Warsaw, 9th October 2023
Memorandum of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers:
Making use of the potential of Ukrainian and Polish digitalisation in the healthcare sector
- Cooperation between Poland and Ukraine can bring mutual benefits in the field of healthcare digitalisation.
- Regarding this cooperation, there are opportunities and threats alike. Both countries can exchange knowledge and experience, which will contribute to an increased healthcare efficiency and quality.
- Varying degrees of advancement and differences in infrastructure may create challenges for a harmonious partnership. It is essential to focus on overcoming these obstacles and making use of both countries’ potential in the field of health digitalisation.
- Advanced public-private partnerships guarantee the development of digital services in Ukraine.
- Lack of sufficient know-how may become an obstacle to further development of the digitalisation of the Ukrainian state.
Objectives of a Polish-Ukrainian healthcare cooperation
One of the most important objectives of Polish-Ukrainian cooperation should be, above all, a partnership at the educational level in order to support future entrepreneurs from Ukraine by equipping them with adequate knowledge. In the face of the ongoing armed conflict, prewar conditions for development do not exist any longer. The pace of progress in creating innovative solutions related to data transmission technology along with the knowledge that there is no possibility of returning to the pre-war world conceive the potential in Ukraine to build a modern healthcare system based largely or completely on digitalisation. Ukraine can and may become a country of experiments in the field of digitalisation of the health sector, and Poland is able to aid Ukraine in endeavour.
Where does Ukraine presently stand in terms of its healthcare system?
Ukrainian healthcare is a system that for many years had suffered from inadequate financing. To make matters worse, current budgets do not allow its restoration. We are dealing with a quite significant outflow of citizens – medical staff, the youth, and wealthy people in particular. This situation affects in turn not only the condition of medical care, but also the country’s economic potential. Ukraine’s population is aging and access to healthcare varies greatly, especially in scattered rural areas. Private health insurance has low penetration. The ongoing war leads to economic instability yet attracts at the same time new patients with health problems, both of a physical and mental nature. We are observing a lacking transparency in certain aspects of the health system. Although apparently there are no fees for anything, there are reports of cases in which patients must provide their own surgical tools or wound dressings. Citizens are very open to adopting digital solutions. We also see that the war, although a tragic event, contributed to the acceleration of services’ digitisation. Healthcare in Ukraine, while slightly lagging, is gradually following other industries. It is important to understand that those industries shape consumer habits, for example modern digital banks that offer different payment channels and systems. Worthy of a mention is the Ukrainian online bank Monobank, which is more modern and advanced than many banks in Poland. This is an institution considering expansion to Western Europe. Furthermore, during the war in Ukraine, applications emerged to make life easier in other areas, for example the Ukrainian Railways app, which offers not only ticket sales, but also access to various information. Due to the numerous events surrounding the war, citizens find this information extremely useful. Interestingly, if we look at the scope of functionality of the Ukrainian equivalent of the Polish mObywatel app, we will notice that the Ukrainian state portal offers at least the same, and sometimes even greater possibilities than its Polish counterpart. There is also a mobile app on the private market that integrates medical care with access to pharmacies. Such a modern solution is on par with certain European innovations, and ahead of others. All this shows that Ukraine has the potential to further digitally develop its healthcare and can draw inspiration from other sectors of the economy as well as from foreign solutions. As for the public healthcare market, the level of digitalisation in Ukraine is still relatively low. However, if we look at the private market, we will observe the creation of applications that come close to the standards offered by companies such as LUX MED, Medicover or Enel-Med. In spite of this fact, the share of private medical care in Ukraine comes up to only about 5%, which is a relatively small value. If we compare certain indicators, for example teleconsultations, in Poland they constitute over 30% of the share, while in Ukraine a mere 10%, albeit growing. Now, when it comes to opportunities to improve the situation in Ukraine and to make better use of existing apps, it all boils down to data and digital standards of information exchange in medical environments, as well as standards of working with patients. Currently, there are no uniform standards, which leads to the lack of standardisation, within Ukraine and in international exchange alike. Ukrainians saw the benefits of standardisation during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Ukrainian certificates were recognised in the European Union and vice versa. Therefore, Ukraine should strive to adopt standards applicable in other countries, as this creates the potential for various forms of cross-border healthcare. We can envision a policy that would allow treatment both in Poland and Ukraine. There is a large community of Ukrainians living in Poland, who are professionally active and travel frequently. Having a service that would work not only in Ukraine but also in Poland and other countries would be incredibly attractive. However, the key issue is collecting consistent medical data. From the point of view of Ukrainian society, but also of societies in which Ukrainians live, this would be highly beneficial as it would affect the effectiveness of treatment and patient safety.
Due to favourable legislation, Ukraine is becoming a leader in international IT
Ukraine has the potential necessary to become a leading force in digital transformation of healthcare, as everything is being built virtually from scratch. The market for IT and digital services in Ukraine is large and growing, accounting for approximately 5% of the country’s GDP. Moreover, services sector exports constitute about 50% of the country’s total exports. This is a dynamically developing sector that includes over 2,300 companies that employ over 360,000 specialists. It is an important part of the Ukrainian economy making it an important player on the international market. Importantly, the current legislation in Ukraine favours IT sector development. However, to achieve its full potential, it is important that the private sector operates both domestically and abroad. Public-private cooperation (between private companies and state institutions) is also important. The partnership between Poland and Ukraine in the field of digitalisation can bring mutual benefits, especially if both sides use their experience and potential in the field of digital technologies and jointly face the challenges related to the development of the sector. The role of the Ministry of Digitisation in managing the digitisation process is crucial, and its coordinated approach to various areas of government activities can bring positive results. What is important is that this Ministry can help other ministries in developing digital competences and creating favourable conditions for innovation. When it comes to cooperation between Poland and Ukraine in the area of digitalisation, such relations can bring many benefits. Both sides can learn from each other and jointly solve problems related to the development of the digital sector. It is also worth paying attention to how many Polish companies operate in Ukraine and cooperate with Ukrainian companies. This can be an important source of exchange of both knowledge and experience. The important thing is that the digitisation process can be implemented in diverse ways, and each country can choose the solutions that best suit its own needs and conditions. It is also worth remembering that digitisation is a dynamic process that is constantly evolving. There are many areas with room for improvement to achieve better results. Regarding cybersecurity, this is a globally key area that requires constant attention. International cybersec-cooperation is critical, because threats are often of an international character and require a common approach to properly address them. Poland and Ukraine can also use technological solutions in the area of cybersecurity, such as platforms for attack detection and prevention. Indeed, developing digital technologies in the military area can also find numerous applications in civilian areas. Ukraine, due to the vastness of its territory and particular challenges, has the potential to give birth to solutions that can be adapted to various civilian needs. Companies that identify and monitor threats in military situations can transform their technologies for the needs of the post-war civilian market. Mental health and psychological support are also pivotal, in particular for those suffering from war-related PTSD. Companies offering psychological support can develop their services and help not only veterans, but also others who experience mental difficulties. AI-powered technologies have wide applications in civil fields such as healthcare and industry too. Their development may contribute to improving the efficiency and quality of medical care along with other aspects of life. Developing technologies related to prostheses and support for injured people are another example of how technologies developed for the military can be used in civilian areas, such as healthcare or rehabilitation.
Digitalisation as a way to combat logistics problems and communication exclusion
The availability of medical services, especially in large countries with dispersed populations, is an important aspect. Using medical data to better diagnose and refer patients to the right specialists can improve the healthcare quality. Moreover, an aging population and deficiencies in the health system are challenges that can be solved through digitalisation. However, the key is to ensure that patients experience the benefits of these changes, such as better access to medical care and a more personalised approach to treatment. Clinical trials, health data analysis, and tracking health trends in the population are areas that can also be beneficially used in the process of digitalising healthcare. It is important to use these tools effectively to prevent diseases and improve patients’ quality of life. Another issue to take into consideration is what should be done after diagnosing patients and identifying problems at the population level. We focus on delivering medicines and services, which in turn brings challenges related to logistics and ensuring availability. In Europe, including Ukraine, there are major problems in this area. Digital tools allow for a more effective management of these processes, which is extremely important. The problem is the lack of coherence in health systems. Patients use different healthcare facilities and medical devices, which makes data scattered and inconsistent. Our goal is to enable data to move with the patient, but communication between different devices and systems can be problematic. An example of this is the individual patient account, which has worked well for vaccinations, but we still have many challenges to face in terms of data access and processing. Another important aspect includes data analysis and subsequent conclusions from this data. Having diagnosed patients, it is necessary to adjust appropriate therapies, exclude ineffective solutions, and implement self-help.
Visions of a Polish-Ukrainian cooperation
It is important to understand the processes and systems on both the Polish and Ukrainian side – and to educate about them. Each side has tried different solutions, and the mistakes of others can become valuable lessons. Education at the level of relations between countries is crucial. Furthermore, there are issues related to regulations and standards. Poland can learn from Ukraine in terms of implementation and operationality, while Ukraine has much to gain from Poland’s experience in dealing with different standards and regulations, especially in the context of Ukraine’s aspirations to join the EU. It is worth emphasising that both sides can also benefit from the exchange of know-how in the field of cybersecurity and adapting regulations to European standards, while ensuring flexibility of the country’s development. One must remember that adaptation to new regulatory standards as well as introduction of systemic changes are operational challenges. Poland and Ukraine can exchange experiences and best practices in these areas to achieve consistency with European standards while maintaining flexibility in the development process. Poland and Ukraine can benefit from mutual support, especially since they are each other’s closest neighbours. Apart from education, regulation, and knowledge exchange, there is also potential for medical and other services. Both countries can provide services in both mental health and other medical areas. Cooperation and opening the market can both benefit patients and stimulate competition. Qualified medical and IT staff are vital, because both parties have different competences in these areas. Creating joint projects and working groups at various levels, including government, business, health system participants, physicians, and app users, can accelerate the implementation of digital solutions. Successful examples of cooperation and the effectiveness of the implemented solutions should also be actively promoted. As we continue to do this, there is a huge opportunity to help rebuild the healthcare system and transform it into a moderner and more effective version of itself that meets future challenges.