At the end of March, the new EU4Health programme came into force. It is the EU’s ambitious health policy response to the COVID 19 pandemic and the overall health challenges in Europe. The digital transformation of health systems will be one of the programme’s priorities.
EU4Health is the fourth EU health programme. It will run from 2021-2027, providing €5.1 billion over the next seven years to improve and promote health in the EU by protecting people from serious cross-border health threats, improving the availability, accessibility, and affordability of medicines, and strengthening national health systems. EU4Health is a stand-alone programme with a budget that is more than ten times that of previous health programmes and will provide funding for EU countries, health organisations, and NGOs. Never before has Europe invested more in health.
Health tech and general digital companies should prick up their ears: The objective of strengthening the resilience of health systems and resource efficiency is to be achieved in particular through advancing digital transformation in the health sector, according to the European Commission. As a result, the demand for corresponding digital services will probably increase strongly very quickly. Generally, the use and re-use of health data for healthcare and research and innovation is to be strengthened, the introduction of digital tools and services, as well as the digital transformation of health systems, are to be promoted, also by supporting the creation of a European Health Data Space.
Digitalisation processes and tools that enable cooperation between EU Member States, secure, interoperable digital service infrastructures, and data quality assurance processes for the exchange of, access to, use and re-use of data, including the use and interoperability of electronic health records, registers, and other databases will thus see a financial boost as part of the European health agenda. And that’s not all: the introduction of innovative tools and technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital training of health professionals, as well as the optimal use of telemedicine and telehealth and digital tools to support citizen empowerment and patient-centred care is also to be specifically promoted with this programme. The fact that EU member states are now receiving increased funding for digitalisation in the health sector is something that companies in the health tech branch should not miss.
EU4Health will be implemented mainly by the Commission. A new Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) will be in charge of launching and managing its annual work programmes. Implementation will be carried out with eligible legal entities from member states and third countries receiving EU funding in the form of grants, prizes, and procurements. While EU4Health is the most ambitious European health programme ever, important investments in health in the next EU long-term budget will also be made through other funding instruments working in synergy with EU4Health, such as the Digital Europe Programme, to create the digital infrastructure needed for digital health tools.