Latvia is no stranger to the concept of eHealth. As a part of its accession to the EU back in 2004, the country had to commit to developing a national strategy for eHealth as laid out in the European eHealth action plan.
Therefore, in 2005 the Latvian health ministry devised the 'eHealth in Latvia' national roadmap. The next few years were spent mapping the actual project and its architecture, along with the required technical specifications, including technical standards for eHealth.
The legal framework of the eHealth information system was approved by the cabinet of ministers in 2014. In the coming years, the development of an eHealth information system will continue, in order to ensure that it becomes an important tool for higher quality healthcare and a more effective use of healthcare resources.
Vytenis Andriukaitis: Healthcare and patient empowerment boosted by ICT
Nicola Caputo: EU must confront ethical dilemmas related to eHealth
Anne-Sophie Parent: Use of mHealth can reduce the impact of demographic change
Yet for eHealth to be successfully implemented in Latvia, it is very important that in addition to the health ministry, professionals and patients also realise its benefits.
Digital Europe has been one of the most important priorities for the Latvian EU council presidency. Rapidly growing information technologies are a source of tremendous opportunities that will boost smart, sustainable and inclusive growth for the EU, but they also come with a number of challenges that will need to be addressed in a timely manner so that these opportunities - including in the health sector - can be properly seized.
A high level conference on eHealth titled 'Me and my health - transcending borders' takes place in Riga on 11-13 May. Co-organised by the Latvian presidency and the commission, it is the first large-scale eHealth conference to be held in Latvia. The event will be a great opportunity to learn about best practices, the latest developments and planned policy changes in eHealth and mHealth, and, among many other things, generate new ideas, network and find new contacts.
The overall theme of the conference is 'my health empowered by me', which reflects the central idea behind the meeting - the design and use of eHealth and mHealth solutions to support the active participation of patients in their healthcare and enhance their health literacy and communication with health professionals, with the aim of improving their health and wellbeing.
The conference will also address questions related to privacy and data protection in healthcare, cross-border eHealth services in the EU, secondary use of data for research and financing issues for the implementation of eHealth, so as to make healthcare systems more sustainable and efficient.
In addition, it will be a chance to share experiences with social networking and gaming tools to increase patients' involvement and engagement in healthcare as well as best practice telemedicine and mHealth solutions.
The Latvian presidency will concentrate on patient-focused healthcare, and the empowerment of these patients, addressing the use of technology to improve the quality of healthcare, innovation in eHealth and mHealth, cross-border exchange of health data and patient data protection issues.