Estonia and Finland once again show what good cooperation between neighboring countries can lead to, as both countries prepare to share patient data with one another.
On 10 May this year, Estonian and Finnish Prime Ministers digitally signed a joint declaration on an initial roadmap for launching data exchange and e-services between Estonia and Finland. It was also agreed that, by the end of 2016, specific action plans would be completed for launching automatic data exchange in the field of commercial registers, population registers, social benefit data, e-prescriptions and maritime affairs.
According to the plan, both countries will make their databases mutually available, which will allow for cross-border access to digital prescriptions by 2017-2018 and full patient medical history by 2018-2019. This step should increase the quality of healthcare in both countries, as doctors and patients will have access to all the data needed, on the spot.
Connected health is becoming mainstream
This all ties in with the bigger picture: connected health systems are becoming increasingly popular every day; as such, people should always have access to their data. “People move around more and more therefore data about their health should always be with them. This way they’re able to use the best services from different countries, or live where they desire, without the loss of important healthcare services,” said the Deputy Secretary General on E-services Development and Innovation Ain Aaviksoo.
Aaviksoo went on to explain that doctors could use e-health solutions to offer their services to patients from all over the world. He added that co-operation needs to expand but that it also needs to happen step-by-step. “The United States and several Asian countries are also interested in the e-health system and its support services developed in Estonia. At the same time, our ICT-infrastructure and our citizens’ mentality towards an information society, including the healthcare sector, is most similar to the Nordic countries,” he explained.
When it comes to sharing data, the first question in everyone’s mind is privacy. Aaviksoo explains: “Ensuring privacy and security starts with giving people real control over their healthcare data. Actually, this could be made to suit any country’s combination of law, information technology, and information management applications. The only real technological challenge is the lack of standards to connect all of the necessary data in a suiting way, but in my opinion, this is a question of political will.”
Sharing makes people healthier
A recent RAND study found that people are becoming more and more open to connected health solutions. It also discovered that most respondents are in favour of health devices and systems that store identification data along with information on lifelong health conditions as well as basic health data. The study also found that most respondents prefer that data can be accessed not just in their home country but across the EU; however, most respondents are averse to worldwide access compared to home country access only.
So, to say that the world around us is becoming more interconnected each day is an understatement. Estonia has always been at the forefront of digital innovation and now it’s time for the healthcare sector to get its part of the innovation as well.
Not only does sharing data make the lives of doctors and patients easier, it also makes them healthier. No more guessing which doctor you visited when you were 12; no more trying to figure out which doctor wrote which prescription. It’s all there, even when you are hundreds of miles away from your home.