Connected Health Cluster launches an innovation project focusing on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Estonian health technology cluster Connected Health has launched a project targeting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The COPD IN FOCUS project brings together key stakeholders to initiate new solutions for the more effective identification of people with COPD in Estonia and for more efficient management of their treatment.

“Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a common disease. According to an epidemiological study, up to 90,000 people in Estonia suffer from chronic airflow obstruction. Most of them have COPD. The fact is that only 10-15% of those people are aware of their condition and receive treatment,“ said Dr. Rain Jõgi, President of the Estonian Respiratory Society and Head of the Department of Pulmonology at Tartu University Hospital. “Since COPD is a progressive disease, it will lead to a significant decline in quality of life when discovered at an advanced stage or subjected to inconsistent treatment. Even though COPD in Estonia is only in 20th place in the list of causes of death for men and not even in the top 20 for women, it ranks first among men and second among women as the cause of years of healthy life lost due to illness. For this reason, it is important to focus on early diagnosis as well as on regular treatment,” said Jõgi.

Dr. Diana Ingerainen, President of the Estonian Association of General Practitioners and General Practitioner at Järveotsa Family Health Centre stressed the need for a systematic approach and teamwork when handling COPD. According to her, the patient gets lost between the various layers of the health care system, resulting in the disease not being dealt with and there being far too many calls for emergency medical care and too many cases of hospitalisation that could be avoided.

Different stakeholders in the field of COPD are brought together by the Estonian health technology cluster Connected Health, which is managed by Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol.  Kitty Kubo, the Innovation lead of the cluster says that the Connected Health Cluster provides a unique platform for health care innovation in Estonia. She added further: “We provide an access to all relevant market players and a proven needs-based innovation model.” The main partners of COPD IN FOCUS include the Estonian Respiratory Society, the Estonian Association of General Practitioners, the Estonian Respiratory Nurses Association, the Department of Pulmonology at Tartu University Hospital, the Pulmonology Centre of the North Estonia Medical Centre and the Estonian Patients Union. The state is involved through the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund and the National Institute for Health Development; the Cluster adds health technology entrepreneurs and start-ups.

The COPD IN FOCUS project will run for 9 months. During the course of the project, the primary needs of COPD patients are identified based on the mapping of the patient journey in order to come up with novel and user-centred solutions to meet those needs while also making the best use of IT. “There are many emerging digital solutions in the world that relate to the field of COPD and that have the potential to support patients in the disease self-management as well as disrupt the current processes in health care. With the COPD IN FOCUS project, we are aiming to boost the innovation in this field in Estonia also,” said Kitty Kubo, in describing her expectations for the project.

The project is supported by GlaxoSmithKline Estonia. Other pharmaceutical companies interested in the systematic development of the field of COPD are welcome to join the project, as are tech companies looking for the development and testing opportunities for the novel solutions to target chronic diseases.