Magazine / Emergency & Crisis Management Mar 4, 2024 9:00:00 AM

EU4Health: what is the European Programme and how does it promote digital health

EU4Health is the European Union's Health Programme for the period 2021-2027. It aims to improve the health of the European population by strengthening the EU's capacity to create more digital, resilient and accessible health ecosystems. With a substantial budget of €5.1 billion, EU4Health is the EU's strategic response to the fragility and insufficient digitalization of national health systems.

But what is EU4Health's role in promoting digital health?

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Strategic objectives

EU4Health is committed to achieving four overarching objectives that reflect the key ambitions of the programme. These objectives include:

  1. Improving and promoting health in the EU through disease prevention initiatives, reducing health inequalities and promoting access to health services.

  2. Protecting people from cross-border health threats by strengthening the response capacity of health systems and coordinating action between Member States.

  3. Optimising the availability of and access to medicines and medical devices by promoting innovation in this area.

  4. Improve the resilience and efficiency of national health systems by addressing demographic challenges and promoting digital transformation through the implementation of best practices and data sharing.

These objectives will be achieved by providing funding to institutions, health organizations, and NGOs in EU countries or third countries associated with the programme.

Digital Health: EU4Health in action

Several bodies are involved in the successful implementation of the EU4Health programme, including HaDEA, the Executive Agency for Health and Digital, which is responsible for managing proposals and calls for proposals in four main "activity lines": disease prevention, crisis preparedness, health systems, and human resources, and digital.

Each year, the programme develops a work plan detailing the key activities and funding required to achieve its objectives. In the context of digital health, the main planned activities include:

  • Establishment and use of the European Health Data Space (EHDS). The EHDS is a dedicated ecosystem for the health sector that facilitates the secure exchange, use and re-use of health data. Designed to empower individuals to control their health data, it aims to improve care, research and innovation through the secure use of data. EU4Health is committed to intensifying communication and engagement activities with stakeholders, including patient organizations, health professionals, research organizations and health technology providers, to promote the adoption of the EHDS and to increase digital inclusion.

  • Promote the adoption of the European Electronic Health Record exchange format (EEHRxF). This objective will be supported by the establishment of a dedicated support center to facilitate the exchange of health data and improve interoperability at European level.

  • Supporting the development and improvement of HealthData@EU and MyHealth@EU. MyHealth@EU focuses on the exchange of data between patients and healthcare professionals in all Member States, enabling European citizens to access the same healthcare they would receive at home when travelling or living abroad. HealthData@EU, an integral part of the EHDS, focuses on the secondary use of health data, allowing researchers, policy makers and companies to use and study patients' clinical records, subject to authorization by the relevant data access authorities in Member States.

  • Promoting the uptake of AI in healthcare. EU4Health supports the creation of expert communities and relevant stakeholders, including healthcare professionals experienced in the use and implementation of AI in clinical settings, as well as hospital executives who have already integrated AI solutions into their organizations. The programme also supports the development of best practices, recommendations and tailored guidelines to meet the specific needs of users and healthcare environments. Finally, EU4Health will support pilot projects to test and evaluate guidelines in different real-world contexts, as well as the development of intuitive, interactive digital tools to collect and share effective AI solutions in different clinical settings.

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Digital health, as promoted by EU4Health, is much more than a technological change; it embodies a fundamental cultural and structural shift in the way we conceive and deliver healthcare. A tangible example of this change is the introduction of the European Health Data Space (EHDS), which not only facilitates the secure exchange of health data, but also promotes a patient-centered approach. This allows individuals to take an active role in controlling their data, an important step towards increased participation and awareness in the management of their health. Ultimately, with EU4Health, the European Union is shaping a future where technology is at the forefront of public health, offering new opportunities to improve the lives of millions of people across Europe.

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