Today, we can confidently say that technology has changed our lives to such an extent that the world can never go to how it was before. Regardless of field – business, transportation, food production or personal life – we cannot ignore the impact of technology and digitalization.
future, however, this trend of change is expected to continue exponentially. In
principle, we can claim that introducing new technologies has made it easier
and faster to perform specific tasks, increased efficiency and productivity,
and generally improved our standard of living. Of course, we must not overlook
the disadvantages of technology’s increased impact, such as a less human
approach in certain areas.
Digitisation of healthcare
According to the Republic of Slovenia’s Ministry of Health, they are aware of the importance of Slovenian healthcare digitalisation. In the second half of 2022, the Ministry of Health will present a strategy for digitising healthcare, which is being prepared in cooperation with technical assistance from the European Commission and a group of health stakeholders, the statement said.
In 2021, the European Commission approved Slovenia’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), which provides 83 million euros for investments in the digital transformation of healthcare. In addition to the RRP, funds for investments will also be provided within the framework of the Act on Provision of Funds for Investments in Slovenian Healthcare in the Years 2021 to 2031 (ZZSISZ).
transformation includes the introduction of new digital services and the digitisation
of existing ones, faster access and exchange of patient data, use of modern
information technology to communicate with patients and healthcare
professionals, the development of analytical systems for ongoing adoption and
adjustments of healthcare measures, and, last but not least, better planning of
of the Recovery and Resilience Plan aims to raise the level of digitalisation
in the entire Slovenian healthcare system. The contractors and areas to be
funded within the plan will be identified and approved by the European
remote health monitoring, certification of eHealthcare information systems,
single digital patient record and data administrative model, Central Registry
of Patient Data, a transition of providers to paperless business, robotic
preparation and storage of medicines, speech recognition, and information
support for dispatching.
The ministry said that information support for patients’ appointments to the primary level will also be available by mid-2023. Through the zVEM portal, safe communication between patients and healthcare professionals will be enabled (sending notices, referrals, appointments, etc.). Patients will receive information about examinations appointments and appointments at the primary and other levels.
Slovenian zVEM portal already represents a certain level of digitalisation in
healthcare. Namely, patients can access medical referrals, prescriptions, and
other documents via telephone or the internet. Finally, they can also check the
current vaccination certificates against COVID-19, recovery, or test results
(RVT) via the zVEM portal.
Digital transformation of
healthcare on the European Union level
In 2018, the European Commission identified three sectors around which activities to enhance the digitisation of healthcare are taking place.
pillar concerns secure access to and sharing of health data. To facilitate
greater access to cross-border healthcare, the Commission is building the
eHealth Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI) to allow e-prescriptions and
patient summaries to move between healthcare providers.
cross-border exchanges started in 2019, intending to have all the other EU
countries on board by 2025. In the longer term, the Commission is working
towards establishing a European electronic health record exchange format
accessible to all EU citizens.
pillar covers integrating and exchanging health data to support research,
faster diagnosis, and improved health. Here, the Commission intends to tap into
the vast potential of health data to support medical research to improve
prevention, diagnosis, treatments, drugs, and medical devices.
can empower citizens, making it easier for them to take a more significant role
in the management of their health, from following prevention guidelines and
being motivated to lead healthier lifestyles to managing chronic conditions and
providing feedback to their healthcare provider; written under the third point
representing the third pillar.
trends in healthcare
different fields, the technological trends are more or less similar. One of the
advantages of the technology is that the same technology can be implemented in
several various fields, having a different contribution in each field. For
example, we can talk about robotics, which is found both in healthcare and car factories.
But let’s take it slowly and first look at all the technological trends in
healthcare as defined by the McKinsey consulting firm.
to be more up to date with their state of health. One way to do this is to use
connected and cognitive devices, including portable, wearable, and ingestible
devices. This allows patients to monitor their health anytime and anywhere and
be constantly involved in improving their health.
based technologies are already well established in healthcare. They have become
so sophisticated that they can collaborate with medical staff in hospitals,
automate routine tasks such as processing applications, measuring patient vital
signs, etc. Medical robotics can also be found in the operating room, where
robots are used to ease the physical burden of surgeries and enable minimally
Data analysis presents one of the most significant changes in healthcare. Insights gained from a vast amount of data which is the basis for physicians to make decisions lead to better outcomes for patients. For example, platforms and applications that store, transmit, and analyse medical data can be used to identify patients who are candidates for highly targeted therapy.
addition, data and analytics are becoming so advanced that robots will be able
to record physiological data during medical procedures, which improves both
surgical planning and medical education.
the valuable insights derived from data analytics, we must have technologies
that convert analytical insights into practical solutions to enhance diagnosis,
improve predictive interventions, and optimise clinical productivity. Like
robotics, artificial intelligence can increase productivity and
cost-effectiveness and enhance the quality of care.
intelligence (AI) also provides patients with convenient and customised
services. Virtual nurses can communicate with patients, gather information
about their symptoms, diagnose diseases and even schedule appointments.
development of blockchain technology is in its infancy, but companies from all
industries are delving into this technology, including healthcare. Blockchain
holds the potential to enable more secure transactions; patients feel less
exposed when sharing data, as the process is more confidential. In addition,
blockchains make data more accessible, allowing other technologies to better
Digitisation in healthcare
must always be human-centred
However, the digitalisation of healthcare has plenty of challenges, which arise on an ongoing basis, and it is, therefore, necessary to find solutions swiftly. Problems can even be located in one of the basic steps of digitisation: electronic health records. The so-called EHR (Electronic Health Record) system is a digital version of patient files that allows authorised physicians working in the ward or on-site to view medical records.
“Despite successful digitisation, doctors face many problems,” said Josef Dvořák from the innovation agency Direct People during the EIT Health Morning Health Talks 2021 series, organised in Czechia by DEX Innovation Centre the local EIT Health Hub. There are many EHR systems, and they often cannot communicate with each other.
the mutual incompatibility of systems, the problem is also an administrative
burden. Doctors spend up to half of their time entering data into the system. Other
problems apart from the bureaucracy include false alarms and potentially fatal
system errors when ordering medicines. As a result of the EHR, there is a
significant share of burnout syndrome in medical staff,” added Dvořák.
focuses only on technology, the result may be unsatisfactory. EHR systems
should serve people, address their needs and, above all, make the work of
healthcare professionals easier.
tools and systems should be created in cooperation with end-users. “Customer
needs are at the heart of our strategy,” commented Tomáš Vavrečka from
Phillips. “This way, a system can be created that is sufficiently simple and
usable in medical practice.”
da Rocha, head of the Transformation and Digital Innovation project in Lusiadas
Saúde, Portugal, agrees. “Digital transformation is always about people.
Unfortunately, this is sometimes forgotten.”
digitisation of healthcare was accelerated, among other things, by the COVID-19
pandemic. “People were afraid to meet, and we registered increased demand for
online medical services and consultations. We developed the #TodosPorUm
application in just seven days, which evaluated the user’s symptoms during the
pandemic based on a questionnaire and, if necessary, referred the client to
medical staff,” explained da Rocha.
Almost 400,000 queries have been passed through the application, and 3,800 paramedics verified the functionality of the chat. But the COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end. “I hope that digitisation in diagnostic services will develop further beyond COVID, and that digitisation will go beyond telemedicine,” noted Teigu Schutte, Mobiguity.
Cybersecurity Risks in
to software company Galen Data, one of the biggest challenges that arise with
the digitalisation of healthcare is cybersecurity.
connectivity powers much of the data capabilities in digital healthcare. It has
also created the category of cloud-connected medical devices. The idea of
devices with sensors that can communicate with other devices and systems is
often referred to as the Internet of Things (or IoT).
All of the
data generated, stored, and transferred between systems and parties over the internet
may open up the potential risk for data to be accessed by unauthorised third
parties. It is possible for somebody to discover the data accidentally or for malicious
actors to breach the system. In any case, patients’ personal data makes its way
into the wrong hands.
However, the cybersecurity risk doesn’t just pertain to the exposure of private data. Patients and healthcare professionals that rely on data to make treatment decisions depend on correct and accurate datasets. If data is deleted or altered, it can lead to a wrong diagnosis, treatment plan, or other adverse events.
we must not forget that the personal patient-doctor interaction is also essential
in healthcare. Utilising technology can help keep healthcare professionals and
patients connected, even when they are not physically present together, similarly
to social networking. We can indeed stay in touch with more people this way,
but we often notice that this contact is no longer so personal.
Keywords: digitization, health, technology,
Author: Marko Želko
article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European
Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of
digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the
and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union
institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec
Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or
opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information