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The digital healthcare transformation as a catalyst for resilient healthcare system

By Cristian Bușoi, MEP (EPP, Romania), Chair of the ITRE Committee, European Parliament

Nowadays, in the 21st Century, when access to health services should be fundamental, according to the last surveys conducted by the European Commission, OECD and WHO, there is still an unequal access to health services throughout EU and MS still have an inadequate primary care structure. Patients go with paper dossiers from one clinician to other. 80% of the healthcare costs are linked with non-communicable diseases and re-admissions, services are fragmented, prevention accounts only, on average, 3% of the total spending of health budgets.

Public health and the development of healthcare services should be a top priority for the policy-makers and funding should be an important component both of the EU budget and of national budgets.

Unfortunately, funding was minimal compared to the societal and economical challenges of health.

The Union has limited intervention over the national health systems, but still the Union should support the efforts and actions on the MS in the field of health, and should provide guidelines and coordination, should promote the best practices between MS. Thus, the Union needs to put a robust funding mechanism for actions in the field of public health and to support the reform of healthcare systems, hence also digitalize healthcare.

We seem to forget the challenges we are facing and that we need to transform our healthcare systems to be resilient and future-proof, meaning patient-centred and outcome-based. This healthcare switch to more preventive medicine indicates a transformation that guarantees patients access to health services, as well as the optimization of health services. Digitalisation and a large innovative intake, which envisages a high part of AI in healthcare and more new technologies, is needed.

Even though digital health and digitalizing healthcare has proven to contribute at addressing the challenges in the health sector and has a great potential in making our systems more resilient, we are far from reaching its full potential. The success of the digital transformation in health, and its enormous beneficial impact on patients will depend on how much we plan for the next 5-7 years from today.

One of the priorities I have as the Chair of the ITRE Committee and Rapporteur for the EU4Health is to bring innovation in the health sector and digitalise healthcare, in particular through the creation and application of the European eHealth Record and the support for the creation and use of the Health Data Space future platform.

Innovation and research in the medical field, progress towards digitalization of the healthcare sector, improving health infrastructure by turning digital, it is of paramount importance and will facilitate better healthcare and access to healthcare for our citizens foremost, and of course will make our healthcare more resilient.

It is proven that innovation can improve health care, bring efficiency and bring in some cases the cost-savings. It changes the ways we buy and use health care. But also innovation uses new technologies to develop new products and treatments or to improve care.

When talking about innovation, Horizon Europe is the most ambitious Programme we have at our disposal for the next 7 years. Being at the forefront of innovation and research is the best way to ensure quality jobs and the future competitiveness and robustness of the EU’s economy. Moreover Horizon Europe is a key instrument to address the many pressing issues, such as antimicrobial resistance, telemedicine, robotics, digitalization, innovative treatments and vaccines, and curing cancer.

Digital Europe Programme, and the RRF will support more substantial reforms, including in the infrastructure of the national healthcare systems, with the aim to reach the key value of the digital transformation in the health sector.

Moreover, introducing digitalisation in the healthcare systems and at level of regulatory authorities would tremendously make the difference in improving efficiency of the healthcare systems, enabling patience to have access to healthcare and to innovation in health, enabling authorities, European and national to fast react in critical situations, but also empowering patients in managing their diseases.

Electronic health records, e-prescriptions, electronic leaflet and telemedicine systems represent only a part of digitalizing healthcare. But a robust digital infrastructure, would interconnect EU and the national authorities, enabling them to better manage of critical situations such as shortages of medicines and to dramatically increase regulatory efficiency, enabling medicine agencies to focus their resources on patient and critical tasks rather than public administration.

One last example of brining innovation and new technologies into healthcare is AI.

Artificial intelligence is not one technology, but rather a collection of them and complementary with digitalization.

Most of these technologies have immediate relevance to the healthcare field, but the specific processes and tasks they support vary widely. We are talking about robotics, machine learning, telemedicine, and precision medicine, algorithms for better screening and diagnosis, or even the electronic health record.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies have been playing a robust and growing role in the world the past few decades, and are increasingly prevalent and applied to healthcare.

We need to see the digitalization and artificial intelligence as what it rightly is, a potential to transform many aspects of healthcare, in particular, in patient screening, care, as well as improving the administrative pathways in the healthcare in general, and healthcare systems in particular, making them more resilient.