On 18 April, 2023 /Tuesday/ the Digital Health and Innovation Cluster Bulgaria (DHI Cluster Bulgaria) took part in the Pharmacy&Healthcare Digital Summit 2023, organized by Enterprise Magazine. In addition to assisting in organizing the event’s program, the Cluster contributed with valuable insights about the healthcare field through the key participation of Rosen Dimitrov, MD (Chairman of the Board of the DHI Cluster) as a presenter in the first panel and Mira Ganova, PhD (Executive Director of the DHI Cluster ) as a moderator in the second panel of the forum.
The first panel addressed topics related to current trends in the field of pharmacy and healthcare. Leading experts in the field presented statistics and research aimed at illustrating the development of the sector in the context of the growing challenges of our time. It turns out that these same challenges are also the impetus for the creation of innovative solutions and methods to optimize healthcare processes. One such method appears to be technology, which enables the digital transformation of the sector, which in turn leads to the relief of professionals in the field and, above all, to ensuring the best possible care for patients.
Dr. Dimitrov contributed significantly to promoting the benefits of technology in the sector through his presentation on next generation evidence-based medicine. He addressed the topic of the unprecedented speed at which information is growing in healthcare and how outdated practices do not have the capacity to absorb, process and make quality use of this information. Therefore, he emphasized on the importance of investing time and money in developing the potential of technology and in particular, Artificial Intelligence (AI), which plays a key role in processing and analyzing data important for developing new drugs, therapies, treatments, etc.
“Pharmaceutical industry and healthcare providers should continue to invest in technology and data, because they inevitably support their work and more importantly – they support the functioning of our healthcare system as a whole, support medical professionals, support patients to have access to the most effective and timely therapy,” said Dr. Dimitrov.
In addition to this message, Dr. Dimitrov shared that the use of technology in healthcare should not be an isolated goal of the individual stakeholders in the sector, but rather a method for effective collaboration and interconnection between them in order to build an ecosystem formed around the common goal of facilitating the provision of the most relevant healthcare solutions.
“The pharmaceutical industry, healthcare professionals, medical universities, health authorities, digital health companies – they all depend on each other to properly direct the flow of data in order to extract the most useful information capable of facilitating the work of all stakeholders in the sector in their efforts to provide the best patient care,” said Dr. Dimitrov.
As a natural continuation of the topic set by Dr. Dimitrov, the second discussion panel followed, led by Mira Ganova. The discussion touched on the topic of ecosystems and the development of effective digital solutions, and was attended by Assoc. Maria Dimitrova, Faculty of Pharmacy, Medical University – Sofia, Emma Popova, Microsoft, Gergana Pencheva, Institutional Relations and Market Access Manager, AstraZeneca Bulgaria, Atanas Simeonov, founder and owner of Ocean Investments.
The panelists drew the attention of the audience to the importance of the collaborative participation and cooperation of different stakeholders in the health sector to deliver a more sustainable and effective healthcare. According to them, having a predictable and sustainable health environment is directly linked to creating a long-term vision for the development of the sector. This goes a long way in digitising and modernising processes in different aspects of a healthcare system, from training future healthcare professionals, to implementing digital solutions for data analysis in patient diagnosis, to implementing ‘smart’ methods of treating patients using modern technology.
According to Gergana Pencheva, Institutional Relations and Market Access Manager at AstraZeneca Bulgaria, one of the keys to building a more sustainable and predictable health system lies in prevention and screening, which should be among the priority activities of both health practitioners and political authorities.
“Prevention and screening should be a priority as their implementation can lead to a more sustainable and predictable health system, given factors such as the ageing population and the shortage of health professionals in Bulgaria. In this context, digital solutions could contribute a lot. If we have an efficient and working digital record, for example, as well as a link between hospitals and a shared database, we could very easily identify which patients are in risk groups for certain diseases and do screening to prevent the development of the disease,” Pencheva said.
Prof. Maria Dimitrova from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Medical University of Sofia added that in addition to prevention and screening, the application of digital solutions in the training of future medical staff, in order to build digital competencies, is key to making more informed decisions when it comes to the treatment of Bulgarian patients.
“The training of young medical staff should be among the priorities of our health system. In this sense, the digitalisation of healthcare should start from the universities, which should create a programme relevant to today’s health challenges, including a partnership with different stakeholders in the sector,” Prof. Dimitrova pointed out.
Emma Popova, Public Sector Director for Southeast Europe at Microsoft, agreed with Prof. Dimitrova regarding the need to develop digital skills of healthcare professionals. In addition, Popova emphasized the need for digitalization in the context of “connectivity” of health institutions.
“We still do not have a unified health information system in Bulgaria, which would allow to see in one hospital the history of a patient when he was in another hospital. This is because digitalisation is perceived more as a cost than an investment, which is a completely wrong perception,” Popova said.
Atanas Simeonov, founder and owner of Ocean Investments, supported Popova in the statement that the digitalization of healthcare is an investment, not an expense, as is more often perceived. Furthermore, Simeonov emphasized that the unifying link of all activities, strategies, and processes in healthcare is the vision and specific goal of the healthcare system and individual stakeholders.
“In my opinion, something that is missing for the digital health sector in the country and healthcare in general is a clear goal. In order to achieve success in a topic as serious as national healthcare, there needs to be first a vision, secondly funding, and thirdly staff. But first is the vision, because if there is no vision you don’t know where you are going and that can lead you to an undesirable outcome,” Simeonov said.
Concluding the panel discussion on building a sustainable ecosystem in the context of our digital world, Ganova noted the importance of the interconnectedness of different key stakeholders.
“It is no coincidence that all of you are here with us, at this event, because when we talk about ecosystem, it is you as pharmaceutical companies, as academia, as investors and as technocrats who are building the future of healthcare, through various actions that you are taking in the context of healthcare,” Ganova said.