An interview with Nima Jokilaakso of Digital Health Days

As the buzz around Digital Health Days in Stockholm on 23 and 24 September continues to build, Liz Nelson talked to Nima Jokilaakso, event manager for Digital Health Days at Stockholmsmässan AB about his perspective on digital health.

Jokilaakso, who holds a PhD in biotechnology, is co-founder and CEO of DD Innovation AB a private software development company making and serving the Dr.Maombi™ – Mobile Healthcare App as well as co-founder of The Maombi Foundation, non-profit Non-Governmental Organization devoted to using technology to widen healthcare access in developing countries.

 

(Liz) I’ve been reading about the philosophy of ‘subscendence’ – the idea that the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts but the other way round and this strikes me as very empowering. It begs the question: what can individuals involved in digital health do?

(Nima) Actually, I see digital health as a movement of individuals. After all, we’re all concerned about our health. And it’s a movement rising up from the grassroots, made up of activist patients and people who believe health is important.

Where does Digital Health Days fit in?

Digital Health Days is all about individuals, from hospital administrators to empowered patients, talking to each other to try and determine the future of digital health. It’s about promoting understanding of how individuals and society can benefit. It’s where we discuss the big questions, where people really speak their minds on things like collecting vast amounts of data, for instance. Because if we don’t do something great with that data, people will start mistrusting it more and more.

The truth is that many people in healthcare are overwhelmed by data. Traditionally, a doctor’s round meant that the doctor literally went round and saw his patients face to face. Now a doctor has less time for that face to face meeting and the doctor’s round can mean a conference room filled with other doctors, all with laptops as they go through the numbers as Dr. Brian Goldman, M.D., points out in his latest book.

How would you describe the relationship between individuals and the people who control healthcare?

In Sweden, which is where I have most experience, to talk about, the digitalisation of healthcare has been very slow in some instances and so the institutional benefits of digital health have yet to be really felt by patients.

Why is this the case?

It’s all about the ownership structure. Government has a role in healthcare but the problem is that it’s not owned by one united organisation but by both private and public interests like county councils and so on. So, as a citizen, it’s very hard to grasp who makes the decisions and this is the case from hospital to hospital, even from department to department.

This means there’s a lack of a sense of ownership. Ownership means control and control means decisiveness.

There’s also a lack of universal standards and of standardised and accepted revenue models that can be used. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be like this, it’s a choice or rather a matter of priorities.

What’s your take on this subject?

I personally don’t believe in full privatisation but I do believe that digital health has been driven by the market responding to consumer demand for product. Although, that doesn’t necessarily mean the market should be solely responsible for the direction of healthcare development.

In my opinion, government should respond to demand from people – citizens. People should be free to select what’s best for them but you can only choose from the technologies which you’re offered.

Are you familiar with the term ‘choice architecture’? It describes the different ways in which choices can be presented to consumers and the impact of that on consumer decision-making. Today there’s a lack of information about what digital health is really about from government so it’s very hard to make good choices as a citizen.

I personally believe we should bring back the word ‘citizens’ when it comes to digital health.

What would that mean?

As a citizen you have both responsibilities and rights. And do citizens have a right to digital health? Is it a fundamental human right? Since most healthcare systems in the world are paid through taxes, shouldn’t citizens demand their right to digital health?

I believe digital healthcare is a fundamental human right and citizens should demand their right to it.

Of course, if citizens start demanding the digital health rights it will also benefit the tech companies because it creates a demand for their products.

So, anyone who’s interested in discussing what it means to be a digital health citizen and how viewing people as such benefits government, healthcare and business should come along to Digital Health Days, right?

Absolutely.

Thanks, Nima.

 

Article by Elizabeth Nelson & David Holzer


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