Please provide a brief overview of the DHU project's purpose and goals.
Digital Health Uptake (DHU) is a Digital Europe Programme-financed coordination and support action which started in November 2022, so exactly a year ago, and will run till October 2024. DHU’s aim is to facilitate the alignment of policies, strategies, instruments and activities to advance the uptake of digital health solutions and services in Europe. Our consortium, composed of 7 partners, will do that by providing services along three pillars:
RADAR to monitor and analyse the uptake and use of digital health and care solutions in regions, Member States and associated countries. This repository of digital health practices at various maturity level, including policies, strategies, apps, complex solutions, assessment frameworks, models, etc will become a self-sustained, up-to-date collection after DHU comes to an end because we engage directly with the digital health practice owners and developers to register their solutions. DHU also associates services to the RADAR such as analysis of mature solutions and their promotion in newsletter, on social media, events, etc.
KNOWLEDGE COMMUNITY to create an environment of cooperation and active stakeholder contribution which facilitates regular exchanges between the demand and supply sides to foster cross-border scaling up of digital health solutions and services.
ACCELERATOR to support the implementation and scaling-up of digital health solutions as well as strengthen capacity building for implementation/ uptake by identifying and qualifying relevant tools and methods, providing guidance, stimulating mutual learning and transferring of innovative practices. To this end, DHU awards twinning projects to whose participants in addition we will provide technical assistance and capacity building.
What inspired the inception of the DHU project, and what problem does it aim to solve?
Digital health solutions are developed in EU, national, regional projects, industry/foundation-funded projects, and other initiatives, but they often stall in the piloting phase before the opportunity for large-scale deployment arises. There is little to no coordination between initiatives driving technological development, nor between developers and healthcare providers who could benefit from these solutions. This frequently results in a waste of resources because, instead of investing slightly more in further developing some solutions or tailoring them to specific needs, we tend to reinvent the wheel due to a lack of knowledge about existing piloted solutions.
This is the challenge that DHU aims to address, carrying the mandate of the European Commission to establish a Europe-wide sustainable platform. Here, developers can upload their solutions, universities can share their frameworks or models, and policy-makers can contribute their policies and strategies. This platform enables other demand and supply actors to consult and utilize them. Healthcare providers can search for valuable tools that, by personalizing to their needs, can be easily deployed, while technology developers can find manufacturers to produce prototypes in large numbers.
The soft measures provided by DHU, such as networking, ecosystem building, and technical assistance, directly target demand and supply actors. These measures are intended to make them work more effectively together, encouraging them to learn and develop digital health solutions more successfully
Can you describe the key stakeholders involved in the DHU project and their roles?
The DHU consortium comprises partners from the digital health ecosystem, representing health authorities, healthcare providers, companies, digital health researchers, and business accelerators. These groups are the specific target audiences for our initiative, and the DHU consortium partners can engage and mobilize them through their member organizations and extensive networks. Particularly valuable are the place-based, local, and regional health ecosystems that inherently bring together these stakeholders in collaborative efforts.
We have already observed that the adoption of digital health solutions is contingent upon a supportive legislative framework, standardization bodies ensuring interoperability among different systems, and an appropriate reimbursement model. The latter is crucial for guiding the choices of hospitals, care providers, and patients, taking into careful consideration the financial implications of selecting certain innovations over others in the market.
Could you share some insights into the advancements implemented as part of your project?
The first year of implementation was a busy period, laying the foundation for the support services we plan to provide in the second year. We've developed the DHU RADAR, where we currently invite health solution developers, health providers, healthcare professionals, researchers, and policymakers to register their solutions. Our focus will remain on analyzing and promoting selected mature solutions.
We've also initiated a call for twinnings, selecting eight digitally tested health solutions along with their owners and interested institutions looking to transfer and test these solutions in their contexts. These twinnings will commence before or around the new year and continue until August 2024. In addition to financial support, these twinning pairs will benefit from technical assistance and capacity-building training.
Collaborating with relevant communities, we've begun producing digests—easy-to-understand summaries covering key priority topics in digital health, such as the use of trustworthy Artificial Intelligence and the interoperability of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and health apps in the European Health Data Space. More digests are forthcoming.
Last but not least, we've established collaborations with various European projects and initiatives that focus on developing digital tools and fostering the digital health ecosystem, along with enhancing the capacities of involved stakeholders.
What are the anticipated outcomes you hope to achieve by the end of the project?
We aim to further expand the registered digital health practices on the DHU RADAR. Additionally, we hope to select, analyze, and promote mature solutions that will capture the interest and motivation of healthcare providers. We aspire to learn about success stories where technology developers and healthcare providers discover each other on the platform, successfully refine, and deploy existing solutions from the repository. Furthermore, we anticipate that all our twinnings will effectively transfer identified digital health solutions from originators to adopters, allowing us to share valuable insights gained from this transfer experience with the community.
We are equally optimistic that our ecosystem-building events will provide useful insights into the needs of both demand and supply-side actors. We aim to bring them closer together for more sustained and continued collaboration. We eagerly anticipate successful and inspiring events and joint activities with our synergy partner projects. We anticipate that the impact on our communities will be reported as significantly higher than our isolated, individual actions
Can you provide us an idea of the potential long-term impact of projects like DHU and ENTRUST on the digital health's future?
We believe that initiatives like ENTRUST and DHU will benefit those in greatest need of secure, available, affordable, fast, and efficient healthcare – patients and citizens. Digitalization opens powerful doors to healthcare improvement. While opportunities are abundant, so are risks. ENTRUST and DHU aim to define and provide solutions to these risks so that healthcare professionals, along with their patients, can fully benefit from better prevention, higher health outcomes, and more precise, personalized treatments. Ideally, these advancements would take place in home and community settings where patients feel the most comfortable. This is also crucial in curing diseases or securing dignified end-of-life care.
If we successfully overcome the risks, difficulties, and security issues associated with digital health, and if we manage to connect the dots and bring on board all relevant stakeholders, we can learn to collaborate seamlessly. This collaboration, facilitated by connected data, devices, professionals, and institutions, will empower us to address health challenges that still pose a threat to our society. These challenges include silent killers like cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Moreover, we can enhance the quality of life for older citizens grappling with neurodegenerative diseases.