The European Commission recently published ‘Horizon Europe’ – its first strategic plan for 2021-2024 which will ‘act as a compass to stay on course’ with its climate neutral and digital objectives for the block.
The plan heralds ‘sizeable financial investments to support digital transformations’ – and calls out health as one of its key clusters.
What does this mean for the future of digital health in Europe, and how does this compare with the UK’s priorities as it charts its own path?
A commitment to digital
The plan calls out six expected impacts for the health cluster, and perhaps the most relevant and interesting is the commitment to unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital solutions for a healthy society.
It is great to see this commitment to using tech to improve people’s lives. However, while the ambition is there, there are no clear targets or deadlines set.
It remains to be seen how the EU and its member states will transform these ideals into action, but it is certainly worth watching this space.
How does the UK compare?
Meanwhile, the focus on digital transformation in healthcare in the UK received an undoubted boost as a result of the pandemic running in parallel with our exit from the EU on 1 January this year.
That said, it is still a somewhat confusing picture at an organisational and leadership level.
Although the commitment to digital was cemented with the establishment of NHSX in 2019, its CEO Matthew Gould had to publicly quell rumours about its future in March this year.
While there has been much talk of the accelerated progress made in the last 18 months, we can perhaps expect this to slow down as the reality of budget deficits bites.
One thing is for certain – it will be fascinating to see how the UK and EU act on their commitments and aspirations as they forge a new relationship.