Cross-border digital health vision puts Estonian innovation centre-stage in Tallinn

Estonian Connected Health Cluster showcased its vision of a cross-border collaborative approach to the development of applications, systems and services at eHealthTallinn.

The Estonian Connected Health Cluster is a country-wide partnership of digital health stakeholders and businesses, including large system developers, startups, medtech, biotech and pharma companies, as well as patient organisations, health and wellness service providers, and public sector bodies. The cluster is led by Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol.

Its primary aims are to build export sales for its member companies and widen the opportunities for private companies to offer digital products and services to the Estonian health and wellness sector by forging relationships with health ecosystems in other regions and countries.

“We are keen to get other countries interested in working with us to discover new routes to digital innovation in healthcare,” said Külle Tärnov, the Connected Health Cluster Manager.

“Estonia is a tiny market, which makes it hard to provide enough clients for our health technology companies, who should be – and mostly are – thinking global from day one. This international event is an excellent forum for us to show how our partners have acquired 10 years’ experience in developing, launching and running a diverse range of e-health systems, from patient portals and image archives to e-prescription services and e-ambulance apps.”

The cluster was launched in 2014 and has already achieved significant results, including Momentum, a process that starts with stakeholder involvement and the identification of specific problems or needs, bringing in tech and business developers to apply new methodologies to solve them, and leading to the evolution of solutions, which can then be developed by new companies.

Tärnov  said: “We ran the Momentum process for HIV, and the result is two companies with fresh solutions on the market: Diagnostic Match for smoothing early detections of HIV infections, and hINF for making the communications between the care team and HIV+ patients a more streamlined experience.”

“We have also worked out a way of opening Estonia’s national electronic health record to private companies to ease the development of new services for the Estonian people – and the infrastructure for this will be built in 2018.”

Six Connected Health Cluster companies will present their contribution to Estonia’s healthcare ecosystem at eHealthTallinn – all, said Tärnov, great examples of the country’s depth in digital health development, and a cross-section of enterprises and startups that have delivered working products to the market.

Digital security specialist Nortal won the EU-wide eGOV solution for its auditing software Deepscan. It focuses on smart solutions for patient-centric ecosystems, built around digital IDs, traditional chip-card options and advanced data exchange solutions – vital as the benefits of cross-border health information sharing become more accepted.
Helmes has developed an innovative approach to hospital workflows which frees clinicians to fulfil their medical roles rather than gathering exhaustive lists of requirements. It also designed Estonia’s ePrescription system, one of the country’s most-used e-services, whose success has reinforced the country’s reputation for digital innovation.
The development of a cross-border ePrescription service by another cluster company, i62, will allow all Estonians to purchase their drugs in other countries, while Estonian pharmacies will be able to sell drugs prescribed abroad.
Bedside digital health platform Cognuse enables early screening of complications, adherence to guidelines, and the close involvement of patients and families in improving clinical and functional outcomes for the most critical and expensive medical conditions. The company is working with leading hospitals in the EU, US and Australasia to develop effective methods to support vulnerable patient populations.
Dermtest is a platform for country-wide skin-cancer prevention, detection, treatment and follow-up, which is already used by 150 clinicians in Estonia, Germany and Lithuania. It provides the benefits of a digitised population health programme by connecting patients, providers and payers across one network.
Health sector data management specialist Quretec has 11 years’ experience of building systems and services for health registers, biobanks and clinical trials, including the Estonian Genome Centre biobank databases, and national registries for cancer, TB, causes of death, infectious diseases and HIV. It also provides validated data capture software for international clinical trials.
“In different ways, these companies reflect the emerging requirements of cross-border digital health provision,” said Külle Tärnov.

“When your life is at stake, the doctor who happens to save you whatever country you are in should have access to your health critical data. At eHealthTallinn, we are saying let’s join forces to work out innovative, secure channels, systems and applications that allow this to happen. That is the cross-border digital health vision we want to share, based on the Estonian experience. The alternative is that people will do it anyway, but very unsafely!”