By Eneya Georgieva
The challenges for people with chronic diseases have been increasing since last year. The new way of life complicates the effective monitoring of patients’ health. In addition, the spread of misleading news about what is happening in the health sector creates a feeling of insecurity. Differentiating reliable from speculative sources can be a difficult task even for people with deep knowledge of healthcare. The pandemic has increased the challenges in the sector and proved us a need for a synchronized approach to improve the situation.
This opinion is shared by the three new companies in the Digital Health and Innovations Cluster Bulgaria (DHI Cluster Bulgaria). The American startup Diasyst, which develops an application for monitoring and control of chronic diseases, the Danish leader in the production of drugs for diabetes and obesity – Novo Nordisk and the evidence-based medicine information site – Medical News, believe that sustainable change in the sector requires active action from the whole health ecosystem in Bulgaria. Becoming part of the DHI Cluster’s knowledge and innovation community, they make another step towards finding a solution to these challenges.
“In the face of the Cluster, we recognize a partner for the realization of our strategic goals – digitalization of healthcare and implementation of technological solutions for the benefit of patients and medical professionals. We know from experience that this process starts with building a strong ecosystem between the pharmaceutical sector and the IT industry” comments Novo Nordisk on the occasion of the membership.
“DHI Cluster has built a community of stakeholders who are changing the understanding towards healthcare in our country. We believe that our missions complement each other and together we can improve the digital environment in the sector by finding solutions to the existing and future problems” adds Diasyst. “We are not just talking about creating a change towards the digitalisation of healthcare, but towards improved, efficient and sustainable healthcare in general. The health promotion and prevention make it possible to focus on pre-hospital care and create conditions for the development of value-based medicine. Successes in these areas inevitably lead to better results throughout the patient journey” says the Medical News team.
Patients and negative statistics
The new members say their work is confronted by growing challenges in the sector. However, solutions to these challenges are very well known to them. Novo Nordisk’s representatives share that access to medical care for diabetics has been difficult at certain times over the past year. This has led to serious health complications in some of the patients and the underestimation of their care has had an additional impact. “The pandemic has demonstrated the need for digital solutions for better remote monitoring and control of diabetes. That is why we must quickly catch up with what is missing in the sector and work to facilitate the access of all patients to therapy and treatment,” adds the Novo Nordisk team.
The situation is similar for other chronic diseases. They are usually monitored by 3-4 examinations per year, which are covered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). However, according to doctors, this is extremely insufficient. In the time between consultations, the patient may worsen his condition considerably. When it comes to hospital treatment, its cost for the state becomes much higher.
“It is not a coincidence that the largest amount of health insurance funds today goes to chronic diseases – 70% according to the European Commission for the EU and the United States. Our goal is to show a way to reduce these costs with the help of digital remote monitoring tools.
In recent years, in the United States, and now in Europe, health insurance funds have used models to reimburse telemonitoring activities to control chronic diseases and prevent costly complications. We hope to see this in Bulgaria soon,” explains Diasyst, considering that there are wonderful specialists in Bulgaria, as well as patient organizations that work very actively. However, in order to have effective care, the efforts of all actors in the system are needed.
Statistics also do not show positive results. Diabetes mortality increased by 70% worldwide between 2000 and 2019, according to the World Health Organization. “In the 19th century, about 80% of people were dying of infectious diseases. Today, this applies to malignant and chronic diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease. Reasons for reversing the trend are the food abuse, the stagnant lifestyle and the smoking and alcohol,” comments Diasyst. In addition to diabetes, the company has recently offered a solution to monitor hypertension and is working to include other chronic diseases to be managed similarly.
Critical thinking and the human psyche
In order for Diasyst’s portfolio to continue to expand, we need close specialists who monitor innovations in the field and have a built-in sense of recognizing reliable information. To facilitate the process of finding reliable and evidence-based content, the Medical News platform reviews scientific articles. The materials are subject to evidence-based medicine and are created by doctors for the doctors. The content is presented in an accessible way, and based on data. Often the topic is further clarified through the author’s comments from the editors of the information site.
At first glance, it seems easy for an expert to differentiate misleading information from quality content. However, COVID-19 has shown that this is not the case. Information distortion techniques are being improved. “There is a visible division between health professionals. On the one hand, some colleagues believe in evidence-based medicine and practice it. On the other hand – those who defend less reliable sources, alternative theories, complementary medicine and methods that are not value-based” explains Dr. Radislav Nakov, Medical News founder and CEO .
He states that since the beginning of the pandemic, the leading medical journals have agreed on the topics related to COVID-19, but some doctors refuse to accept it. “There is scepticism about whether the virus exists, whether it was created in nature or artificially, about the usefulness of vaccines. All this leads to confusion among patients,” says Dr. Nakov and summed up: “The pandemic has shown us that evidence-based medicine is extremely important. Sometimes it takes time to gather this evidence, but we can’t believe in conspiracy theories forever.” Statistics and analysis help create a critical mass of data. This is a good basis for accurate analysis and predictions that define the patient’s journey and treatment.
The collaboration between the Cluster and the new digital health ecosystem members is the pursuit of digitalization of the sector and the integration of technologies at all levels. The population’s health needs are increasing, and this requires the use of additional financial resources. In order to alleviate this burden in the long run, it is necessary to stimulate technological discoveries and digital approaches. This creates a predictable environment for informed and effective decision making, transparency and control of processes.
The adoption of a strategy for its implementation is extremely important for the implementation of the digitalization process. The need for improved, transparent and effective healthcare management through digitalisation needs to be recognized by all stakeholders. The will and the national over party consensus are at the core of the digitalization process of healthcare and it is up to them to initiate it as soon as possible.