Interview with Christina Roosen, Vice President, Public Affairs, HIMSS Europe
The main topic of Malta’s eHealth Week 2017 is ‘Data for Health: the key to personalised sustainable care’. What opportunities can the use of Big Data in healthcare offer?
Fundamentally, the more data we can collect, the more we can personalise health solutions for patients. We have seen examples in Europe and around the world –especially in the US but also in Asia- where they have been able to collect huge amounts of health and social data and they have been able to do amazing things. It is clear that with the use of Big Data in healthcare we can provide much better health outcomes for European citizens. So it is a very hot topic and that is why it has been selected for eHealth Week.
What kind of barriers are you finding in the implementation of new solutions based on Big Data in medical and care practice?
There is a lot of sensitivity around sharing data in general. We all know that our health is a very private and sensitive information. And there are many sceptics around sharing health data.
But I think that the more barriers we put up the more we are blocking innovation in healthcare. There was an interesting keynote last year at Amsterdam eHealth Week in which Anne-Miek Vroom, Director, IKONE, showed that patients want to share their data if it is anonymised and for research purposes. We need to focus on overcoming these barriers because the benefits of sharing data totally outweigh the risks of not doing so.
The digitalization of healthcare is a challenge in terms of security. How can we assure the transfer processes of health data?
I cannot talk about technicalities regarding security issues but there is a great number of companies and startups that focus on this. These companies can guarantee that data can be managed in a secure way. This is a key topic in Malta’s eHealth Week and it will also be crucial at the HIMSS Europe Conference next year in Barcelona. I think we need to learn from companies located around the world which make sure there is not hacking into their data. So it’s important to explore what solutions the industry has to offer to make sure hospitals and patients’ data is safe.
Cross-border exchange of personal health data is another topic of the eHealth Week 2017. How can we foster international cooperation in order to enhance the deployment of digital health in Europe?
This is again where organizations like the European Commission or the World Health Organisation (WHO) can play a really big role, basically pushing member states to share data across-border and to inform countries about the multiple benefits . At eHealth Week we will have a delegation from the United States Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to talk about how we can foster more collaboration across the Atlantic, and how we can share data across the two Continents.
What other innovative topics are being addressed at the eHealth Week 2017 conference?
We have a session on social media in healthcare, very much focused on how patients are actively using social media to connect to one another and to educate themselves. Social media is becoming a very powerful tool in healthcare: patients, physicians and institutions are already using it. At eHealth Week we will have a physician who is almost exclusively using Twitter to communicate with his patients. Another important topic at the conference is Virtual Reality and how it is used to educate clinicians.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe contributes to the program of this year event. What does this collaboration mean for HIMSS?
This will be a really fantastic edition for eHealth Week. The World Health Organisation has almost 200 member states so we have been able to raise awareness about our topics at eHealth week with so many countries who have not participated in the past. WHO has also contributed to the program and they will share the findings of a number of research studies at eHealth Week. And of course the Regional Director of WHO is attending the conference for the first time, so it will be great.
Besides the conference, eHealth Week includes an exhibition area. What kind of innovative solutions are being presented?
In my opinion, innovation happens in the startup ecosystem. We will have some startups and projects funded by the EU, we are going to see a lot of innovation. Besides, we have a Greek country pavilion for the 1st time where we will be able to see how innovation has been implemented in the Greek hospitals and regions. We will also see the big companies in the digital health field. This year we will have Oculus Rift, a company focused on Virtual Reality owned by Facebook. They will take part in a session and they will also have a stand on the show floor where they will be doing demos.
In your professional opinion, what other solutions will be essential in the future of healthcare?
I think Artificial Intelligence will completely change the role of the physician in the future. For example, the fact that machines or robots can read X rays probably with more accuracy than humans questions whether the robots will be the radiologists of the future. But that is just one example. I think that artificial intelligence is going to be present in more and more areas of healthcare. Robots can contain much more information than a human brain and can avoid most humans mistakes. So I think this area will completely change healthcare although I don’t think we are going to get rid of humans completely, of course. At HIMSS we are watching Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality with particular interest.
What message would you like to transmit to the more than 1,200 healthcare leaders expected to attend the event?
My message would be that if you want to be a part in transforming healthcare of the future, eHealth Week in Malta is the place to be. We cannot achieve the change isolated, we need to bring people together, learn from one another and share best practices. This way innovation and transformation will accelerate at a much higher speed, on many different levels.