Last week, stakeholders including ministers, Commission officials and industry representatives, gathered in the European Parliament to spark debate on how best to support, facilitate and develop digital solutions in health.

Following recent developments on the topic, including the European Commission’s Communication on Digital Transformation of Health and Care and Belgium’s Digital Belgium and Digital Health Valley initiatives, Laura Batchelor of Fipra, moderated Women in Leadership’s (WIL) first event on Digital Health, which included Belgian Minister of Health, Maggie de Block, MEP Lieve Wierinck as well as Marco Marsella, Head of the “eHealth, Well-being, and Ageing” Unit in the European Commission.

“Governments can never hope to control this rapidly evolving sector of digital health, as that would hamper innovation” stated de Block. “Governments can, however, chart the course of this digital transformation, for the sake of the quality and safety of all patients”.

Facilitating, rather than governing, digital health is something some EU member states are starting to do. Marco Marsella outlined the EU’s current work with a ‘coalition of the willing’, which aims to drive forward collaboration with member states. This Million Genome initiative brings together 19 European countries as signatories to a declaration to deliver cross-border access to their genomic information, which will contribute to better health and care delivery to European citizens. MEP Lieve Wierinck, who was hosting the event, also stressed that “data centred healthcare is patient centred healthcare”, showing why initiatives like these are so important.

Representatives from Microsoft and the Novartis Foundation gave an industry perspective on how to overcome challenges regarding the use of personal data. They, too, stressed that building trust and cross sectoral collaboration was vital in order to realise the potential of digital as an enabler for better health and wellbeing.

Moderator of the event, Laura Batchelor, Director of Fipra’s Healthcare team, stated
“It is clear how important it is to take learnings of best practice across the EU as well as from the developing world, in order to best realise a digital transformation in health. It will be incumbent on the new European Commission and Parliament to work with member states in order to identify how to rapidly deliver on the promise of digitalisation and realize better patient and societal outcomes for citizens in Europe”.