On 20 September, invited to the Coral Meeting hosted in Brussels by the Region of Valencia, a Policy Officer from DG CONNECT talked about the approach taken by the European Commission with regard to health policies. Based on the EU focus on elderly people and digitalisation, the officer emphasised the need for a better exploitation of tools which are there, in order for EU investments and policies to be more result-oriented.
CORAL and AER
The Community of Regions for Assisted Living – CORAL is “a European Network of Regions collaborating in the field of Ambient Assisted Living and Active and Healthy Ageing”. This important regional network is shaped as “a learning community working on the implementation and upscaling of innovative solutions for Active and Healthy Ageing”. Given its long-standing involvement in Health and Ageing-related projects, and its commitment to involve member regions in concrete projects , AER sees great potential in the cooperation with the Coral Network.
Examples of good cooperation can be identified in the past. Given the coherence of our objectives and the regional focus of both organisations, such a cooperation helps regions gain “a position in the fast growing European community of innovators in the field of Active and Healthy Ageing“.
Silver Europe and Digital Europe
“Europe is ageing fast”. The White Paper on the Future of Europe recognises this reality, while taking a wider picture of an evolving job market. This awareness is coupled by the need for the social protection system “to be significantly modernised to remain affordable and to keep pace with new demographic and working life realities”. Similar concerns are put forward also in the European Commission Communication A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe. This document stresses digital economy’s great potential as a leverage of social qnd economic progress, and highlights how such potential still remains largely unexploited. The main goal of the Commission in this respect is to build a Digital Single Market “on reliable, trustworthy, high-speed, affordable networks and services that safeguard consumers’ fundamental right to privacy and data protection while also encouraging innovation”.
Keeping in mind these final objectives, “the Commission aims to support an inclusive Digital Single Market in which citizens qnd businesses have the necessary skills and can benefit from interlinked and multilingual e-services, from e-government, e-justice, e-health, e-energy or e-transport”. However, for now digital technology has not impacted heavily the field of health and ageing. According to a recent Eurobarometer on the use of data in the healthcare field, people are still afraid of allowing their data being circulated on the internet, and only 5% of EU hospitals allow access to digital data. Against this background, the European Commission focuses on three main objectives:
- Prevention of chronic deseases
- create the condition for favourable healthy ageing
For these purposes, the European Commission aims at guaranteeing a more direct access to online data via pooling together national and local sources. The role of doctors also needs to be reconsidered, especially with regard to feedback given to patients: good e-health practices have to be improved and shared all around Europe. Likewise, changing responsibilities among existing healthcare organisations must be considered, skills and competences must be diffused as much as possible in order to give birth to a real person-centred health service. At the same time, law harmonisation and new financing seem to be essential preconditions to meet these challenges.
ESI Funds and the “Value of Death”
With the Investment Plan for Europe – Juncker Plan, the EU plans to help digitalisation and healthcare work together, in order to guarantee healthy ageing to its population. European Structural and Investment Funds should be used to leverage investments in this field. Indeed, given the conditionalities that come with ESIF, the EU aims to push national and local authorities to invest on coherent projects and initiatives. In particular, the EU values those project ideas having great potential for upscaling. Good examples of pilots that have upscaled can be found in Ireland, Estonia, in the Lazio Region, and in Porto.
The main targets of the Commission investments are therefore those kind of projects which help minimise the “value of death” in the EU, i.e. projects reducing the costs of illness for healthcare systems and societies in general. The lower the economic impact of diseases on the healthcare systems qnd societies, the lower the “value of death”. In order for investments to be significant enough as to reduce the “value of death”, political commitment at the national level and involvement of local authorities are essential. In order to have local and national authorities, as well as project promoters, support and embark on new pilot initiatives, it is crucial that they be confident on the security of their investment and property of the outcomes. To this end, certifications could be very helpful.
Actions and Targets of the Commission
In order to achieve these goals, the European Commission is actively engaged in:
- spreading a common vision and raising commitment to meet the challenges of an ageing population
- encouraging networking and collaboration among leading actors in both the healthcare and digital sector
- encouraging innovation and standardisation in both sectors in order to secure innovative investments and keep the momentum
- implementing its Engagement Strategy, also making use of public consultation on Healthcare’s state of play
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