In 2021, EHTEL strengthened its role as a key collaboration platform. It brought together in a single space various parts of the digital health ecosystem. It focused on capacity-building and education, and drew on current use cases to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
EHTEL’s work was structured around three key work streams:
- Health Data Spaces and Ecosystems
- Hybrid Care: Mainstreaming Virtual Care with New Models of Care
- “Mind the gap”: Facing Challenges in Bridging Digital Transformation
The work built on health data ecosystems for integrated care, which lays out a journey of transition towards the integration of personal and professional data and brings in data from third-party sources.
Overall, the focus was on the evolution taking place in digital health. In the future, digital health will accompany people everywhere they are, whether at home or on the move.
The shift was towards a citizen-centric data sharing approach, with the focus on the importance of providing citizens with easy-to-use and secure technological solutions wherever they choose to share data.
Health Data Spaces and Ecosystems
Data is a vital ingredient to the provision of good health and care systems and services. Data and digital technologies enable us to reach and understand more people, better meet their healthcare needs, and improve the healthcare ecosystem. With its members and community, EHTEL explored the directions taken in Europe on health data spaces and their functions. The institutions involved were in various domains of the health and care sectors.
This stream focused on data and data ecosystems. It consolidated the work done in previous years by the ELO network and the Digital Integrated Care Taskforce (DICT) on European Health Data Spaces and health data ecosystems.
- Inform and educate EHTEL members on discussions that are taking place on European policies and their potential future directions, related to e.g., the Data Governance Act and the European Health Data Space.
- Provide feedback to the European Commission with messages from our members.
Three workshop sessions were held in 2021. They were supported by projects like mHealthHub and OPENDEI. They were the fruit of collaborations among EHTEL working groups and task forces.
- Integrating mobile health data in health service value chains (supported by mHealth Hub):
This workshop drew on the development of health data ecosystems with patient-generated data into health data ecosystems through mobile applications. The aim was to improve clinical work and generate value. Health data is actively used in different health and care institutions: European hospitals, general practices, and the care sector.
In the last years, many Member States have developed a “meaningful use” strategy which aims at incentivising healthcare professionals to use certified solutions in a consistent way. Today, the whole business model needs to evolve and take into consideration shared responsibilities in the production of data and the use of enabled services.
- Building the data-driven hospital and facing the challenges: from EHRs to data ecosystems (supported by InteropEHRate):
Data-driven innovations underpin smart hospitals by integrating existing hospital information systems with new sources of data that are generated by patients, medical devices, and distributed sensors. Hospitals are in the lead among data ecosystems: they can gather ‘treasure troves’ of data that can enable the optimisation of operations and new models of care.
This workshop gathered together the experiences of leading hospitals in developing command centres, digital twins or real-time simulation systems. It explored the challenges of integrating data streams and creating value-based services, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI), in different hospital and integrated care configurations.
- Outlining reference architectures in the health sector (supported by OPEN DEI)
The OPEN DEI coordination and support action brings together nine large-scale pilot projects in its healthcare cluster. These include three smart hospital projects covering a wide spectrum of use cases and conditions.
The goal of this workshop was to share the knowledge developed in the cluster on how to develop a generic, scalable, and GDPR-compliant data reference architecture. It also expressed views on how to develop health data spaces for innovation, health policies, or research.
Hybrid Care: Mainstreaming Virtual Care with New Models of Care
|Hybrid care means merging or bringing together of both physical encounters (e.g., appointments or health visits) and virtual encounters - between health and care professionals and patients. Today, there is no single, standardised definition of hybrid care.|
Health and care systems and services that have moved promptly, and safely, towards a hybrid care model include Israel, Portugal and Scotland. These three countries show just how much national and regional health and care systems are involved concretely in making the move towards mainstreaming virtual healthcare encounters. Here too is an example of a hybrid patient journey from Portugal.
Going virtual raises many important questions regarding hybrid care relating to: Is ‘virtual’ the only way of functioning? Can ‘virtual’ continue to function at the same pace and scale in 2021 and beyond?
At the start of 2021, EHTEL work in this field drew on several already-organised 2020 Symposium sessions on hybrid care.
The workstream objectives were to:
- Focus on three dimensions of hybrid care (i.e., challenges that are clinical, organisational, and technical).
- Orientate the work towards two ‘use cases’ (eMental Health and multi-morbidities). Enrich this orientation through several case studies.
- Draw on EHTEL members’ expertise in the applied areas of work surrounding hybrid care. In this way, be practical, operational, and applied.
- 20 May 2021: Hybrid Care: Mainstreaming Virtual Care with New Models of Care Virtual Workshop - This webinar was part of the Imagining 2029 work programme. It built on a series of webinars focused on accelerating digital transformation while acknowledging the opportunities and challenges raised by the COVID-19 crisis.
- 28 May 2021: Spotlight Telemedicine - An online workshop that recapped on 2020 Symposium work and focused on ‘virtual encounters’, eMental Health, and case studies involving the challenges of multi-morbid conditions especially in the context of the ‘era of COVID’. Examples interventions were provided by EHTEL members from Denmark, Greece, Israel, Portugal, Romania, and Scotland.
“Mind the gap”: Facing Challenges in Bridging Digital Transformation
This Imagining 2029 work stream is to reflect on current challenges that health and care organisations and professionals face as a result of digital transformation. Mind the gap is about facing the challenges that currently exist in digital transformation in health and care in Europe. The objective of this workstream is to develop a ‘bottom-up platform’ which offers EHTEL Members opportunities to engage with other Members on a topic of their choice. The topics covered in the future will all be related to the challenges of accelerated digital transformation.
What are the gaps that exist today in the digital transformation of health and care in Europe? EHTEL wants to give its members the opportunity to engage in an ‘open floor’ selection of key challenges. In March 2021, we organised a consultation process (an online poll). EHTEL members expressed their interests in core subjects and new topics. The EHTEL Board members selected topics to be included in the overall Imagining 2029 work programme, and especially the 2021 Symposium.
- Exploring how to train machine learning to make artificial intelligence usable (supported by the vCare project).
- Handling challenges in implementing standards when developing new services: Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standards (supported by the InteropEHRate project).
- Designing and applying effective reimbursement schemes for digital health (drawing on the work of the DigitalHealthEurope project).
Human, including professional, challenges:
- Preparing the health workforce for the digital future (Topol Review).
- Providing the digital skills needed by patients and informal carers.