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EU funding is a major opportunity in healthcare, as long as truly transformative projects are backed

24th February 2022

  • In a debate around digital transformation in Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plans, the Operations Lead for EIT Health Spain expressed the need to orchestrate what kind of innovation should be promoted and transferred to the market and health systems.
  • ‘Digital transformation in healthcare is about much more than technology. It must better patients’ and professionals’ lives and improve the system’, she added.
  • She also warned of the risk of wasting the funding if prior challenges are not dealt with properly, such as the collaborative approach, value creation and professional training.
  • Organisations like EIT Health can work as independent agencies to benefit administrations, by identifying innovation needs, attracting the ecosystem agents necessary to make projects successful, and raising additional private funds.

When it comes to cutting-edge healthcare, PERTEs (Strategic Projects for Economic Transformation and Recovery driven by the Next Generation EU funding) constitute a huge opportunity for the health system, but only if investment focuses on truly transformative projects, especially in the digital sphere.

This is what Izabel Alfany, Operations Lead for EIT Health Spain, had to say during her contribution to a debate around digital transformation in Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plans, as part of the Transfiere European Forum currently taking place in Málaga. ‘PERTEs can help to reverse the trend of Spain investing less than the European average in R&D’, she stated.

She believes that digital transformation involves much more than technology. ‘For the funds to have a real impact, we need to deal with aspects like professional training, talent generation, adaptation of regulations, and consensus in digital health evaluation criteria’, she added.

Furthermore, to really transform, innovation projects financed by PERTE funds must be accompanied by metrics geared towards value creation, which must be monitored. ‘This makes the process of designing calls for applications highly complex, as transformative potential cannot be deduced merely from the purchase of technologies’.

Directing the type of innovation

For Alfany, European funds are essential to drive digital transformation in the healthcare sector, as they constitute a necessary strategic framework. ‘We can use them to direct and orchestrate which type of innovation needs to be driven and transferred to the market, and to healthcare systems, with the ultimate goal of promoting the well-being of the Spanish people and strengthening the business network’, she explained.

In this regard, she deems that digital transformation in healthcare must be oriented towards value creation in order to improve patients’ and healthcare professionals’ lives and optimise the efficiency of the health system.

Risks and challenges

At the same time, the Operations Lead for EIT Health Spain explained that the Health PERTE must tackle the most important challenges; otherwise, we run the ‘risk of not making the most of the funding’.

‘We need a collaborative, inclusive approach, incorporating all the agents in the value chain, from the moment of defining the call for applications onwards, so that we can raise private funds for meaningful projects like bioproduction and the reindustrialisation of Spain and Europe’, Alfany indicated.

‘The opportunity created by PERTEs cannot result in data silos that stop us from making the most of their potential for patients’ and the population’s health in terms of early detection, diagnosis, treatment and population health’, she asserted.

Another challenge is how to manage calls for applications, for which agility, speed and knowledge are key. To do so, both public-private collaboration and territorial cohesion are fundamental.

In this respect, the Operations Lead for EIT Health Spain suggested that administrations should accompany this investment effort with suitable regulations to accelerate the market’s and health systems’ adoption of innovations in digital health, which is already happening in countries like France and Germany.

Finally, Alfany emphasised the role played by European non-profit organisations, like EIT Health Spain, in making the most of funding for digital transformation in healthcare. ‘Through our experience, knowledge and status as a public-private partnership, we can work as independent agencies to benefit administrations, by identifying innovation needs, attracting the ecosystem agents necessary to make projects successful, and raising additional private funds’, she concluded.

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