Digital technology is one of the priorities in healthcare development worldwide, with its market growing 25% a year. This process can bring a breakthrough in accessibility and quality of services without increasing healthcare spending. Hence, public agencies take an active part in the development of digital medicine. Russia is no exception and is already launching a number of research and information projects that are visible even on a global scale.
The size of the global digital healthcare market reached USD 51.3 billion last year, according to Global Market Insights. By 2024, it is expected to grow more than two-fold to USD 116 billion.
Focuses of digital healthcare in the short term:
Introduction of electronic health records;
Development of the “connected patient” concept (monitoring a patient’s condition and providing medical services through in-built intelligent devices);
The main benefits of healthcare digitisation:
Financial ‒ cost savings through reducing patient-doctor contacts and upgrade of healthcare administration;
Social ‒ increasing accessibility of quality medical services;
Professional ‒ higher quality of services due to fewer medical errors, development of predictive healthcare, and enhancement of clinical trials efficiency.
Technology behind the digital revolution in healthcare:
Electronic health records and remote patient monitoring devices are largely based on the use of Big Data.
Remote patient monitoring and telemedicine depend on network availability and Internet of Things technologies.
In the long term, we can expect a broader use of 3D printing for creating skin and body organs.
Russia has two information platforms in the vanguard of healthcare digitisation:
The Integrated National Healthcare Information System (INHIS) will connect information systems of all healthcare institutions and relevant government agencies, and will make it possible to introduce unified electronic health records and registries of persons with certain conditions. As many as 83 regions already have healthcare information systems that keep electronic records of their patients (46 million), allow for making appointments online, etc. At gosuslugi.ru, a web portal offering public services, a My Health account option was launched in pilot mode earlier this year.
The Integrated Moscow Healthcare Information and Analytical System (IMHIAS) started working in 2012. The number of its users now exceeds 9 million patients and 10,000 medical workers. A visitor of the portal can make an appointment with a doctor, get a referral for a test or screening, or receive a sick leave certificate or a medical history. Out of all prescriptions issued in Moscow, 97% are electronic. Moscow is the only megalopolis where all out-patient clinics are connected into a single system.
The Government’s education and advanced training programmes take due account of healthcare digitisation.
In 2016, the country’s first department of information and internet technology in healthcare was established at the Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University. There are plans to open similar departments at other universities.
However, there are some deterrents to introduction of information technology in healthcare:
The legislation is just beginning to adapt for the new digital reality. In May, the Government approved a draft law on telemedicine to regulate remote healthcare services ‒ organising consultations and concilia, monitoring patients’ condition, issuing electronic prescriptions and health certificates, etc. The law will first be tested in a number of pilot regions and then rolled out across the country.
Another obstacle is of technology nature ‒ the extent of integration into the unified network is insufficient, with many doctors and patients lacking access to high-speed internet. All public healthcare organisations are expected to join the INHIS by 2025. Yet, the project to eliminate digital inequality and provide internet connection for residents of rural, remote and isolated areas, keeps facing some obvious difficulties with financing.