E-health – an unpolished diamond

2014-02-06 - Blog

Erkki LeegoEstonia has an unique opportunity to be a global pioneer in IT solutions that encompass the whole country.

During the last days a National Audit Office report about Country’s actions on implementing e-health has brought about a lot of discussion. National Audit Office sharply brought out, that e-health’s potential is untapped and cooperation as well as leadership regarding e-health is insufficient.

I have to agree with many of the critical remarks. Having been a participant in envisioning e-health solutions in 2003 and later on a contributor, I can confirm, that wishes and hopes have been higher.

I shall not dwell on why e-health’s implementation did not have the expected speed nor extent. Taking into account healthcare’s natural conservativeness and the hardship of implementing nationwide solutions, we have nothing to be ashamed of – Estonia has been very pioneering and successful in implementing e-solutions in healthcare compared to any nation in the world. For us, an easy and a natural thing- every Estonian citizen can check their health data from Patient portal using their ID-card, is still an unreachable dream in many other countries.

This aspect might have gotten too little attention along other sayings. In the digital era, common citizens are more aware and possess a greater control over the information regarding them. In healthcare, development towards 4P medicine (personalized, predictive, preventive, participatory) is deemed unavoidable.

Digital story has the potential to be a crucial part towards implementing 4P medicine – it is possible to merge sickness data, recipe information, vaccinations, lab data, diagnostic images, genetic data, sensor equipment data into one system and offer the person as well as healthcare specialists the recommendations and observations coming from the analysis of the data. Thus the regular person can make more knowledgeable choices about health behavior and more flexibly pick healthcare provider.

There are many challenges and details that need handling, but the starting point for the digital story is very brisk:

  • a secure and functional nationwide hub has been established,
  • receiving data from healthcare providers is functional,
  • sharing data with healthcare providers and patients is functional,
  • there exists a legal space and work procedures,
  • Estonia has a strong e-country infrastructure,
  • Estonian people have established a positive attitude and anticipation towards widespread e-solutions

We have a diamond, that needs polishing!

As an echo from National Audit Office report I highly anticipate a new energy and a will to cooperate towards refreshing e-health action plans and overcoming obstacles.

Erkki Leego