Latvia's problem-plagued 'e-health' system remains sub-optimal

Health experts discussed the digitization of health data at an online summit, once again using the opportunity, to bring the notoriously ailing e-veselība (e-health) system into the spotlight, Latvian Radio reported November 26.

Health Minister Ilze Viņķele acknowledged that the e-health platform, developed over many years but made active not too long ago, has already become outdated and needs to be changed.

“We see that the system is unweildy, and it certainly does not meet the needs of the industry,” Viņķele said.

On January 1, 2018, the use of the system was made mandatory for doctors and was supposed to make a wide range of tasks such as issuing prescriptions a lot easier and quicker. However, from day one, the system hit many hurdles. Now, nearly three years later, only a few options are used in reality.

Ilze Aizsilniece, president of the Latvian Association of Doctors, pointed out that interference in the current e-health activity makes medical work difficult, especially in the COVID-19 crisis, when doctors need to use the system more intensively.

“For example, it was very difficult to work on Monday morning. There was a disruption in e-health activity early in the morning, when all doctors are signing up to get to a list that shows the patients in their practice who are COVID-19 positive or have been in contact. It's very important so that we can do the day-to-day work, but the system disintegrated. National Health Service (NVD), with the resources they have and with those specialists available, do a really great job, but in reality, this old “rubble” cannot be repaired.

It needs to be put away on a shelf and a new modern system needs to be made,” Aizsilniece said.

This autumn, the National Health Service indicated that it hopes to renew the e-health system servers by the end of the year, of which 90% are over five years old. A spokesman for the service, Edgars Goba, however, said that improving technological security by the end of the year is unlikely.

Next year, it is planned to add extensions and functions to the e-health system so that the data of one patient is more widely available to different doctors. The Minister for Health said that a full reorganization of the system is planned over the next three years.

As previously reported by LSM, patients and medical staff alike have expressed dissatisfaction with the e-health system and its implementation over several years. Questions have also been raised about the cost of the project.  

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