To scale up, innovators need a single EU market, more awareness of the benefits and opportunities of eHealth, and effective policies. That calls for a joint effort between healthcare stakeholders and the private innovation funds & agencies — breaking through introverted silos for a dynamic, growing and exporting industry.
Europe is very strong in producing high quality research results, but weak in turning such results into actual usable products. And nowhere is that clearer than in the health and care sector. That paradox must be overturned. The powerhouses of innovative start-ups and small- and medium-sized businesses should be supported to break the barriers - policy, legislative, financial and social.
It is clear that we need greater innovation in health and social care, to better care for citizens without raising costs. Τhe world’s population has access to more information than at any other time in human history. Healthcare service providers can use digital delivery to meet demands: yet, despite the billions of euros invested in pilot trials and digitisation of health institutions, the new innovative services offered to our patients today are limited.
It's time to recognise that spending on health & social care is itself an investment, and an engine for economic growth. The return on that investment should be measured not only in improved efficiency and quality of care: but also in jobs created and innovations brought to market.
Governments should give priority to and acknowledge small and medium sized businesses as a key source of innovation; and channel investment and funding through them to promote "bottom-up" innovation. Small and medium sized businesses and start-ups should be better able to "scale up" in the domain of eHealth, mHealth and ageing well: their innovation and sales both in and outside the EU should be supported (bearing in mind the challenges they face such as different regulations, different marketing or entry barriers).
Procurers and suppliers should collaborate on developing new and innovative services. Public Private Partnership schemes, such as those on Active and Healthy Ageing or Active Assisted Living, are great examples of how to facilitate that—building trust between public and private providers by leading and setting values, leadership, rules of engagement, aims, objectives and evaluation frameworks.
Most importantly, we should enable and promote a joint effort among healthcare stakeholders and innovation funders, so that innovation can be deployed, large scale. Working together with regions, policy makers, innovators and pioneer entrepreneurs, we can break through introverted silos to create a dynamic, exporting, global industry.
But we need to act faster. Europe can’t afford to wait. Τhe actions detailed in the EU eHealth entrepreneurs manifesto represent a promising shortcut to innovation and market excellence.
N.B. This is a guest blog post by Pantelis Angelidis, eHealth innovator in Greece. The author doesn't represent the European Commission.