MEET RiGA catches up on the first Digital Health Data Summit with Kristaps Krafte, Co-founder of Vigo Stroke Therapy App – one of the key organizers and moderator of Digital Health Data Summit
Are the organizers happy with the outcome of the first Digital Health Data Summit, Kristaps?
We don’t have the data from all platforms yet, but we can already see that on Facebook, the event reached more than 1700 people, which is impressive. The feedback too has been overwhelmingly positive but the real success can only be measured after a year or two when we see how policies and decisions are implemented.
Summit recording is available on the summit’s webpage www.healthdatasummitriga.eu and different session will be available on the website and on our Facebook Page.
Kristaps, can you please explain what key issues lay in digital health DATA as the purpose of this new summit?
To make evidence-based decisions, decision makers need data. That is clear. Currently in healthcare the data is very fragmented and it’s near to impossible to make strategic decisions and choices based on comprehensive evidence. There are many issues there and the summit aims to be as a catalyst for digital health strategy, including data strategy.
For a lot of decision makers related to digital health development, it is not enough to have services or apps in place, but it is equally important to be able to prove the efficiency of digital applications.
Are they good enough, as good as physical therapies, good at complementing the physical therapy and other aspects?
Vigo, for example, our own startup for stroke therapy applications, offers physical exercises for patients to be taken at home. We need to prove the efficiency of these therapies to both users and investors. They might have some advantages over real life physiotherapy e.g. that they help patients to exercise more often. But we also need to have relevance of the therapies being safe and efficient enough and more aspects.
However, even with availability of the data and proof of efficiency, the whole digital health movement does not aim at replacing the physical world of medicine. How could it possibly.
It can help a lot of people with accessibility to certain therapies or consulting who otherwise might not have this opportunity. And it can help educate and train medical teams and much more. So one of the targets for the summit is to also inform, help with acceptance and take away concerns.
But let’s get back to the data: we need a clear methodology in place to develop different kinds of data needed by different stakeholders.
A country can create a strong competitive edge — for example in attracting foreign investments, if it can provide access to an advanced health database pool. Presently there is a high demand for genetic databases because they provide neutral metadata on many parameters of the people in a country (they are not personalized, of course) and their tendencies to certain illness. This information is needed to provide better and more focused research and treatments. This is a massive trend and countries like Denmark, who can trace back their genetic data for a long time, have a big advantage here.
Our minister of health has set the strategic goal to build a data pool for Latvia to be able to make better and more targeted decisions when it comes to allocation of budgets for research and support for start-ups, and in what drugs or medication for the people to invest.
Other countries like Germany have a lot of public and political discussion about digital health and data protection around patients’ data in this environment. How is Latvia positioned here?
First I want to confirm that Germany is well advanced when it comes to data protection. In most cases this is a good thing. Of course, by being part of the EU, Latvia is as legally bound to comply to GDPR. Latvia wants to catch up and create the necessary regulations and collaborations to be on the same standards as the leading nations in this subject.
What is the strategy for the Digital Health ecosystem in Latvia — is it looking into international collaborations, investors or what else are the targets?
The summit is a forum for European decision makers in the sector. We have had registrations from even as far as the USA. And it will be turned into a live event as soon as this is possible again – hopefully next year.
In fact, there are lots of different interests and objectives for the sector: the ministry of health is responsible for the health of the citizens (= enabling a data pool and targeted research supports the strategic goals). The ministry has invested in e-health before, but the strategy now changes to be more focused and taking future developments into account. The direction now is on developing long- lasting and compatible solutions, expanding well beyond Latvia and joining forces with the leading nations and players in digital therapies.
The ministry of economics (not yet involved in the summit though) has economic interests in attracting investors through competitive assets like the data pool. And it fosters start-ups and innovation in the segment.
Companies like ours need data-driven processes to develop new products and to save costs.
What kind of internet connectivity is needed for the digital health space? Is 5G a necessity already?
For the moment the current speed of internet is enough, but in order to create true benefit for everyone, the whole population needs to be connected. 5 G will be necessary at some point, when peripheral involvement of more sensors and technology will come in.
Was the Summit created for medical and digital health related professionals or also for patients?
Well, the topics were set up to meet the needs of medical professionals and decision makers in the health care space. However, by no means only to professionals who engage in digital health. We want to excite all people working in health care – about the many opportunities and amazing scopes of what can be done through digital health. Many are not yet aware of these opportunities or are may be unsure if the development will take away jobs. We want to assure them that it will not. On contrary, it will provide added value and many new opportunities.
So, from the results of the summit we can say that patients took the opportunity and participated- the summit program was both in English and in Latvian and open to everyone who was interested.
Digital Health Services and the Data Summit are another example of our capability in the country to organise high level and meaningful events and to transfer knowledge across borders – for the benefit of all community members!
This article is part of the MEETRiGA story-telling month about Riga – capital of #phygitalevents in winter 2020