What Promise Does the Newly Proposed EU4Health Programme Hold for Digital Health?

Jun 12, 2020

By Petra Wilson, European Program Director, Personal Connected Health Alliance

A bold proposal: €9.4 billion to strengthen Europe’s health systems

The European Commission believes the time has come to step-up the EU level budget for health, and so on 28th May 2020 proposed a brand new health programme for the 2021-2027 period – EU4Health programme. The proposal demands a huge increase on the previous proposal for the 2021-2027 health budget of €413 million as part of the European Social Fund, to an impressive €9.4 billion as a stand-alone programme - a major departure for health funding and policy making at EU level.

The massive increase has been proposed as a result of the lessons learned from the rapid responses to COVID-19 and the recognition that Europe needs to strengthen the resilience of health systems and promote innovation in the health sector.  

Where does digital health fit into EU4Health?

The EU4Health programme is ambitious and covers a wide range of health issues set out across 3 three general and ten specific objectives. Amongst the general objectives, the third objective is to:

  • Strengthen health systems and the healthcare workforce, including by digital transformation and by increased integrated and coordinated work among the Member States, sustained implementation of best practice and data sharing, to increase the general level of public health.

While among the specific objective, the fourth aims to:

  • Strengthen the effectiveness, accessibility, sustainability and resilience of health systems, including by supporting digital transformation, the uptake of digital tools and services, systemic reforms, implementation of new care models and universal health coverage, and address inequalities in health.

EU4Health will work in close partnership with other major funding streams – notably the research and innovation programme Horizon Europe and the infrastructure programme Digital Europe. The proposal for the EU4Health programme notes in particular that it will build on the infrastructure developed through Digital Europe to:

  • Deliver data sharing and citizen platform applications covering areas such as secure and effective management of personal health data across borders.
  • Promote better use of data for research, disease prevention and personalised health and care.
  • Support use of digital tools for citizen empowerment and for person-centred care.

How will the EU4Health Programme work?

The Programme will include country-specific tailor-made support and advice to countries, or groups of countries, with the highest need. This will be done through initiatives which support issues such cross-border collaboration and partnerships, with a view to transferring and upscaling innovative solutions, including digital; investment in precursory projects for high-value-added initiatives and in critical health infrastructure; and deployment, operation and maintenance of digital service infrastructure.  Note however that this is just a small selection of the digital health relevant areas that are highlighted in the proposal for EU4Health.  These, and many other initiatives, will be supported through funding made available to Member States, non-governmental and international organisations who can apply for such EU funding in the form of grants, prizes and procurement, as well as through indirect management by the European Commission and EU executive agencies.

When will the EU4Health funding become available?

It’s still only a proposal - there is some political way still to be travelled before EU4Health programme becomes a reality. But once it has been through the vote of the Council and Parliament, both of whom have made positive comments so far, the new programme will run from 2021-2027.  The EU4Health is Europe’s most ambitious health programme ever, with digital health tools and solutions as one of its core building blocks.

PCHAlliance welcomes the EU4Health Programme

PCHAlliance warmly welcomes the EU4Health programme, as well as the health targeted aspects of the proposed Digital Europe Programme. This movement toward digital transformation fits well with our mission to support “a patient/consumer-centered approach to improving health and wellness through personal technology” in our work for advocating for digital transformation to improve healthcare, reduce costs and promote free flow of data.  The programme will be important for both EU citizens and healthcare industries from around the world who wish to provide goods or services in Europe – and in due course its impact will be measurable through  HIMSS Digital Health Indicator, an assessment tool for advancing digital health strategy.