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Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

Need for patient education on AI in healthcare to build trust revealed in new survey

9th October 2023

Almost two thirds of patients are comfortable with using healthcare settings that use artificial intelligence (AI), but only if they are familiar with the technology, according to a new survey from GlobalData.

The results revealed that 60% of patients who were familiar with AI were either very or quite comfortable with attending an AI-enabled healthcare setting. When it came to people who weren’t familiar with the technology, this level of comfort fell to just 7% of patients.

A lack of in-person interaction was the top patient concern associated with physicians using AI in clinical practice, and most patients felt more comfortable with physicians using it to automate administrative tasks compared to directing patient care.

Faster healthcare delivery and mitigation of healthcare staff shortages were identified as the main benefits associated with AI use in clinical practice.

The survey data also reveals that those aged 18-55 years were more likely to be familiar with AI than those aged 56 years and over, with more than 50% of the younger group rating their knowledge as moderately or very familiar.

Commenting on the important and evolving use of AI to detect image-based diseases such as cancer, Urte Jakimaviciute, senior director of market research at GlobalData, said: ‘Together with the development of a robust regulatory framework, it is imperative to prioritise patient education regarding the technology.

‘This education should aim to enhance comprehension of AI’s utilisation, its potential advantages, and associated adoption risks, ultimately fostering increased trust in AI. Enhanced knowledge empowers individuals to make informed decisions and mitigate biases linked to this technology.’

Similar issues around trust have been identified in previous studies. For example, a 2021 study looking at patient apprehensions about the use of AI in healthcare, published in the journal NPJ Digital Medicine, identified concerns relating to its safety, threats to patient choice, potential increases in healthcare costs, data-source bias and data security.

These authors also concluded that ‘patient acceptance of AI is contingent on mitigating these possible harms’.

The new GlobalData survey, Thematic Intelligence: AI in Clinical Practice – Patient Perspective 2023, saw 574 patient respondents from the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, Brazil, Canada, India and Mexico.

The patients were diagnosed with conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, chronic respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. They were surveyed between July and August 2023.

Notable signs of recovery from Covid-19, says WHO

2nd May 2023

Health systems are showing the first major signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, but further investment in recovery and resilience is needed, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

By early 2023, fewer countries reported intentionally scaling back access across all service delivery platforms and essential public health functions since the last round of reporting. In fact, disruptions in the delivery of routine health services were found to have declined on average from 56% in July-September 2021 to 23% in November 2022-January 2023.

The WHO interim report on the fourth round of the global pulse survey also revealed the number of countries reporting disruption to their national supply chain system reduced from nearly half (29 of 59 responding countries) to around a quarter (18 of 66 responding countries) within the last year.

Disruptions persist post Covid-19

Despite this improvement in Covid-19 recovery, the report found that demand and supply disruptions persist, with increasing service backlogs – most frequently in screening, diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases – being prevalent across all countries responding to the survey.

“It is welcome news that health systems in the majority of countries are starting to restore essential health services for millions of people who missed them during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Rudi Eggers, WHO Director for Integrated Health Services. “But we need to ensure that all countries continue to close this gap to recover health services and apply lessons learnt to build more prepared and resilient health systems for the future.”

Concerns remain over the delayed recovery of essential health service delivery as this “may have even greater adverse health effects at population and individual level than the pandemic itself, especially among vulnerable populations”, the WHO concluded.

To this end, three quarters of countries reported additional funding allocation towards longer term system recovery, resilience and preparedness.

View from Estonia: Urmas Sule

28th April 2023

Dr Urmas Sule, HOPE president, details how Estonia has weathered the significant challenges of 2022 and his hopes and expectations for 2023.

What were your key objectives and successes for 2022 in Estonia, and what were the main drivers for these?

In 2022, we moved from Covid-19 to an energy crisis and the uncertainty of war. Unfortunately, Covid is still very much present. Managing one crisis after another, and sometimes doing it simultaneously, proves a challenge for maintaining a reasonable balance of healthcare services for Covid and non-Covid patients. In my opinion, we have succeeded in guarding the patients’ interests and safety the best way.

Were there any specific facilitators that made these objectives more achievable?

During these difficult times, we saw how important it was to have smooth cooperation between hospitals and healthcare providers. An effective distribution of tasks and responsibilities was developed to protect patients’ interests in the best possible way.

We as hospital managers cooperate well with the Health Board, the Health Insurance Fund and the Government of Estonia. Continuous negotiations with the Government and the Health Insurance Fund about adequate financing of services and support for the health sector were necessary and proved very fruitful.

Our partnership with the Estonian Medical Association, the Medical Faculty of the University and the Health Care Colleges has been a big help in involving medical and nursing students.

Our main focus for 2022 was, and will always be, to protect our healthcare workers from burnout. This is not an easy task and needs good cooperation between all partners.

What did you perceive as the main barriers to reaching these goals?

Similar to other European countries, Estonia also faces the problem of a shortage of healthcare workers. Healthcare specialists are working for multiple employers. This is good for knowledge exchange, but is difficult to organise in a pandemic situation. Shortages have been a problem in Estonia for a long time, not just during Covid. The pandemic intensified the problem. Ensuring a reasonable division of labour and responsibilities between hospitals and other healthcare institutions has been a challenge.

But there are also other barriers, too. Political priorities have shifted from solving the healthcare crisis to an energy crisis and the effects of war. The primary focus has been improving readiness for emergencies in all areas. Helping Ukrainian refugees, providing them with social security and healthcare services is one of the important and ongoing challenges.

How did you anticipate overcoming any of these potential barriers?

The Estonian Government created a new crisis staff structure during Covid. This structure was adapted for the healthcare sector together with the Estonian Hospitals Association network. We have collaborated with the Estonian Health Insurance Fund to guarantee the best possible availability of healthcare services to all patients. This has been possible due to the prudent and flexible planning and financing of services.

To motivate employees, we have negotiated collective agreements in two-year increments. This has been a good opportunity to hear the needs and expectations of healthcare workers so we can do our best to try to meet those expectations and improve working conditions. Negotiations for the coming years are currently underway, and we will make all efforts to find a balanced agreement and retain the effective and trusting relationships among our social partners.

What measures did you use to assess whether these objectives were achieved?

The Health Insurance Fund measures the need for health services to lessen the treatment deficit. In collaboration, we have negotiated and agreed on the measures to reduce treatment deficits for non-Covid patients. We planned and introduced new services to prepare for Ukrainian refugees entering the healthcare system. But the biggest challenge for hospitals is the rapid and continuous rising costs of energy and other services.

We have monitored hospitals’ workloads and cooperated to ensure best use of all resources – especially the healthcare workforce – to create a flexible system that is prepared for new challenges.

How did these lead to improvements in patient care?

We have seen a rapid growth of the development and use of e-services and remote services and consultations in the healthcare sector in Estonia. There has been great development across many specialities – psychiatry, for example – during the pandemic. This has been possible due to the collaboration between hospitals, other healthcare providers and the Health Insurance Fund.

Because of the health crisis, we have increased infection control capacity and knowledge, not only in the healthcare sector, but also in society. A nationwide vaccination campaign has also alleviated the effects of Covid and the burden on the healthcare system.

What are the goals and challenges in Estonia for 2023, and are these contingent on the 2022 objectives?

We are negotiating the 2023/24 collective agreement with the Medical Association, Nurses Association and other trade unions. It is a challenge to achieve a balance between reasonable salaries and general pricing principles that include all input prices and guarantee adequate availability of patient services.

At the same time, our healthcare system has to achieve the best possible flexibility to be prepared for any possible crises. This seems like an endless and boundless task!