The vision of a unified European Health Data Space (EHDS) is a tantalising prospect, poised to revolutionise healthcare across the continent. The key to unlocking this vision? Harnessing the strength of our regional diversity and recognising the central role of regions in the EHDS implementation. Our regional diversity is key in unlocking this vision as it embodies EIT Health's ethos of cross-border collaboration and knowledge-sharing. The unique health innovation environments of each region, coupled with EIT Health's commitment to uniting the best talents across Europe, are crucial in driving the implementation of the EHDS. At EIT Health and the European Regional and Local Health Authorities (EUREGHA), we believe this regional diversity provides the foundation for an inclusive and effective EHDS.
EIT Health and EUREGHA recently formalised a partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding to further, amongst other joint priorities, this common goal. With EUREGHA's unique position in representing regional and local health authorities and EIT Health’s Co-Location Centres linking with healthcare innovation experts in the Member States, we are jointly committed to supporting and steer the regional-level implementation of the EHDS.
At EIT Health and EUREGHA, we understand the intricate politics of health data. EU regions bring their own governance structures, regulations, and unique challenges to the fore, and they will be largely crucial for the implementation of the EHDS. This regional diversity and centrality equally represent a powerhouse of insightful perspectives and innovative solutions on which we can build a successful European initiative.
The essential lessons EIT Health and EUREGHA have learned from various initiatives are the imperative nature of collaborative innovation and the power of combining diverse perspectives. These include the EIT Health EHDS Roundtable Series, a platform that brings together diverse stakeholders from healthcare, academia, industry, and patient groups, and EUREGHA’s Working Group on Digital Transformation and its recent position statement on the EHDS.
As we stride towards a unified health data ecosystem, balancing innovation with data protection becomes a critical task. Through collaboration with regional health authorities, we aim to promote an environment that fosters innovation whilst ensuring data rights are not compromised by supporting start-ups, and driving education initiatives while promoting transparency and stakeholder engagement.
Innovation lies at the heart of EHDS, and it is often the start-ups and health-tech firms that lead the charge. EIT Health has had the privilege of supporting many such ventures, witnessing first-hand how their ground-breaking solutions can influence policy changes at a regional level. It is these practical applications of innovation that highlight the significance of an innovation-first approach in EHDS's journey. EUREGHA is equally active in facilitating and promoting regional best practices and innovation, including through an upcoming dedicated best practices booklet set to be published by the end of 2023.
Policies and innovation, though crucial, cannot shoulder the entire responsibility of EHDS, even if accompanied by adequate funding for its technical implementation. Public support and engagement play a vital role in shaping health data policies, promoting transparency, and enhancing public understanding of health data usage. This participatory approach is not just about securing consent; it’s about creating an informed population that actively participates in healthcare decision-making for a true ‘social implementation’ of the EHDS.
The path to a unified EHDS also necessitates a high degree of multi-sector collaboration. As EIT Health and EUREGHA, we are committed to fostering these vital partnerships among regional health authorities, start-ups, healthcare providers, research centres and citizens. It's through such collective endeavours that a comprehensive and robust health data space can be realised, becoming both a lever of healthcare citizenship and a keystone of digital transformation.
The journey towards a pan-European EHDS is complex, but by embracing regional diversity and crucial role, we believe this ambitious concept can become a tangible reality. As EIT Health and EUREGHA join forces, we stand ready to champion this transformation, fostering a European Health Data Space that truly encapsulates the collective potential of Europe’s healthcare innovation landscape.
This article was first published on 13 July by ET Health.