What surprised and impressed us in digital health in 2022? 

21 December 2022

2022 has been a challenging and fascinating year at the same time. The post-COVID recovery overlapped with the new social, economic and geopolitical crises and the term permacrisis became more relevant than ever. At the same time, new opportunities for digital health emerged.
At the end of the year, the Innovation Director of ECHAlliance, Karolina Mackiewicz and the Senior International Projects Managers, Natalia Allegretti and Carina Dantas reflect on what surprised and impressed them in digital health in 2022. 

Karolina Mackiewicz, Innovation Director:

2022 has definitely been an exciting year for digital health. While fighting the crises, we saw that new topics started to emerge, making their way to the mainstream of the global digital health discussion. I paid attention to two, namely skills and zero-net healthcare. 

The exceptional circumstances of recent years have created unprecedented needs for digital skills among the healthcare workforce and general population. Skilling, upskilling and reskilling of the healthcare professionals have become a hot topic and the European Commission focus on the further development of Pact for Skills brought it to our attention. In July, ECHAlliance and 23 partners under the lead of EHMA kicked off the project Blueprint Alliance for future health workforce strategy on digital and green skills (BeWell) that will result in the first large-scale partnership and first skills strategy for the sector. At the same time, ECHAlliance Thematic Innovation Ecosystem on Skills for Health met several times, and Skills became one of the four key themes of the Global Health Connector Partnership. With 2023 being a Year of Skills in the EU, I expect this topic to make headlines all over again! 

The other topic that became big in 2022 is zero-net healthcare. Several initiatives that focus on limiting the carbon footprint of the healthcare sector, incl. digital healthcare have emerged. This is not a surprise, given the current state of climate change, but it’s definitely been noticeable. As the World Economic Forum’s article states, healthcare accounts for over 4% of the global CO2 emissions, so there is work to be done. If you are interested in this theme in 2023, follow the  Global Health Connector Partnership work on Green Health theme that I have a pleasure to lead. 

Natalia Allegretti, Senior International Project Manager:
Today’s pressing challenges are intrinsically complex and systemic and will not be solved by individual actors or isolated regions. The dynamics of the innovation ecosystem across Europe are evolving into the key ingredient for harnessing the potential of openness and diversity to successfully shift the paradigm from knowledge generation to socio-economic value creation. The European Commission’s vision for Europe on the 3Os – Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – inspired the guiding principles of the latest EU core funding framework for research and innovation. 

ECHAlliance is proudly part of this systemic approach committed to inclusiveness and collaboration, thanks to its participation in three ongoing initiatives designed around these values. ValueCare project’s exploitation strategy is based on an open innovation approach where innovation is the result of a complex co-creation process involving knowledge flows through the external environment. On the principle of open science and on the value of international collaboration is built the scientific structure of BRAINTEASER that runs annual open evaluation challenges to validate its solutions with respect to third-party approaches. The K-HEALTHinAIR, provides structured information on its research findings in a fully open and simple to access format to foster easy consultation, data sharing and re-use.

I strongly believe this “open” effort is paving the way for better science that will benefit society as a whole.

Carina Dantas, Senior International Project Manager 

The health data discussion is evolving and, even if we wished it would be faster and broader, a lot happened in 2022, namely on the developments of the European Health Data Space and its concurring initiatives. At the ECHAlliance we are involved in several projects that are supporting the progress on health data quality and increased sharing in several ways, and that link to three topics that are of utmost importance: quality data; interoperable data; stakeholder commitment.  

In practical terms, we started the BIOMATDB project in July, with the aim to create an advanced database and marketplace for biomaterials which is a key contribution to having better quality and integrated data. In January we will start our involvement in the XpanDH project, which will build capacity for adoption of the European Electronic Health Records Exchange format (EEHRxF).

And last but not least, led by the Digital Health Society, we progressed further on the discussions about the need for a European multi-stakeholder compact regarding responsible data use, transparency, accountability and communication for health data sharing. Soon, the results of this work undertaken in several roundtables with multiple experts will be shared. It is very impressive to see this bottom-up approach, involving several interested stakeholders, towards a new and relevant step for safe and quality-wise health data sharing.

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