Analytics, Health, Latvia, Medicine

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Sunday, 21.07.2024, 08:42

Experts: Latvia should create a new, patient-oriented digital data system

BC, Riga , 03.12.2020.Print version
Last week, Riga hosted the largest online summit devoted to patient data on the theme “Toward Data-Driven Health: Sharing is Caring,” during which medical experts from Latvia and foreign countries shared their experience and discussed the significance and potential of data in the field of healthcare.

 The several-hour online summit featured both personal stories from oncology patients and the everyday experiences of doctors, as well as the opinions of European Union commissioners, prestigious scientists and other experts regarding the digital patient data strategy and the extent to which data can be used in patient healthcare, the work of medical institutions and doctors, as well as science and public administration.


The online summit organized at the end of November is a logical continuation of works initiated by the Ministry of Health to put healthcare in order. Implementation of the “E-health” project has continued for more than 10 years, but is not yet completed due to the failure to introduce some of its aspects. This lack of ineffectualness has resulted in a new focus on the development of a novel system. During the summit, Ilze Viņķele, the Minister for Health, expressed confidence that we should be able to make bold decisions in the field of healthcare, one of which is to understand that the “E-health” system is outdated and must be changed.


The summit “Toward Data-Driven Health: Sharing is Caring” was organized with the aim of bringing patient data issues in Latvia to the foreground, as well as to hear expert experience and obtain conclusions on the way data can be used successfully at various stages of healthcare. The information obtained was summarized to serve as an accelerator in developing and introducing a new digital strategy in Latvia. During the summit, experts highlighted that the development of a new digital patient data system is based on three keystones, namely, communication, cooperation and coordination. These factors determine whether it will be possible to create and launch the digital health strategy in Latvia in upcoming years, which will be impossible without the participation and mandate of the public.

“Access to healthcare is a human right. Although patients are at the center of healthcare, sufficient information is not always provided thereto. Specialists also require better access to data to be able to make good decisions and ensure the necessary treatment. It is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel — we can transform existing systems. We will work in a smarter and more efficient way, learn from the examples of other countries and continue our work on digital data infrastructure. To manage that, the involvement of all users is necessary. Therefore, I invite researchers, scientists, doctors, patients, associations and other involved persons to create the system together,” asserted Ilze Viņķele, the Minister for Health of the Republic of Latvia.


The stories of two oncology patients were also featured during the summit. Zinta Uskale, Head of the Charity Foundation ‘Pink Train’ and the #Pupkultūra movement, shared her personal experience in fighting an oncological disease, emphasizing that cooperation between hospitals is possible and there are positive examples, but that in general a significant burden is imposed on a patient during treatment when he or she is expected to be the carrier of their own medical information.


“It is crucial to remember that a patient with a serious diagnosis is already in a fragile physical and emotional condition, so they are not always able to handle information logistics. The most important thing right now is access — to data, doctors and timely treatment. A system that stores all patient data would help to organize everything involved in the treatment process and remove an unnecessary burden from the patient. Data analysis would improve the quality of healthcare and help to adapt treatment to each patient. People need an efficient healthcare system now, not in future,” Uskale explained.


A range of international experts also participated in the summit and shared their global views on the use of data in healthcare, including Dr. Abraham Verghese, Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. He expressed confidence that data digitalization is precisely the way to improve the quality of care and that Latvia has a great opportunity to learn from other countries, including from their mistakes, and create a successful patient data system.

“Digitalizing data improves quality of care, as all patient information is available in a single file. The system helps to prevent mistakes in the prescription of medicinal products and direct patients with particular complaints to the proper treatment, timely signaling if something is not done correctly. Likewise, such a system facilitates communication between different treatment sites — information is more accessible, healthcare is no longer fragmented, and the patient can see and manage their data. It is equally important that a large volume of data helps in research and disease prevention,” emphasized Verghese.


Two expert panel discussions were organized during the summit. During one of them, Valts Ābols, Head of the Children’s Hospital, talked about how to create efficient and patient-oriented hospitals, stating confidently that: “Within the context of data analysis, Latvia needs to do at least three things: create clear data infrastructure, efficient cooperation and partnerships to attract the latest technological solutions, as well as develop new skills and professions. We need to act quickly and decisively in this field.”


Ilze Viņķele, the Minister for Health of the Republic of Latvia, who joined the summit, also stressed the importance of communication, cooperation and trust in the process of healthcare data digitalization, and thanked all the participants for their valuable contributions, which will help in creating a new system.


The summit “Toward Data-Driven Health: Sharing is Caring” took place on November 26. Various national and international healthcare professionals and leaders participated in the summit, including Ilze Viņķele, the Minister for Health of the Republic of Latvia; Dr. Abraham Verghese, Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine; Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety; Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Director of Health Industry, Europe Middle East Africa at Microsoft, and others. Personal patient stories were shared by Zinta Uskale, Head of the Charity Foundation ‘Pink Train’ and the #Pupkultūra movement, as well as Sondra Zaļupe, the founder of the patient association “A Step Ahead of Melanoma.” The summit was moderated by Kristaps Krafte, CEO of the medtech start-up Vigo Health and a Board Member of the Digital Health Society.

A full record of the summit is available at


The summit “Toward Data-Driven Health: Sharing is Caring” was organized by the Ministry of Health, the National Health Service and the American Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with Novartis Baltics and Roche Latvija. Partners included the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Latvia, Microsoft Latvia, AbbVie, Janssen, and TVNET.


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