Going into a new decade there has never been a stronger mandate for health policy in Brussels. The appointment of cancer advocate Stella Kyriakides as Health Commissioner and the continuance of DG SANTE are signs that health is finally a priority. The new Commissioner received from President von der Leyen, herself a physician and personally committed to health, a considerably more substantive mission than her predecessor. The six public health priorities that she will be accountable for are framed with a clear direction to ‘support the health sector and the professionals working within it, to invest in new technologies, to promote healthy lifestyles and to cooperate better within the EU’.

Optimism is in the air

This renewed commitment to health has created a sentiment of optimism within the EU health community. While this is excellent news, the challenges facing health systems are significant and organisations must demonstrate that they can be part of the solution or they will be viewed as part of the problem.

We can see these challenges in the Commission’s identified priorities, including access to affordable medicines and the implementation of the new regulatory framework for medical devices – two high-profile policy areas which are contributing to DG SANTE’s increased power. High on the agenda is Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which also holds particular significance. It has been suggested that this might be an indication of a more social policy-focused Commission and of political will to further strengthen health policy as a European priority. Commissioner Kyriakides is also tasked with the creation of a European Health Data Space to expand the use of eHealth across Europe and with addressing antimicrobial resistance and vaccine scepticism.

Europe will be an interesting test case for this increased focus on health and in line with the UN’s sustainable development agenda, President von der Leyen has defined the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a top priority for her Commission. Naturally, Commissioner Kyriakides has been tasked with the delivery of Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing including through the reduction of non-communicable diseases, universal health coverage, maternal health and the fight against infectious diseases.

How can organisations be part of the solution?

At Incisive Health, we are helping organisations to be part of the solution. The opportunities – but also the expectations – have never been higher and, with these priorities in mind, businesses should consider how these can be leveraged to make socially impactful collaboration in healthcare a reality.

The principle of Total Societal Impact (TSI) refers to the total impact of a company on society and there are already examples in the healthcare industry that are promising for the future. Companies that commit to and invest in a TSI-driven strategy can become catalysts for positive change and the health community should work together to make this an even more concrete reality. From this perspective, the value of public-private partnerships is recognised as an accelerator for achieving the SDGs, and it is encouraging to see that partnerships are becoming the norm across sectors and stakeholder groups.

The principle of TSI and the idea of a joint EU health data space represent an example of how socially impactful collaboration in healthcare demands an integrated perspective in order to drive concrete change. Here businesses have a significant opportunity to demonstrate their contribution to sustainable systems towards the delivery of the SDGs.

For example, the progressive use of artificial intelligence and digital technologies in healthcare is considered a key enabler for health system transformation and is often a critical element of new partnerships. However, the health sector is still lagging behind compared to others in leveraging data and digital in a way that transforms health systems. Primary healthcare in combination with digital transformation can help us reach universal health coverage by improving service delivery models, empowering patients and by creating stronger cross-border collaboration. A crucial element of this transformation is the efficient management of electronic health data.

We believe that the forthcoming European Health Data Space could provide the framework within which SDGs, TSI and partnerships based on digital health technologies should converge for the benefit of patients. Beside the challenges still to be resolved to make the most of Europe’s digital transformation, the opportunities are tremendous. If set up well, this will not only accelerate the implementation of value-based healthcare solutions, but also build trust across multiple stakeholders for future collaborations and for the ultimate benefit of patients.

If not now, when?

2020 will be the year to significantly shape this space. We encourage organisations to embrace this momentum and we look forward to working with our clients and stakeholders to help make socially impactful collaboration in healthcare a reality.