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Digitization and Medtech. How are innovations in technology changing the face of healthcare in Poland?

On May 12, at the The Tides conference center in Warsaw, the 5th edition of Our Future Forum took place, bringing together young participants from all over Poland. The title of one of the discussion panels was: Digitization and Medtech. How are innovations in technology changing the face of healthcare in Poland? The discussion was moderated by Michał Czarnuch, Partner at DZP. The speakers were Minister Zdrowa Adam Niedzielski, doctor habilitated Radosław Sierpiński – President of the Medical Research Agency, Andrzej Jaworski – President of the Management Board of PZU Zdrowie, Łukasz Krauze – Chief IT Officer Medicover, Alina Pszczółkowska – Vice President of the Management Board – AstraZeneca, Professor Maciej Małecki – Head of the Department of Clinical Diseases Metabolic and Diabetology at the University Hospital in Krakow.

At the very beginning, Mr. Michał Czarnuch pointed out that technology changes our lives in all aspects, including medicine, and then smoothly moved on to his first question – how digitization affects the functioning of health care in our country. The first to speak was Minister Adam Niedzielski. He thanked the young people for their presence at the conference and their involvement in social activities, and then referred to the subject of digitization in medicine. He mentioned that in the next few years we will face a permanent staffing crisis in the health care sector, which, combined with the aging of the Polish society, will only increase the demand for medical services. He noted that one of the main answers for a sustainable health system is technology, which is no longer a whim of the few, but the future of each of us. “Today, over 17 million people in Poland use the online patient portal, which is almost half of our population. Technology is a real added value that allows us to balance our system.” – emphasized Adam Niedzielski.

The second speaker was Dr. hab. Radosław Sierpiński, who tried to answer the question of how the Medical Research Agency supports innovation in medicine. He noted that the organization he represents is a huge innovation hub that provides a huge number of modern solutions. He mentioned that even his 99-year-old grandfather uses an online patient portal and no longer uses traditional paper prescriptions – it just shows how much progress we have already made. Over the last four years, the Medical Research Agency has invested over PLN 2 billion in modern and innovative projects, including mRNA-based vaccines and early disease diagnosis systems using artificial intelligence. Finally, he signaled that attention should definitely be paid to the development of personalized medicine, because in the future therapy will be adapted to the needs of the patient to an even greater extent than at present.

Alina Pszczółkowska talked about the process of testing and making medicines available to a wide range of patients, using the example of a vaccine developed by Astrazeneca. She emphasized that technology must go hand in hand with patient support, because modern solutions alone are not enough. Like Radosław Sierpiński, she mentioned the great importance of personalized medicine. Finally, she invited the participants of the event to take an interest in the Astrazeneca Forum project, which will organize a series of debates on the future of medicine.

Andrzej Jaworski focused on the activities of the State Treasury company he represents – PZU Zdrowie. He talked about the telemedicine research project initiated by PZU Zdrowie before the pandemic, which in retrospect turned out to be a bull’s-eye. He said that artificial intelligence will make it possible to shorten and simplify the work of doctors, thanks to which they will be able to focus their attention on more important issues. “We were the first medical company to sign a contract with a company from Canada and import medical simulators to Poland, which were later delivered to Polish universities” – boasted Andrzej Jaworski.

Łukasz Krauze presented the perspective of the IT sector on the development of new technologies in medicine. He began by presenting the great merits of the Da Vinci robot, which can perform complex surgical operations much more precisely than the best doctors in the world. This does not mean that doctors will become unemployed – they still have to supervise the work of such a robot. Then he mentioned the prospects for the development of the so-called augmented reality (VR – Virtual Reality), which can be used to improve the mental well-being of patients.

Maciej Małecki, as a representative of the academic world and Head of the Clinical Department of Metabolic Diseases and Diabetology at the University Hospital in Krakow, told the participants of the event how all the aforementioned technologies are used in practice. He mentioned the use of insulin pumps to provide diabetic patients with the right amount of glucose needed to survive. “In recent years, patients’ access to modern technologies has been significantly expanded. In the case of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is about half a million people.” Professor Małecki pointed out.

The second question of Mr. Michał Czarnuch concerned forecasts on the future development of modern technologies in medicine and advice for the future for young people who want to learn in this field. Again, Minister Adam Niedzielski was the first to speak. He noted that the medical sector is a good place to build your own future, because it provides stability, high income and social prestige. He stated that the current changes taking place in the medical world are a revolution. Finally, he singled out three main areas for attention in the near future: telecare, robotics and the use of data through artificial intelligence.

Radosław Sierpiński encouraged the participants of the conference to “do science” because, as he decided, it is an apolitical field that connects and does not divide. He also invited young people to cooperate with the Medical Research Agency.

Łukasz Krauze emphasized the importance of dialogue and recommended young people to open up to new experiences. He recalled how, at the age of 17, he learned statistical analysis and the basics of artificial intelligence. At that time, this knowledge seemed to him of little use, but today the long hours he devoted to his education pay off, and it is his commitment in his teenage years that he owes his today’s success.

Alina Pszczółkowska referred to the issue of data collected by MedTech companies. They open up a huge amount of possibilities and are a powerful tool that can be used in a very positive way, she concluded.

Andrzej Jaworski said that PZU Zdrowie is a place open to IT specialists, inventors and enthusiasts, in a word, all people who want to change the Polish health service, and then he encouraged conference participants to study medicine.

Maciej Małecki singled out three key proposals which, in his opinion, should be implemented as soon as possible in the Polish health service. Firstly, broadening access to modern technologies. Secondly, an increase in the offer of solutions in the field of innovative inventions. Thirdly, improving communication between doctors. It is thanks to them that Poland can reach the world level – he concluded. Michał Czarnuch concluded with a quote from Steve Jobs – “a man is one of the least efficient animals when it comes to mobility, while a man with a bicycle is the most effective creature on our planet”, then added “technology is just such a bicycle and you have to learn make use of it.”

Source: Our Future Foundation report

Photo: Our Future Foundation

Maksymilian Mirecki
I am a journalist and editor in Coopernicus. I study law and international relations at University of Warsaw. I am also a host of the podcast "Maximum Dose of Knowledge".
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Maksymilian Mirecki

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