Dr. Melita Vujnovic, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Russian Federation, stated during the “Telemedforum-2020” that the organization is interested in Skolkovo resident solutions.

During a plenary session, Miss Vujnovic addressed a question from the session moderator and senior vice-president of the Skolkovo Foundation Kirill Kaem. Could the WHO become a channel for Russian developers – particularly a communications channel – as a means to facilitate entry into regional and global markets? In response to this, Miss Vojnovic was quick to highlight that the WHO collaborates above all with government agencies in which case it focuses on finding out about promising developments, including those of Skolkovo startups. Mr. Kaem and Miss Vojnovic have agreed to continue their discussion as to potential future cooperation.

Teledmedforum-2020 plenary session participants. Image: Sk.ru

Telemedforum-2020 covers telemedicine, digital healthcare, and medical marketing. The idea behind the forum as a communications platform is to bring together the market players that are leading in the digitalization of medicine – doctors, heads of medical institutions, lawyers, developers of IT healthcare products, cyber security specialists, innovative companies and startups working in the field of telemedicine, state representatives, and marketing and advertising specialists for medicine.

This is the third Telemedforum to take place and the main topics for this year’s event were mobile devices, use of artificial intelligence in medicine, big data, the implementation of telemedical technologies, the legalization of medical software and digital medical products in Russia and the world. It goes without saying that the participants could not avoid discussing the Covid-19 pandemic and the technological solutions it has given rise to.

The forum organizers stated that, “The coronavirus has brought about changes to what the industry had planned but which was in a prolonged ‘starting’ phase. In the space of several months of self-isolation and restrictions on movement, more real implementation, integration and investment has occurred than in previous years. Most important of all is that two key audiences, who until now only listened to the bright prospects of digitalization, are involved in the sector’s transformation – these are doctors and patients. With this in mind, Telemedforum III will focus on examining implemented digitalization projects in the healthcare sector.”

“We are the witnesses of a very interesting moment,” said Kirill Kaem. “The pandemic has jumpstarted the development of digital technologies. The situation has changed from the point of view of regulators, technology developers, and for doctors who interact with patients every day.”

The main question that Mr. Kaem raised related to what popular technological innovations will remain in the post-covid era and which ones will be rejected by the medical community.

It’s apparent from Melita Vujnovic’s speech that the WHO has long shown a serious interest in digital healthcare and the organization released its first resolution related to the topic 15 years ago. “Digital healthcare shouldn’t be a privilege exclusive to high-tech care centers. It is intended to become a necessary part of the medical care chain, which is in the interests of the patient,” said Miss Vujnovic.

Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank’s Country Director for the Russian Federation, was in full agreement with this view, urging to shift the focus from the disease to the patient, which is what digital and telemedical solutions allow for. In developing this premise, Mr. Seligmann used the four P’s concept, which is that healthcare should be personalized, predictive, prognostic, and participatory. In other words, all stakeholders should take part.

The building blocks for this new paradigm are a wide variety of data, including data from a patient’s smartphone. The other side of this is the exponential growth of medical data. For instance, US hospitals alone produce 665 million megabytes of data annually. However, the problem is not the quantity but rather the fragmented nature of the data, and artificial intelligence is the key instrument structure it.

The potential for the adoption of artificial intelligence in healthcare was shown by a lecturer who used North Carolina as an example where, in one of the state’s counties, there are potentially dangerous levels of lead. Using artificial intelligence and data from local tax authorities, the results of the lead analysis after visits to the doctor and the data from then census analysis, specialists were able to increase the detectability of lead in children’s blood by 600%.

Nonetheless, the numerous advantages brought about by integrating digital technologies into the healthcare system is also tied to serious risks. Firstly, there are huge questions regarding personal data protection; secondly, there is a necessity to create an effective integration model that considers the interests of the patient, doctor, nurse, developers and so on.

Another key factor for the patient is that a doctor does not have the right to make a diagnosis remotely, although the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation has received proposals to change this legal norm. However, Olya Atemova, the deputy director of the department of digital development and information technologies at the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, highlighted that consultant specialists shared the same view upon hearing about the initiative – that remote interaction between doctor and patient carries great risks of incorrect diagnosis.