Interview with Kaspars Grosu - the Children’s University Hospital in Riga, Latvia

After initially deploying Intouch modules including 'Flow Manager' in Children’s University Hospital in Latvia, Kaspars is expanding the footprint of the Intouch Platform in Europe while also supporting customers with funding through various European programs

Beginning his relationship with Intouch with Health during his role as Head of Customer Service in the Children’s University Hospital in Riga, Latvia, Kaspars now supports Intouch's international activities in Latvia and the Baltic countries and Nordic countries, including Estonia, Sweden and Finland. In his current role as Customer Relationship Manager at DATAMED, the official Intouch distribution partner for Latvia and the Baltic countries, Kaspars works closely with Intouch’s International Account Director, Yara Safi (yara.safi@intouchwithhealth.co.uk), to supply Intouch’s products to Latvian Healthcare organisations while insuring the best service to customers through DATAMED’s dedicated team.

After initially deploying Intouch modules including 'Flow Manager' in Children’s University Hospital in Latvia, Kaspars is expanding the footprint of the Intouch Platform in Europe while also supporting customers with funding through various European programs. DATAMED and Intouch’s joint focus is to support healthcare organisations to adapt to the new 'ways-of-working' during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, by using digital transformation to its full potential with integrated, future-proof, solutions.

Hi Kaspars. Can you tell us a bit about your background in healthcare technology?

I have been involved in healthcare technology specifically for the past 6 years. Most of that time was spent as the Head of Customer Service in the Children’s University Hospital, Riga, Latvia.

In 2019, I transferred into a private company called DATAMED where I am the Manager of Customer Relationships. As part of my role, I support Intouch with Health’s international activities in Latvia and the wider Baltic countries.

During my time at the Children’s Hospital, I believed that there must be a better way to manage patient flow and customer support. This began my desire to explore how technology can improve patient flow and lines of communication. After speaking with and analysing several companies, I found one that met my needs - Intouch with Health.

I visited some hospitals in the UK just to see how Intouch with Health's solutions worked and how they could be implemented in Latvia, beginning with the Children’s Hospital. With some adaption for the Latvian social system, their technology was an instant fit and made an immediate impact.

Can you explain how your role supports Intouch with Health customers in the Baltic countries?

I manage new customer relationships - starting with presentations, finishing with project implementation, while also maintaining communication with existing and future customers. The most important aspects of my role are building understanding, communication, and trust with customers. Without these components, there is likely to be little success, a thorough understanding of customer needs is essential. I see it as my mission to bring the latest technology in to the Latvian healthcare market to drive digital transformation.

What do you think makes for a great relationship between health-tech providers such as Intouch and the teams using the technology on the front line?

Communication. Intouch with Health’s solutions are not just another IT system implementation – they are about change management and cost-effective transformation within hospital. It touches everyone from front line workers to doctors and nurses and administration staff, and of course, patients. Therefore, the biggest part of any project is communication. For the solutions to make the biggest impact, everyone needs to understand how it can support them in their role within the hospital, why the change is being introduced, and ultimately understand how to adapt their current ways-of-working to embrace the new processes and systems. The solutions themselves cannot make a significant impact unless the reasons why they are being introduced and how to utilise them are communicated effectively.

In the UK, a patient is recognised via referral letter and, if it is NHS treatment, the patient’s unique NHS Number. In other European countries including Latvia, it is a must that a patient presents/possesses another form of identification, such as an ID card or passport

What do you think are the biggest differences between the NHS / UK healthcare sector and the European / Baltic equivalent?

There are few differences between the two systems for sure. Perhaps the most obvious difference is the payment system within Latvia. Within the UK, healthcare for citizens is free at the point of use through the NHS. Alongside this, in the UK, there is also a relatively large Private Healthcare Service. In Latvia and in some other EU countries, it is free only for children and pensioners, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, pensioners are required to pay a co-payment fee usually around €4.

Another difference between the two systems is the difference in patient recognition. In the UK, a patient is recognised via referral letter and, if it is NHS treatment, the patient’s unique NHS Number. In other European countries including Latvia, it is a must that a patient presents/possesses another form of identification, such as an ID card or passport.

It has been a challenging year for healthcare since the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, there has been the need for rapid digital transformation. What changes have you observed?

Latvia was one of the countries which dealt with COVID-19 quite fast, but it came with cost. 80% of all outpatient appointments were cancelled, along with the same amount of inpatient appointments. As with everywhere else, we have seen social distancing and infection prevention measures introduced at pace. Some hospitals introduced new digital technology where possible as the COVID-19 pandemic began, but some unfortunately stayed as they were. We all understood quickly that technology is one of the key factors in delivering healthcare during COVID-19. Very quickly, the market was flooded with new technology to choose from. The challenge for the hospitals is to identify technology that is not just ready for the here-and-now but is future-proof.

What is the biggest change or development you have seen in the industry during your career?

Without a doubt, COVID-19 has been the catalyst for major technological development across healthcare worldwide, not just Europe. We too have had to adapt fast to embrace new technologies – such as all meetings being conducted via video calls. Hospitals such as the Children’s Hospital in Latvia, which had already adopted digital patient flow were able to manage the disruption caused by COVID a little easier. I had several conversations with staff explaining that while they might not have seen all the benefits to transitioning to a paper-lite process originally, they could not do without the technology now.

What project are you most proud to have been involved in or to be involved with?

The Children’s Hospital project in Latvia was my first ‘solo’ project, and therefore perhaps the closest to my heart because I was 100% responsible for it. It began my relationship with Intouch with Health and brought them into the Baltic region. Once I had identified Intouch as the ideal provider for the digital transformation the hospital required, I had to convince other hospitals to come on board with me and make similar changes. It was challenging for sure, but to get to know the team at Intouch with Health was very enjoyable and critical to the success of the project. I was able to develop a strong relationship with a leading international company and learn so much from their team. I have a great relationship with Yara Safi, the Intouch International Account Manager.

What do you think the future holds for healthcare beyond COVID?

Healthcare is in front of some big challenges, as are many industries such as energy, transportation, food, and banking. Some of these challenges can be solved only via technology and change management. Robots, AI, BIG data, G5 and other technologies will become everyday tech for healthcare providers and users. Virtual clinics, virtual assistants, surgeries performed by remote surgeons in another location will become new ‘ways-of-working’.

Personally, I think that concept of a hospital will be different in some years’ time. It will look more like an ‘Airbnb’ concept. Healthcare is certainly going to experience significant change very soon, perhaps being 5 years of progression into just 12 months.

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