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What is the EU4Health Programme?

The EU4Health Programme was launched in 2021 as a response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its overall aim is to build crisis preparedness in the European Union.

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The programme has funded a mix of calls for proposals, calls for tenders, and direct grants that have been given largely to authorities in the European Union's Member States. Much of the focus of this programme has been on support to be offered to the building of the European Health Data Space (EHDS)

The programme built on three previous health-specific programmes, which were put in place from 2003 onwards.  Its six-year budget (2021-2027) of more than 5 billion euros offers Europeans unparalleled financial support in the health field. Its work and funding is complementary to 10 other European funding programmes and instruments - among those very familiar to Europeans who are digital health implementers are Horizon Europe and Digital Europe.

The EU4Health Programme is now at a half-way point in terms of its achievements. The European Commission is therefore in the process of looking ahead at what the programme can offer in the future. One hope is to ascertain what topics might be tackled most effectively by the programme from 2025 onwards. 

What has the EU4Health Programme focused on during the last three years?

Here, a brief summary is sketched of some of the activities that have been financed by the EU4Health Programme in the years since 2022. The sketch offers a sense of what have been the priorities thus far, and how they have been handled and financed

In 2022, there was a focus on both the primary use of health data and the secondary use of health data. Several direct grants to Member States were on offer. Among activities that were targeted were: the expansion of MyHealth@EU Digital Service Infrastructure (eHDSI). Core services identified were those of assistance to Health Data Access Bodies; data controllers; and patients.  Calls were also open for training to be provided to the health workforce in Europe, healthcare professionals especially in digital skills.

One of the key activities was the creation of a joint action, which has now materialised as the Joint Action 09-Xt-EHR project. This initiative was launched just six months ago in November 2023. Its role is to improve the groundwork for the focus on the primary use of health data implicit in the upcoming EHDS. Topics to the fore, tackled by this joint action, include compliance, implementation, interoperability, and telemedicine. 

In 2023, Member States have been offered direct grants that are due to help them to focus on building national capacities in terms of health terminologies.

For 2024, the 2024 work programme documentation already indicates a combination of activities financed through a range of mechanisms. They include the expansion of MyHealth@EU; compliance checks on the proposed infrastructure of the EHDS; pertinent communication and dissemination activities;  and a support centre for the European Electronic Health Record exchange Format (EEHRxF) with reference to interoperability and security.  Last but certainly not least, there will be the need to advance with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in health

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