Healthcare is changing and technology is changing with it

13.03.2017

Countries still exist where going to the doctor’s can be an ordeal: you need a piece of paper, also, you always need to give the doctor your personal data and it is almost guaranteed that the doctor will have no knowledge about your past visits. All this could be solved by using Estonian e-Healthcare initiative’s software.

Broadly speaking, the use of software in healthcare in Estonia can be divided into four distinct stages, dubbed Healthcare 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0. At each of these stages, something remarkable happened or began to happen within the Estonian healthcare sector.

According to e-health specialist Madis Tiik, Healthcare 1.0 was the first to arrive. This first phase took place from 1990 to 2009. During this time, healthcare in Estonia began its slow transformation from the former Soviet system towards a digital utopia. It was during this first phase that Estonian doctors stopped taking notes on paper and instead recorded everything on a computer. However, in this period, nothing really changed in their workflow.

It was Healthcare 2.0 that had a much larger effect than Healthcare 1 as this was when different healthcare systems were steadily integrated into the health infomation-system. During Healthcare 2.0 the workflow at hospitals and clinics began to change as well as methods that needed to be standardized to allow all the systems to work in an integrated manner. In Estonia, this transformation took place from 2007 to 2017. 

In essence: Healthcare 1.0 allowed one doctor at one hospital to see patient data in that hospital, whereas Healthcare 2.0 enabled doctors from different hospitals to see the data, finally from 2009, patients themselves could also access their personal data.

In 2017, Healthcare 3.0 is beginning and taking its first initial steps. Estonia’s main objective with Healthcare 3.0 is to compile all of the patient’s data into a unified data health-record, over which each individual has full access. In addition to the data collected by doctors, an individual can add extra information to their personal account, for example gene-information.

The future is bright

Healthcare 4.0 is Estonia’s future solution. There are no working solutions in 2017 but there are some keywords that illustrate what the future may look like. First of all, empowerment: people will become more aware of those factors influencing their health and each person will  progressively become more responsible for managing their own health.

Secondly, mobility: patients will be able to access information wherever they happen to be, at any time of their choosing. In future, Estonia will provide point-of-care devices: equipment that patients can use themselves. Finally, Estonia will provide global health accounts and introduce the benefits of artificial intelligence based health methods.

No more monopolies

By using all these IT-solutions, Estonia has managed to break the information-monopoly that is a common in healthcare, where patient data is tied to to one place and both doctors and patients themselves, are unable to access this information. The new Estonian healthcare information based system is steadily solving this universal problem.

It is still not possible for individual patients to share their data with third parties simply and easily owing to legal and also technical reasons. Even in Estonia there are still some technical problems that need to be solved.

Old software needs to go

According to Madis Tiik, the rapid evolution of Estonian technology has already made some of the existing healthcare software obsolete, in both a technical sense and the functionality of this older software. Much still needs to to be achieved to future proof e-Health solutions

And speaking of the future, Madis Tiik says that we should not talk about the future of e-Healthcare, but about healthcare in general, as they are no longer two separate subjects.