Romania is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, yet its healthcare system is one of the weakest in the region. It has a declining population of around 19 million, of which 4 million are children. 50% of children and 37% of adults are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and many are living in rural areas, where access to quality health care presents a serious challenge. There is a shortage of doctors and nurses, equipment and financing, which has resulted in massive overcrowding of the emergency rooms with patients unable to access their family practice or the ambulatory. To tackle some of these challenges, The National Health Strategy 2014-2020 has a dedicated a Specific Objective aiming to increase access to health services through the use of telemedicine. A number of attempts to develop telemedicine services have been implemented in the last decades. However the scaling-up of these e-services and their integration in the healthcare system, remains challenging.
How can Fondation Botnar, an innovative foundation with a legacy in Romania and a focus on investing in emerging digital health solutions for children and communities, catalyze collective action for the rapid uptake of digital health technologies to improve health of children and their families in Romania?
The rapid uptake of digital health technologies powered by sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence is creating unprecedented opportunities for global public health over the next 20 years - including helping to solve the shortfall of health workers.Stefan Germann, CEO, Fondation Botnar
Fondation Botnar has engaged Barbara Bulc as a strategic advisor to help innovate and accelerate the building of collective action, alongside local partners, that would enable the sustainable provision of digital health solutions to communities. The current situation in Romania presents an unprecedented opportunity to overcome the gap in the shortages of health workers through the investment in AI and digital solutions. This would further speed up the transformation of modern healthcare as it moves from the hospital to the home in Romania. This builds on Fondation Botnar’s existing work with partners in Romania such as UNICEF to develop, together with the Romanian government agencies, a scalable package of support measures to improve the health care of children and their families.
An initial assessment of the ecosystems with market analysis and extensive stakeholder mapping was conducted together with UNICEF Romania and Impact Hub Romania. This led to the organization of a first of its kind roundtable on digital health with identified key potential partners, entitled “Promoting the use of digital technologies in Romania to increase access to health services for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations”.
Hosted by the National Insurance House together with Fondation Botnar, UNICEF Romania and Impact Hub in Bucharest, invited participants from over 35 select key organizations and leaders from across government, health professional groups, businesses, start-ups, foundations and non-profits. Potential key areas for action and partnerships were identified and shared with participants. We identified pathways to establish a functioning regulatory framework for digital health and telemedicine in Romania and promote learning and knowledge of community-based solutions. Working groups and incubation projects are planned to address identified priority issues.
This initiative is ongoing.