Enabling the digital transformation of cancer care in Europe (F11)

Seeing eye to eye – Enabling the digital transformation of cancer care in Europe

This morning at EHFG we are talking about enabling the digital transformation of cancer care in Europe. In this session we are exploring current opportunities and disruptive technology to inform policy solutions to transform cancer care across the European Union. The possibilities seem endless. We cannot blame technology anymore for not providing the hardware/software. Access to personal data, a health record that is fully accessible to the patient, an app that connects the patient directly with his doctor, it is all readily available. So why is it we are underusing all these opportunities? After all, just using what is out there can save 125.000 lives per year on digestives cancers alone.

To be frank, many European healthcare providers are rather illiterate when it comes to digitalization and the use of their data. I am not saying we don’t know how to work a CT scan and make a solid diagnosis from this data. But benchmarking this data real-time and, with this, creating added value for the patient and the healthcare provider is far beyond the technological knowledge and capabilities of most healthcare providers today. Continue reading

Vaccines, Leaving no one behind. It’s time to give it our best shot! (F10)

Today at the European Health Forum, we were challenged to consider what actions should be taken to implement a life-course approach to vaccination across Europe. Many countries have been struggling with vaccine mistrust and misinformation. Measles outbreaks have led to dozens of avoidable deaths around the continent this year. Other countries, including my native country of Ireland, have seen major declines in HPV uptake. John Ryan of the European Commission emphasised at the outset that vaccination can save countries ten times more than the cost of the vaccines themselves. An important reminder of the relevance of this issue, even if preaching to the converted!

A series of four case studies were presented to inspire actions that could be taken across different European countries to improve vaccination uptake. Representatives of the European Patients’ Forum, UK’s Vaccine Confidence Project, Ethno-Medical Centre in Germany, and EU Pharmaceutical Group were put through their paces in a series of ‘TED talk’ style presentations. Emilie Karafillakis highlighted the strategies, which have worked best in reversing the decline in HPV uptake in Denmark. This resonated most with me, since in Ireland we have improved HPV coverage from 50% to 65% in the last 18 months. We are still a long way off the>80% coverage we had achieved in 2014, but by engaging with key stakeholder groups, getting on social media, and highlighting real-life personal narratives in our communication strategies we are finally counteracting much of the misinformation and scaremongering around this vaccine. Certainly, we learned and benefited from the Danish experience in this regard. Continue reading

Improving Cancer Care (F9)

TANGELED: No fairy tale for cancer care.

Patient involvement and empowerment, multidisciplinary healthcare professional teams, access to quality treatments and care services, value in healthcare, patient relevant outcomes, data collection, standardisation and interoperability and of course, silos – these were the buzzwords of this afternoon’s session on improving quality of cancer care.

But as always in the European Health Forum Gastein, behind these buzzwords, there are patients. And this patient view was at the forefront of the Forum discussion, with passionate interventions from the audience on an issue where personal experiences are all too frequent. Continue reading

Health as an Asset (F8)

‘No health is an island’ – Are we trapped in an ocean of missed opportunities?

It’s day two of EHFG 2018 and we already discussed so many interesting health-related areas but are we focused on the ‘real’ issues? What really matters in all our discussions? People, it’s all about people’s health! We need to keep that in the back of our minds, always. And as individuals, we live in complex societies and we thrive for development, well-being and happiness. I would like to remind you of Maslow’s pyramid of necessities and how critical is to address basic needs within the whole population. If we want to have a healthier population, we surely need to create a salutogenic context across all sectors that affect health – which means basically everything!

While you’re reading this, just image that society as a boat in the middle of the ocean. David Linch reminds us that not only healthcare services should be considered in this equation. Actually, our ocean is full of social and economic factors that can lead us to a calm and enjoyable trip, or can also smash us with a storm of social problems and economic lightinings.

While we are crossing the waters, they don’t remain stable and quiet. Neither inequalities in health do! In fact, they keep their alarmous rising tide, threatening the sustainability of our boat as a whole. We really need fearless captains rather than short sighted pirates…I mean, politicians! Some leaders can see that reelection island really near, missing the paradisiac island that is 10 and 20 years far. Social determinants of health are (still!) an essential topic that calls for interventions, as Sir Michael Marmot highlighted in his inspirational speech!

Vesna-Kerstin Petric gave us some really nice ideas to get some gold that will allow us to build a stronger and resilient boat, capable of travelling the Bermudas’ Triangle. Slovenian ship actually looked for the financial help of other ‘armadas’ like Norway and the European Union. So why should we give it a try?

The key to this treasure might lay in having an organized kitchen inside our ship, trained navigators and a well-designed structure. In other words, planning across sectors! There is an urge to plan health around a table that brings together municipalities, academia, policy-makers, community and NGOs, at least. And around this table, we can define a strategy to conquer the seas through definitions of priorities, which would be the focus on prevention by investing real money and resources! Should we go for the basic shipments or start fishing for lobsters first?

For the further days I leave you some words to thought about, inspired by the sustainable development in health:

  • Plan
  • Prioritize
  • People
  • Partnerships

(And I would dare you to add Politics and Pirates!)

This is the time to take action and build an ‘armada of societies’ to reach this magical island where social cohesion grows, wealth is fairly distributed, and health is an asset rather than a burden. Close your eyes and imagine how wonderful that would be – now open your eyes and start playing your role!

Such a long journey will only be successful with the involvement of all sectors and an upstream intervention in the ‘causes of the causes’.

PS: An enormous thank to ‘Captain’ Tim Elwell-Sutton for setting up this session that reminded everybody about the importance of intersectoral action in health.

This blog was written by a Young Gasteiner Duarte Vital Brito

Migrants’ access to health care – Is there an app for that? (F7)

2015, Germany. Accusations are spreading on social media, heating up an already heated discussion on asylum seekers: “They can’t be that poor if they have smart phones!!!!” Meanwhile, a teacher gives his students a shopping bag each and asks: “Imagine your house is being bombed. You are in a rush and running for your life. All you can take is this bag. What would you pack?”

Unsurprisingly, every student packs a mobile phone. Having a mobile phone while fleeing can be both a live saver and a lifeline to relatives at home. Google Maps, Google Translate, Facebook and Skype, all of them indispensable tools for survival.

What does the fact that refugees today are much more digitally-connected than in the past mean for the provision of health care to this underserved community? The forum ‘Digital and Access to care for all’ organised on Thursday afternoon by MSD, IOM and the European Digital Therapeutics Partnership tried to find answers by bringing together representatives of ICT companies, start-ups, national health systems and international organisations.

“Digital health has the potential to revolutionise migrants’ access to health, because it is patient-centred.” Michele Pastore, Samsung & Chair of Digitaleurope’s Working Group on eHealth

Digital solutions can provide migrants with information and services that were previously not accessible to them, and they already do, but there are also significant challenges in using digital innovations to improve migrant health.

Digital literacy, language barriers, data protection, the risk to increase existing health inequalities and the trust of patients, that using those services and providing information will not compromise their migration path, were extensively discussed during the workshop.

However, what kept me thinking after the session is the question:

Is digital innovation the most effective way to improve migrants’ health? Continue reading