the positive outcome of telemedicine solutions for the primary care sector, a government priority in the pandemic landscape. The Digital Health Sector and especially Telemedicine, has made considerable progress in Greece in the past decade, however less in comparison with EU average, mostly due to the challenges of the financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, acted as a catalyst, bringing, in just one year, changes in the e-health services industry that would otherwise need a decade to materialise. In the coming decade, the 4th Industry Revolution Technologies is expected to transform the health and social care (Health 4.0), given the fact Greece has launched a Digital Transformation Policy for the Public Sector and concluded two weeks ago the open call for tender for the 5G networks licenses.

In view of that, in 2021, the Primary Care restructuring is of high priority in Greece. In the telemedicine session major stakeholders were represented: The Ministry of Health, the Central Union of Municipalities (Dr G Dafoulas), the Medical Association of Greece (Dr E. Thireos), the National Healthy Cities Network, a WHO certified municipality network (Dasy Papathanasopoulou), as well as IHE Europe (Dr A. Berler), a non profit association focusing on providing seamless interoperability specifications for the healthcare sector based on international standards.

As a result of the EU Stuctural funding  for the period 2021-2027 and the REACT-EU response and repair measures, Greece has a fair opportunity for a successful digital transformation of the Health and Care Sectors, in view of the existing European best practices and international standards and methodologies.

Finally, an important session entitled “prerequisites for telemedicine and mhealth best practices” provided several notable successful examples of adoption of innovative solutions and new digital health strategies. This session included the following presentations:

-MedMij – a Dutch approach towards a sustainable framework for personal health environments, Victor van Hagen & Vincent van Pelt, NICTIZ

-mHealth and the EHR in Switzerland, Catherine Bugmann, eHealthSuisse

-Reimbursing digital therapeutics (DTx): The new German Digital Healthcare Act, Jorg Trinkwalter, de: Hub

-mHealth telecare for patients with diabetes mellitus – the ProEmpower experience, Ozan Beyhan, & Strahil Birov, ProEmpower project

-The future of Digital and mobile Health, Crystal Dennis & Michail Chatzimichalis, Dorset Integrated Care System

Mr Van Hagen presented the MedMij initiative in the Netherlands to create a new ecosystem of connected digital health application, enabling the Dutch citizen of their Personal Health Environment Solution’s free-market choice. Mrs Bugmann presented the new mHealth Strategy and implementation plan operated by eHealthSuisse and the Federal Ministry of Public Health and how this is being developed by reusing international standards such as HL7 FHIR and IHE profiles. The new strategy extends and provides unique services and opportunities for the swiss citizen by expanding the Swiss Electronic Patient Dossier offerings and capabilities.

Mr Trinkwalter described the new German Digital Health Act (DGV) operation and how digital therapeutics solutions can be assessed and prescribed for clinical use under this law. Those applications follow a thorough assessment path to become certified applications (DIGAs). The following speakers Mr Beyhan and Mr Birov, presented the result of the EU PCP project called Proempower on creating high-quality, innovative solutions after a competitive pre-commercial procurement process. Two solutions were tested at the end DM4all a solution implemented by a consortium led by Gnomon Informatics from Greece and DiabCare a solution implemented by a consortium led by an Italian company Tech4Care. Both solutions have proven to be extremely successful, confirmed their clinical validity and user acceptance. Next step is to expand the use of those solution to serve approximately 12 million Diabetes type patients in the four countries of ProEmpower, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Turkey.

Finally, Mrs Crystal Dennis, explained how the Dorset region had implemented their mHealth application enrollment program in the region in association with ORCHA. This session was organized in with the collaboration of HL7 Hellas and ECHA.

If you need further information on the Panhellenic Congress (www.healthpolicyconrgress.gr) or wish to contact the speakers involved please contact the congress secretariat: eleni@mind-view.gr

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