Enhancing Healthcare Diplomacy: Romanian-Belgian Collaboration Focuses on Health System Digitalization

On April 10th, the Romanian Embassy in the Kingdom of Belgium, supported by the WHO Europe and the ENSP, reiterated their efforts in the quest to create bilateral relations in Belgian-Romanian medical diplomacy. The third edition of the diplomatic meeting took place in Brussels and covered the theme of “digitalization of the health system”. 

During this diplomatic event “Medical diplomacy: Belgian-Romanian perspective. eHEALTH”, a series of 17 specialists have been brought together, thanks to the efforts of Romanian Ambassador Andreea Păstârnac, to address, firstly, the potential obstacles to the success of the project and secondly, they addressed the digital solutions to seek, particularly in the field of medical research. Moderated by the ENSP Secretary General, Cornel Radu-Loghin, the two panels have addressed both the perspectives and challenges of the digitalization in the medical field, and the different solutions implemented by renowned educational institutions in Romania.

The presence of the Presidential Advisor Diana Loreta Paun and the Romanian Minister of Health Alexandru Rafila is a great indicator that the Romanian government is proactive in the search for solutions for the digital migration of the healthcare system.

According to the stakeholders, the digitization of healthcare systems offers numerous opportunities to improve the efficiency, accessibility and quality of healthcare, while at the same time tackling challenges in terms of safety, training and acceptance.

Indeed, the representative of the Federal Ministry of Health in Belgium Frank Robben evoked the “empowerment of healthcare users” which he defines as the fact that patients take an active part in the process. As a matter of fact, hospitals and clinics are increasingly adopting computerized systems to manage appointments, prescriptions, test results and other clinical processes. This improves operational efficiency and reduces medical errors.

He is joined by the President of the European Federation of Medical Academies Stefan Constantinescu, in the idea that “eHEALTH” is a way of connecting patients and doctors. One of eHEALTH’s objectives is to create a pathology registry in Romania to benefit from broader expertise. For this purpose, DG SANTE COM jurist Guillaume BYK stresses the importance of inaugurating a harmonized database at the European level and the need for a common security system.

In the same vein, the Deputy and Chairman of the Health and Family Commission, Nelu Tataru, addresses the problem of identifying the data necessary to be digitized in order to create a coherent ecosystem. Moreover, a healthy ecosystem also needs a coherent digital health governance underlined the WHO regional advisor to the regional office for Europe David Novillo.

Learning from the COVID-19 episode, WHO Representative to the European Union Oxana Domenti also advocates the use of digital tools, such as digital certificates, to provide a coordinated and sustainable response to future threats, not only at the national and European levels, but also potentially at the global level.

Furthermore, Romanian Senator and Member of the Parliamentary Group for the Fight Against Cancer Attila Lászlo, presents digitalization and the use of artificial intelligence as a solution to the demographic problem Romania is currently facing. Likewise, the chief medical officer Gert Van ESBROECK highlights the usefulness of AI in these contexts of overcrowding. According to him, using AI in order to structure the data will allow the possibility of offering accessible, quality, and affordable care.

But, in order to achieve these goals, Senator and President of the Committee for Defense, Public Order, and National Security, Nicoleta Pauliuc, reminds us that the creation of a digital system makes no sense if it is not accessible to patients, especially those who need it most. For her, successful implementation of a digital system requires the training of the population, or as she calls it, a “digital literacy program”.

In the same spirit, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Iuliu Hatieganu” Cluj-Napoca, Anca Buzoianu, and Dean at Faculty of Pharmacy “Victor Babeş” University of Medicine and Pharmacy Timișoara, Cristina Adriana Deheleau, underline the fact that digital tools such as artificial intelligence are not an absolute solution to the problems encountered in today’s healthcare system. One of the limits of AI is the production of scientific works that require basic questioning and human reflection.

Moreover, digitalization is creating new standards, and it’s important to stress the importance of the human factor and the need for professional empathy, which is paramount in the healthcare sector.

Digital tools may not be the absolute solution, but the encouraging results of the survey conducted by the dean and researcher at the Craiova Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy Costin-Teodor STREBA prove their effectiveness. Moreover, the professor at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Grigore T. Popa” Iasi Georgeta Liliana FOIA and the dean of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “ Carol Davila” Bucharest Adriana TAEREL, agree to affirm the practicability of new digital tools within their academies as well as the openness to new teaching possibilities.

Key points: 

  • Encourage active participation of patients in their healthcare journey. Advocate for the widespread adoption of computerized systems in hospitals and clinics to facilitate patient involvement.
  • Explore the utilization of artificial intelligence to address demographic challenges within Romania’s healthcare sector.
  • Prioritize making digital healthcare systems accessible to all patients, especially those in underserved communities. Implement a comprehensive “digital literacy” program to educate patients on navigating digital health platforms effectively.
  • Emphasize the human aspect of healthcare alongside digital advancements. Acknowledge that while digital tools, including AI, offer valuable support, they should complement rather than replace human interaction and empathy in healthcare delivery.
  • Proactively address challenges associated with digitalization in healthcare, such as data security and privacy concerns. Seize the opportunities presented by digitalization to enhance the efficiency, accessibility, and quality of healthcare services for all individuals.

Following this Belgian-Romanian diplomacy event on the digitization of the Romanian healthcare system, we can conclude with satisfaction that all the planned activities were successfully completed. A large number of speakers and participants contributed to the success of the event. Special guests from the National Belgian Orchestra ended the event with a musical moment of violin and cello. Various approaches were put forward, with their advantages and disadvantages, but there was unanimous agreement on the need to modernize Romania’s medical institutions and to grow greater bilateral collaboration between the two countries. Ambassador Andreea Păstârnac’s initiative to forge diplomatic ties in the field of public health has been a resounding success.

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Enhancing Healthcare Diplomacy: Romanian-Belgian Collaboration Focuses on Health System Digitalization

On April 10th, the Romanian Embassy in the Kingdom of Belgium, supported by the WHO Europe and the ENSP, reiterated their efforts in the quest to create bilateral relations...

Read more