“Every discussion about digital healthcare starts with security and privacy. Once these are in place, the next step will be precision medicine,” Einaste believes. ‘Precision medicine’ means using an individual’s previous medical history and advanced decision support systems to tailor treatments for each and every patient.
Basically, precision medicine is similar to what doctors have been doing all along, but with advanced software support providing data access and treatment options. As a result, the hope is that drugs will be prescribed and illnesses treated to best suit the patient and his/her particular needs.
To guarantee better data in healthcare, global standards on collecting medical data should be established.
“Digital healthcare brings more automation. This means more and more recommendations from information systems, and even decisions based on available data,” Einaste explains. To guarantee high-quality advice and decisions, demand for the quantity and quality of data is rising. “Big Data will play an increasing role in healthcare, making it important to have uniform standards on what kinds of data is collected and how,” Einaste adds.
Although in many countries patient diagnoses or laboratory test results are already labeled using similar or even identical codes, the standards for collecting, saving and storing data vary widely in different countries. This is largely due to inconsistencies in healthcare organizations and policy makers. Einaste believes that to implement precision medicine successfully, the standardization process is paramount.
To implement precision medicine successfully, the standardization of medical data collecting is paramount.
“When financing healthcare, there should be more investments into using technology to automate processes and make them more efficient,” Einaste adds. “We are currently testing a new data sharing standard at the Estonian Connected Health cluster. This would help healthcare institutions collect, save and exchange information in a structured way, including data from our smart and remote devices, such as glucose meters.”
Digital healthcare is one of the topics being discussed next week at an informal gathering of EU health ministers in Tallinn, Estonia. Estonia currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and is inviting ministers to share their views on how to improve citizen access to their own health data and what kinds of tools people need to better control their personal data in a secure and convenient manner.
Ministers are also encouraged to share their opinion on areas where EU Member States could work together more efficiently and where EU actions could add value to support efforts in overcoming the main challenges and barriers to data-driven digital innovation in the healthcare sector.
If you are interested in digital healthcare issues and want to participate in the debate, we encourage you to join us at a high level conference ‘Health in the Digital Society. Digital Society for Health‘ on October 16-18 in Tallinn.