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 Table of Contents  
COMMENTARY
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 6-10

Europe opens a new era in digital revolution: The blueprint on digital transformation of health and care for aging society has been launched


Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of Łódź, Łódź, Poland

Date of Web Publication19-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Przemyslaw Kardas
Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of Łódź, Łódź
Poland
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/digm.digm_5_17

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How to cite this article:
Kardas P. Europe opens a new era in digital revolution: The blueprint on digital transformation of health and care for aging society has been launched. Digit Med 2017;3:6-10

How to cite this URL:
Kardas P. Europe opens a new era in digital revolution: The blueprint on digital transformation of health and care for aging society has been launched. Digit Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 17];3:6-10. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2017/3/1/6/208448


  Demographic Challenge and Limitations of the Current Structure of Health-Care Systems Top


At the beginning of the 21stcentury, demographic change becomes a global challenge. However, due to fast aging of its population, it is an even more important health, societal, and economic issue in Europe. It results in a rising demand for health, social, and care services and is estimated to increase national public health and care budgets on average by 1%–2% of gross domestic product until 2060. An increased need for caring services may lead to the shortage of labor supply that is expected to reach 20 million by 2025.

Unfortunately, traditional architecture of the health and care systems is no longer able to cope with these problems. Lack of the coordinated care and low level of participation of the citizens in their health maintenance and disease management are the two of the many reasons of this situation which seem to be most crucial. To overcome these barriers, there is a need to implement an essential change.

Lack of care coordination between primary, community, hospital, special, social cares, the patient and his/her family is detrimental to care quality, its efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Better care coordination is a key precondition to the long-term sustainability of the European health-care systems. It is also a sine qua non condition for the patient safety and high quality of life. However, this implies a change in the current paradigm and needs effective support for patients engaged in the management of their conditions and risk factors and playing more active role in taking clinical decisions.

The new paradigm of integrated care will not emerge automatically. This process needs a fundamental shift in focus from reparative medicine and hospital-based care to early prevention and community and home-based care. Furthermore, a much stronger participation of citizens in their own care process is a must. Finally, this has to be accompanied by a profound change at the high level of the health-care system architecture, resulting in new governance models between payers, providers, and consumers of care, incentivizing results thanks to outcome-based payment model. Moreover, a traditional model of well-being management, focusing mostly on health and care services for patients, needs to be replaced by a new approach, which truly acknowledges the perspective of the citizens, for whom autonomy, independent living, social connectivity, and meaningful social participation are the natural needs.


  Digital Transformation Top


The transition needed to make all this happen requires more than just a new model of inter-sectorial cooperation between many public and private entities. It also requires wider implementation of digital solutions. This so-called “digital transformation” may be the key to the success of implementation of innovation in health-care systems, at micro-, meso-, and macro-levels. It may support the change and help unlock the potential of technology to address societal needs. Implementing digital innovation is also the only way to achieve success in integrating health and social care and promoting social transformation. Last but not the least, it is the right way to obtain more cost-effective and sustainable health-care systems, stimulate economy, and create the growth.

In the last decades, Europe, as well as the rest of the world, is going through a digital revolution which involves practically all the areas of our lives and revolutionizes numerous products and services. Therefore, the process of digital transformation of European healthcare is just a logical consequence of the changes that rapidly happen to our world. However, the underlying digital health technologies that will support the transformation of health and care need to reach market maturity and wide acceptance that is particularly affected by regulatory and organizational challenges. Another important challenge for changing the paradigm of European healthcare lies in making the use of vast array of medical and nonmedical data and paper-based records, transforming them into a usable digital format and using these reach resources in the decision-making.

Digital innovation is probably the best response to some of the major challenges ahead. It has the potential to ensure that the aging generations as well as the entire population remain independent and active in the society, can receive coordinated care when in need, and enjoy living longer in the independent way. In parallel, it can increase the efficiency of health and social care systems and support new sectors of economy (often referred to as Silver Economy). Digital innovation also has the potential to help informal carers maintain an active and productive life while caring for the elderly. Digital innovations meet the needs and expectations of health-care professionals, patients, and carers, respecting the importance of human contact, not replacing it but complementing it, notably in terms of quality and personalization. Therefore, they have the potential to transform our lives and the way we provide or receive health, care, and social services. Last but not the least, their wide implementation may help European industries obtain a leading position in rapidly growing health and well-being global market.

So far, several local or sectoral initiatives attempted to support the implementation of the digital innovation in European health and care. However, there was a lack of overarching strategy as to how some of these initiatives can interact and create stronger synergies among themselves. Acoherent vision will also require a new model for linking up different European Union(EU) initiatives, with clear industry commitments as well as member states and regional strategies. For all these reasons, a blueprint was more than needed and made the major step forward in helping Europe to maintain its highest standard of living, while boosting its economy at the same time.


  History of the Blueprint Top


In December 2015 at the 4thConference of Partners of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing(EIP on AHA), European Commissioner Günther Oettinger outlined how digital innovation, enabled by a functioning digital single market, can transform demographic challenge into an opportunity for Europe's economy and society. He also invited all stakeholders to work together with the European Commission in the development of a blueprint, being a framework for implementing this new paradigm.

The blueprint was supposed to express a “shared vision” on how innovation enabled by digital transformation can transform European aging society in the 21stcentury and contribute to the AHA.

In this understanding, the blueprint stems from, and is very close to, the aims of the EIP on AHA–a movement of European stakeholders initiated by the European Commission in 2012 with objectives, which altogether stand for the “Triple Win” strategy for Europe:[1]

  • To enable EU citizens to lead healthy, active, and independent lives while aging
  • To improve the sustainability and efficiency of social and health-care systems
  • To boost and improve the competitiveness of the markets for innovative products and services, responding to the aging challenge at both EU and global levels, thus creating new opportunities for businesses.


The overarching target of EIP on AHA initiative is to increase the average healthy lifespan by 2years by 2020, using a multifaceted and multidimensional approach.

Recognizing that a shared vision set by the blueprint is essential to mobilize investment and guarantee the commitment of all actors to the creation of the digital single market and digital transformation of health and care for the aging society, and the boost of the European Silver Economy, a number of industrial players, regional authorities, professional organizations, and diverse stakeholders grouped within the EIP on AHA have accepted this invitation and started to prepare an initial draft of this blueprint. After several rounds of internal consultations, a mature version of this document, entitled “Blueprint on Digital Transformation of Health and Care for Ageing Society,”[2] was officially presented to over 1400 participants of the European Summit on Innovation for AHA which took place between December 5 and 8, 2016, in Brussels[Figure1] and [Figure2].{Figure1}{Figure2}

Referring to the Blueprint, Günther Oettinger, European commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, highlighted the opportunities of the Silver Economy for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and many other sectors it brings, and at the same time stressed the importance of inclusion: “We must not deepen inequalities. Innovation for AHA must benefit our citizens-all of them.”[3]


  Objectives of the Blueprint Top


The Blueprint sets out a long-term shared vision based on a set of maxims(principles). It informs the overall direction along which the existing and future EU, national, regional, and local initiatives on health and care innovation(including AHA, independent living, and integrated care) will be developed in the coming 3–5years and beyond. It helps to identify, stimulate, and aggregate investment tools and commitments toward the agreed goals and priorities. Finally, it provides a necessary background document that can be used for awareness-raising activities.

At its current version, the Blueprint has accepted the horizon of the year 2018 and the relevant goals. The overarching aim of this strategy is a Triple Win for Europe, as described above.

The 2018 goals, composed of three pillars of “Deployment of Innovation,” “Investment,” and “People”[Table1], include in particular over fifty regions investing in the implementation/deploying of large-scale digital-enabled solutions for health and care of its citizens, supported by a total investment envelope of € 500 million of private and public investment and reaching an additional 4 million citizens(actual beneficiaries of innovative services).{Table1}

The shared vision is expressed by a set of maxims, as listed below:

  • The human being is at the heart of the transformation: Innovative digital health and care solutions constitute a means to achieve the aim, rather than the goal itself
  • Quantify and qualify outcomes(results rather than intentions): Implementation of innovative digital solutions and the associated changes to care delivery will be made easier if the return of the relevant investments will be supported by evidence in terms of measurable outcomes
  • Demographic change constitutes a major opportunity for new jobs, economic growth, and enhanced competitiveness: The “Silver Economy” and digital single market can provide the enabling regulatory conditions for European industries to become a global leader in this sector
  • Priority areas of intervention (high socioeconomic returns): To deliver tangible results at large scale, it is necessary to focus the Blueprint on a limited set of use-case scenarios where there is sufficiently mature and robust information to attest the socioeconomic benefits of investing in innovative digital interventions. These use-case scenarios will be the basis to identify the 5–10 priority areas of intervention(high socioeconomic returns) that will help to focus the policy instruments of the European Commission in the period of 2016–2020.



  The Future of the Blueprint and Its Role Outside Europe Top


The Blueprint is a living document and will be further modified, according to the needs. The current version is an initial draft whose intention is to mobilize a further set of stakeholders committing to a common vision and implementing the Blueprint. The European Commission will be supporting the development and implementation of the agreed actions during 2017–2018. The steps envisaged till the year 2018 are shown in [Table2].{Table2}

The role of the Blueprint is not to be underestimated. This document not only lays the base for the development of single digital market in European healthcare, but also sends the clear message that there is no other way for Europe than digital revolution in health and care. For the digital industry, this is a sort of a green light; finally, there is some hope to overcome the years of “digital stagnation” in health-care business, and go forward, along with other sectors, moving from pilots to scaling-up.

Last but not the least, the Blueprint is also a good sign for non-European stakeholders. There is an open avenue to participate in its further development, for example, through the participation in EIP on AHA. However, at first, the digital revolution needs digital innovators, and everybody's welcome!

 
  References Top

1.
European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Available from: https://www.ec.europa.eu/eip/ageing/about-the-partnership_en.[Last accessed on 2016Dec11].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Blueprint on Digital Transformation of Health and Care for Ageing Society. Available from: http://www.ec.europa.eu/research/conferences/2016/aha-summit/pdf/blueprint_transforming_the_future_of_health_and_care.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=none. [Last accessed on 2016Dec11].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing. European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, Brussels; 9-10March, 2015, Final Report. Available from: http://www.ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/pdf/active-healthy-ageing/ageing_summit_report.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=none. [Last accessed on 2016Dec11].  Back to cited text no. 3
    


    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2]



 

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