Over the past nine years the government has invested EUR 14.5 million in the e-health project, but none of the services have been made available to the public yet. The main cause of failures in realization of this project is improper planning and management, as well as lack of enthusiasm about it among officials responsible for it, as concluded by State Audit.
The project was launched without prior assessment of the situation in Latvia’s healthcare sector. As a result, Healthcare Ministry’s e-health system was little help to the project’s managers. It is also worth mentioning that the plan was compiled without involvement from healthcare professionals – doctors, pharmacists and IT specialists. Neither Healthcare Ministry nor the National Health Service has any idea what to do with e-health system in Latvia and how realize it, notes SA.
Neither the government nor the public were kept informed of the project’s progress these years. Supervisory meetings with all involved sides were too few and too formal.
Although it is planned to launch e-health system in January 2016, Healthcare Ministry has confirmed that only a small portion of services will be available – e-prescriptions (five e-services) and incapacity papers (one service), which is only 20% of the planned 31 e-services. In addition, 46% of the project’s basic measures have not even been started yet.
State Audit notes that examples of implementation of e-services in other countries shows that it is a process best carried out gradually. In Latvia, on the other hand, four massive projects were launched simultaneously. This has created serious problems with resource availability and realization of projects. Auditors say project managers had replaced one another multiple times; some of them had insufficient education and experience in managing projects of this size.
The National Health Service has not provided conditions to make the system safe in terms of all of its aspects. Auditors say there is a lot of work left to be done, including risk management and monitoring of continuous functioning of the e-system. SA’s inspection as also uncovered other problems, including the lack of e-health system’s physical persons’ data processing in Data State Inspectorate. Authorities responsible for the project have not provided sufficient control in order to prevent illegal use of personal information.
It should be added that HM has carried out a survey in order to determine the possible benefits from a successful realization of e-health project in 2013. Results show that in three years the project would have brought the state EUR 3 million. Because of slow and unsuccessful realization of the project, the National Health Service has basically wasted EUR 0.76 million on conceptual and technical design for something that has since been discontinued. In addition, money has been wasted on corrections of improperly compiled documents regarding the e-health project.
Looking at the current state of the project, there is a risk that those responsible for using finances provided by structural funds will have to admit that the main goal of e-health project has not been reached. This means the EUR 11.3 million that were initially planned to be covered from European Regional Development Fund will have to be provided by Latvian taxpayers.
In total, the State Audit has provided Healthcare Ministry 17 recommendations after the audit.