Estonian Healthtech Week – fostering collaboration with the Baltics

Last week our Ecosystem & Partnership Manager, Aline de Santa Izabel, visited the very first Estonian Healthtech Week. “DigitalWell Ventures are very excited about the cross-border collaborations that we are creating with Estonia, broadening the innovation ecosystem in our region”, says Aline.

This week-long event brought together a diverse array of experts, professionals, and policy-makers who had the opportunity to take an in-depth look at the diversity and strengths of the Estonian e-Health, healthtech, biotech and healthcare ecosystem.

360’ overview the Estonian healthcare innovation system

DigitalWell Ventures was a part of an international delegation with healthtech professionals from the US and Europe representing healthcare professionals, developers, innovators, and ecosystem players deep-diving into the Estonian healthcare system. As a part of the program, we visited some very interesting sites including two major hospitals in Estonia and innovation centers having conversations with key innovators and stakeholders in this area. During the guided tour, we were shown the Estonian hospital infrastructure, routines, and innovations and got an inside-out perspective on the Estonian care system together with representatives from other European hospitals. 

A visit to North Estonia Medical Centre.

Estonia is one of the most and a perfect ‘test-bed’ for innovations. It is a data-driven nation with a unique infrastructure, agile and with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Health is an important area of innovation, with precision medicine being a target for new developments and patient-centered healthcare. Estonia is famous for its well-structured e-health architecture, where 99% of the data generated by hospitals and doctors is digitized. Functioning very much like a centralized, national database, the Estonian e-Health Record retrieves data as necessary from various providers, who may be using different systems, and presents it in a standard format via the e-Patient portal.

As Terje Peetso, Chief Medical Innovation Officer of the North Estonia Medical Center said:

“Patients can’t travel, but data can and will. With this high-quality patient data, Estonia will be able to continue driving innovation and supporting other nations in delivering patient-centered healthcare.”

Terje Peetso, Chief Medical Innovation Officer of the North Estonia Medical Center.

“Whether it is building what really matters for the healthcare system, redefining roles of the person in each part of the process or finding new solutions for more fluent and efficient workflow, we need to be creating/developing together with healthcare workers and patients and focus on the pathways on making a change in the system.”, say Helen Tammo and Sven Parkel from Tartu Biotechnology Park, one of the organizers of the conference.

Biobank drives innovation

Estonia also has an Estonian Biobank – a population-based biobank of Estonia with a current cohort size of more than 200,000 individuals – 20% of Estonia’s adult population – genotyped with genome-wide arrays reflecting the age, sex and geographical distribution of the adult Estonian population. We had the pleasure to learn more about it and visit together with the international delegation.

During the visit to the Tartu University hospital, we learned more about the startup programs supported by the city of Tartu aiming to create innovation and improve the quality of life of their citizens. The University of Tartu is offering Estonian academic scientists the opportunity to commercialize their research and develop new knowledge and research-based deeptech business ideas – another great example of marrying entrepreneurship and academia.

What potential is in digital therapeutics?

We also had the pleasure of participating in the first DTx New Nordics Conference, hearing about the importance of digital therapeutics technology in the healthcare delivery system today and in the future and current developments in Estonia and abroad.

As explained by Katrina Laks, the Founding member of DTx Estonia and the co-founder and CEO of Migrevention, Digital therapeutics (DTx) are evidence-based therapeutic interventions that are delivered through software programs or digital platforms. These interventions are designed to prevent, manage, or treat a range of medical conditions, often working in conjunction with traditional medical approaches. Digital therapeutics leverage technologies such as mobile apps, wearable devices, and online platforms to deliver targeted interventions that aim to improve patient outcomes and promote behavior change.

“The Estonian startup ecosystem holds immense potential for fostering innovation in the field of Digital Therapeutics (DTx). From Migrevention, the first fully digital headache clinic in the world (software as a medical device in the primary headache field), I firmly believe that DTx is poised to play a transformative role in the future of healthcare, says Katrina, and develops her analysis: 

“With the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and the need for accessible and personalized interventions, DTx offers a scalable solution that empowers individuals to take charge of their health. Keeping healthcare providers in mind and incentivizing them with additional information is the key. There are over 1 billion migraine sufferers in the world, and at the moment only 1-4 percent of them receive evidence-based treatment, so the potential for bringing about a change is huge.”


Aline de Santa Izabel with Katrina Laks, CEO & co-fouder of Migrevention.

Continuous bi-directional conversation

At the DTx New Nordics conference, a part of the Estonian Healthtech Week, the opening panel consisted of the founders of two digital health companies who were joined by the member of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund’s Board Karl Henrik Peterson and the Estonian Minister of Health Riina Sikkut.

“One of the aspects that I found very interesting is how flat and how the conversations flow, with innovators and, for instance, the minister of health being in a continuous talk.  This makes them agile, with a continuous flow of conversation from decision-making to action with the government enabling innovation”, says Aline De Santa Izabel, who was truly impressed by the conference.

Riina Sikkut, Minister of Health of Estonia at the DTx New Nordics Conference 2023.

“We all know that innovation cannot de developed in silos. And at the Estonian Healthtech Week, it was showcased the importance of the creation of forums and open innovation systems bringing together physicians, providers, patients innovators, policy makers and ecosystem enablers at the same table, with an additional international perspective to it”, says Aline.

She thinks one of the highlights was to meet the Minister of Health of Estonia, Riina Sikkut, and to hear about how Estonia is unlocking the potential of healthcare innovations. 

“It’s impressive to see how accessible and engaged decision makers are in Estonia, and how the entrepreneurial spirit is represented in different parts of their ecosystem.”

Cross-border collaboration with the Baltics is gaining momentum

“We at DigitalWell Ventures are very excited about the cross-border collaborations that we are creating with Estonia, broadening the innovation ecosystem in our region. Estonia is a great ‘pilot site’ and we should definitely collaborate and take part in the learnings and developments and scale it up rolling out in our countries”, adds Aline.

Aline de Santa Izabel as a part of international delegation at the Estonian Healthtech Week 2023.

Currently, DigitalWell Ventures is putting a lot of effort into strengthening our collaboration with Estonia and other Baltic nations helping the health innovators to explore the Swedish Innovation ecosystem and opportunities in our region Värmland.

Participation in such international forums is an important part of our innovation ecosystem development activities, broadening our partnerships and supporting our current and upcoming projects. Through DigitalWell Ventures (our international startup accelerator program) and DigitalWell B2G Incubator, we have been collaborating not only with startups but also with industry experts, organizations and startup events in these markets creating opportunities for our current startups and alumni companies with international experts.

Perfect test market

“We also believe that Estonia is a perfect market to test and implement Demand Acceleration, an innovative methodology developed by Compare Foundation and the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova to expand the public sector as a market for innovative startups and SMEs. The Demand Acceleration is a new way to accelerate the uptake of innovations by the public sector, which can help innovative B2G startups in shaping the healthcare sector of tomorrow.”, says Aline.

Innovation platform, DigitalWell Arena’s role is to bring together different actors to accelerate healthtech innovations and the improvement of healthcare in Värmland region. There is a great interest of international actors in contributing to this development. As part of Health Data Sweden, our national European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) we are supporting data-driven healthtech innovators in accessing data and exploring development opportunities in the Swedish market. Together with other organizations, we are currently developing services to help trailblazing digital health startups explore opportunities in the Swedish market. Furthermore, there are many lessons to be learned from one of the most digitalized countries in the world in terms of health data management, and opportunities to be explored in reshaping Sweden’s health data infrastructure and data-driven innovations.

Mutual interest

The interest in learning from each other is mutual – Katrina Laks, the Founding member of DTx Estonia, adds to that: 

“I’m excited about the collaborative opportunities within the Estonian ecosystem and beyond that DTx New Nordics and the whole Estonian Health Tech Week have created. By fostering partnerships between digital therapeutic companies, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders, we can accelerate the adoption of DTx solutions and drive positive change in healthcare outcomes.”

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