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Accelerating Digital Health Innovations in European Healthcare Systems

Accelerating Digital Health Innovations in European Healthcare Systems

Insights from Catherine Chronaki on Scaling Up, Deployment Challenges, and Strategic Partnerships

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We had the pleasure of catching up with Catherine Chronaki, Secretary General at the HL7 Europe Foundation, following her participation in the ECHAlliance Partner Programme at HLTH Europe 2024. 

Catherine shared insights from the session “Research to Reality: Scale Up, Deployment, and Investment Opportunities”, moderated by ECHAlliance’s Innovation Director, Karolina Mackiewicz and co-hosted by the DigitalHealthUptake project, where we discussed critical challenges and strategies in advancing digital health innovations. 

This is what she had to say:


In your opinion, what are the challenges in scaling up digital health innovations from research projects to widespread deployment within healthcare systems and how can we address them effectively?

Health systems are under pressure to digitally transform and change management is hard for them. In many cases, the digital health transformation has introduced more red tape and increased the burden of health professionals with additional mundane tasks. Even research hospitals find it difficult to integrate digital health innovation into their working processes.

Some hospitals have established a role for chief innovation manager.  

Another crucial element is tied to patient empowerment, reshaping care pathways, and installing patient navigators, mindful of the effort introduced. New EU regulations like the EHDS, AI, and Data Act can help, raising awareness etc., and the question is whether health systems, the workforce and citizens as patients or next of kin are able to benefit, given inequalities and lack of data literacy.

Finally, another important challenge is the short duration of EU funded research projects that does not allow them to reach their full impact.


Could you provide examples of successful strategies or partnerships that have accelerated the adoption of digital health solutions from research projects?

 

There are several strategies that have shown to accelerate adoption of digital health solutions.  One such strategy is the handover of results from one project to its continuation maintaining a common multidisciplinary core. We have seen that for the European EHR exchange format in X-eHealth, XpanDH and now xShare projects. Another one is the use of standards and the development of vibrant communities of practice.

There is also the possibility of spinoff companies, non-profits or networks coming out of EU projects over the years, sustaining long lasting communities of practice. Hospitals on FHIR, and xNets of XpanDH, European Reference Networks, are such examples. A crucial aspect of sustainable implementation of these digital health innovations is using standards as infrastructure of innovation, a element central to the EHRxF Hub of standard development organisations, competence centers and the industry emerging from xShare.


What were the highlights of the session “Research to Reality: Scale Up, Deployment, and Investment Opportunities” at HLTH Europe?

 

It was a great privilege to speak on xShare and share the vision of the xShare Yellow Button. At the beginning of my talk, no one in the audience knew about the ambition of the project to empower citizens to share their data in machine readable format, and eventually the European EHR Exchange Format or EEHRxF for short. There was great discussion about ambition and failure in European Funded research: the fact that 70% of European Funded projects fail one way or another to organically sustain their outcomes through strong link to entrepreneurship. My own take shared with other panelists is that research projects should have high ambition even if that may expose the consortium to failure. There is no switch for the digital health transformation to happen, only a relentless commitment to communication and sharing of results, as the one that ECHAlliance is committed to, can make things happen.

Catherine’s insights into scaling digital health innovations highlighted both the challenges and opportunities within European healthcare systems. 

ECHAlliance, with its extensive experience as a project partner since 2012, plays a crucial role. Our Innovation Team diligently conducts research, manages innovation projects, and facilitates collaborations across ecosystems, ensuring meaningful outcomes. From policy studies to stakeholder engagement, ECHAlliance fosters informed policymaking and sustainable solutions, driving positive change in healthcare delivery.

Learn more about our Projects and get involved here. 

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