The rapidly evolving healthcare landscape requires dynamic, collaborative, and forward-thinking solutions but also regulation, protection, and careful management to ensure realistic expectations and improved outcomes for patients.
Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs) are an important instrument through which innovation and digital transformation services can be boosted at the regional level across the European Union. DIHs aim to improve collaboration among stakeholders in healthcare by providing access to technology and expertise, encouraging co-creation and collaboration, supporting funding and investment, offering testing and validation services, and supporting policy development.
The infographic is made by DIHs_P4Medicine
DIHsP4_Medicine is a European-funded project held by a consortium formed of 4 European DIHs (EDIHs) specialized in healthcare that works together with a common goal: foster inter-regional collaboration and identify key priority areas in the health sector to implement digital technologies in order to promote the shift from a reactive healthcare approach to one based on the P4 medicine paradigm (predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory).
Upon a comprehensive analysis conducted during the first phase of the DIHsP4_Medicine project in which a wide range of healthcare stakeholders participated, several crucial issues were addressed. Some of them are depicted below:
Willingness to collaborate on (European) projects focused on P4 Medicine and technology Initiatives such as implementing digital twins in hospitals, developing adaptive radiation therapies in real-time, and utilizing digital tools to tailor dietary patterns for disease management represent a shift toward personalized care solutions. The use of cutting-edge technologies including image quality detection systems that can predict breast cancer and machine learning-based solutions to identify potential biomarkers for cancer shows the forward-thinking mindset behind modern healthcare based on prediction and prevention. The participatory aspect of the P4 medicine paradigm also offers a wide field for future exploration, especially when it comes to patient-centered healthcare models. In this regard, DIHs advocate for the integration of digital innovation-based advanced medical tools and facilitate practical testing of healthcare solutions through their “Test Before Invest” category of services which can bring together innovators and technology providers with healthcare professionals and institutions for effective product validation. Furthermore, interconnected DIHs can play a critical role in the success of collaborative projects focused on P4 Medicine and technology by enabling dialogue and promoting networking and collaboration between healthcare professionals SMEs, and startups providing technology.
Barriers to P4 Medicine and the use of digital technologies in healthcare The healthcare industry is surely one of the most challenging sectors for many startups and SMEs that want to bring solutions to solve health-related problems. This is due to the very complex regulations and compliance requirements as well as the high costs related to the long time that takes to bring innovations to the market. Although public funding and initiatives promoted by policymakers are key for P4 Medicine to become a reality, DIHs offer support to find specific private and public funding and tender opportunities for SMEs and startups and access to investors and consultants to make possible talent and innovation development. Due to their central role among many stakeholders of the sector, DIHs can also play an important role in advocating for the simplification of some funding opportunities and application and reporting procedures, so it can help innovators and technology developers be more oriented to the product and procedure development and less to the justification of the costs. Another relevant barrier when it comes to implementing digital technologies in healthcare procedures is the lack of trust from healthcare professionals in SMEs and startups as well as the low levels of digital literacy in healthcare. Thus, the change that the whole system must undergo to react to these new models and ensure commitment to the digital transformation of the sector is imminent. To this end, DIHs offer customized training programs to acquire digital skills adapted to different profiles. DIHs are also committed to promoting networking activities and fostering innovation ecosystem building by bridging the gap between SMEs and startups with healthcare professionals and potential investors. Thus, events organised by DIHs such as pitch days or showcase events can help SMEs establish valuable collaborations and promote cross-border networking, thus giving local innovation a chance to take off on a European level.
Data access, management and governance The next era of patient experiences and the new healthcare ecosystem is going to be shaped by the increasing availability and analysis of high-quality data.Ensuring the correct accessibility, management, and governance of health data is therefore crucial to thrive in today’s healthcare landscapes and boost the progress of European healthcare systems. MNC and large companies, such as hospital groups or big pharmaceuticals may have internal databases with a multitude of records for the development of applications and medical research, thus giving them a competitive advantage over smaller companies. This study revealed the wish of SMEs and startups for open database access to ensure the successful development of innovative solutions that can meet the health demands of users and healthcare systems. European initiatives such as the European Health Data Space (EHDS) will be very important in the medium term, but insufficient for the current moment in which other regions outside of Europe are taking advantage. In this context, cooperation between DIHs with public and private entities could help short-term database accessibility and foster the participation of stakeholders in national and EHDS-based initiatives.
These barriers and challenges to be addressed offer a working opportunity for DIHs as facilitators of the digital transformation of the sector. DIHs stand at the crossroads of the healthcare ecosystem connecting stakeholders from the quadruple helix of innovation for the development and implementation of innovative digital solutions that can meet patients’ and professionals' needs within the framework of the four Ps of future medicine (predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory) that will not only allow the transformation of healthcare from a reactive approach to a proactive one, but also drive economic growth and job creation in Europe.
 Including stakeholders from the participating regions in France, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.