Estonia is often cited as an example for the reform of the public health system in Slovenia, especially due to digitalization. In Estonia, as many as 96% of the population have health records organized in the Digilugu.ee digital system, where all medical data, referrals, sick leave and preventive programs are transparently accessible.
The Ministry of Health of Slovenia is of the opinion that Estonia can be an example, but health reforms in our country will be undertaken according to the Slovenian model, which still lags behind the Estonian and Finnish models. Tjaša Zajc, an expert in the field of digital health employed by Better, emphasizes that unified standards, such as e.g. e-ordering.
Digitization is not only electronic files, but also digitization of processes and connectivity of systems. New solutions make it possible to optimize work of doctors and order patients, which reduces costs. Artificial intelligence can help process unstructured data, such as surveys, and transform them into structured data. “A lot of things in Slovenian hospitals, like in other countries, are still done on paper. We have a problem with the fragmentation of systems. Much work will need to be done that the doctors will not have to repeatedly enter the same data into different systems. If you had more things in the same place, you would be able to orient yourself better.”
Slovenia must unify the fragmented systems and introduce digital scheduling for greater efficiency. E-ordering (scheduling patients for appointments) in Slovenia, compared to Estonia or Finland, still does not work well. The system is still fragmented across different pages that patients must navigate on their own, and the accuracy of the data is questionable. The key challenge is the development of a high-quality and secure system within the country, as external providers are not an ideal solution. It is difficult for the government to compete with the private sector in paying IT professionals. “The idea of a state-owned company that would deal with the digitization of healthcare is interesting, but it would require sufficient funds and a strong staff.”
We need more investments.
In order to achieve greater uniformity and improve the user experience, more investment in digitization is needed. “Digitalization in Slovenia takes place unsystematically and with very little investment for hospitals. Our hospitals give one percent for computerization. Hospitals receive about 3 percent of the state budget allocated for digitization,” says Zajc, adding that more investment in digitization and the unification of standards would contribute to a better user experience for patients and medical staff.
The question is how quickly and successfully the digitization of healthcare will take place, as it depends on project management, policy and resources. Digital transformation involves changing processes and introducing new, optimized solutions. The debate on the digitization of healthcare will continue, as there will be no shortage of challenges in Slovenian healthcare and society.
Summary of the radio report Aktualno 202: How to digitize Slovenian healthcare (April 5, 2023). Author: Luka Hvalc