In London, managers and experts from the EUHA came together to attend the alliance’s biannual general assembly and a symposium entitled “Rethinking European Health Systems: Creating the Sustainable Health Workforce of the Future,” all motivated by the urgent need for reform. Almost every country in Europe is facing the challenge of looking after an aging population, while struggling to cope with staff and resource shortages. At the same time, new concepts for patient care are emerging every day, particularly in university hospital settings, and insights and findings from biomedical research are contributing to innovative therapeutic approaches.
So, how can European health systems be future-proofed under these conditions? How can personnel be attracted and optimally trained? Could new preventive concepts for long-lasting health be the key to the best possible healthcare for everyone? “These pressing questions need to be addressed,” says Professor Heyo K. Kroemer, Chief Executive Officer of Charité. “The COVID-19 pandemic once again highlighted how much needs to be done. We need to establish harmonized healthcare standards throughout Europe, strengthen collaborations in biomedical research, and develop a concept for training the physicians and healthcare professionals of tomorrow. At the same time, consolidating resources is essential, because it is the only way for us to develop innovative approaches which are capable of addressing these challenges.”
Given their responsibility for patient care, research, and training, university hospitals play a special role in the necessary transformation process. Starting today, Charité will preside over the EUHA and thus lead this process over the coming months, replacing the London-based King’s Health Partners university hospital. Since the current issues are of considerable importance, Charité will tackle them together with Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital, which will take over the presidency in November.
“The goal of our presidency is to use and expand the EUHA platform so that we’re better prepared for future challenges in Europe, for example new infectious diseases or crisis situations, and are also able to learn from each other to make our health systems viable for the future,” explains Kroemer. That particularly applies to the field of digital health and the creation of a common European Health Data Space, which will allow health data to be leveraged across countries for the purposes of healthcare provision and research. It’s about enhancing the systems and structures on a Europe-wide basis and developing intelligent tools: “In our digital age, the healthcare sector must be enabled to systematically process and thus also utilize large amounts of clinical data in order to support innovations in the field of medical technology and patient-centered medicine,” the Charité CEO adds. The EUHA Digital Health and Data Network, a working group that was established four years ago and is led by Charité, is exploring how to achieve that.
Along with other working groups, the EUHA Nursing Network – launched in 2021 and coordinated at Charité – is tackling the challenges currently being faced as a result of the shortage of skilled professionals. In addition to representing the interests of nurses at the European level, it is focusing on developing shared training and further education programs and an exchange program for employees. Alongside several other activities, the European Center for Gene & Cellular Cancer Therapies (EUCCAT), in which Charité and the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) are heavily involved, is one of the innovative forces at EUHA. The virtual institute aims to make new cancer treatments affordable and accessible by bringing together basic research, drug manufacturing facilities, capacities for clinical trials, and implementation expertise. The intention is to make Europe more competitive in the field of research and development and in the clinical use of cell and gene therapies.
Kroemer concludes: “Digitalization aside, developing innovative therapies, or what we call advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs), placing a greater emphasis on the interests of patients by collecting patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), and implementing new approaches to attract and retain excellent personnel are key factors that will shape the future of European university hospitals. The EUHA is an excellent platform for sharing information and best practices. As part of its presidency, Charité is committed to contributing to the success of these activities and will further forge and foster relationships with institutions in the European Union and other international organizations.”
The European University Hospital Alliance is made up of ten leading European university hospitals with demonstrated excellence in healthcare, education, and research: Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark; Greater Paris University Hospitals, France; Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany; Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Ospedale San Raffaele, Milan, Italy; Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden; King’s Health Partners, London, UK; University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium; University Hospital Vienna & Medical University of Vienna, Austria; and Vall d’Hebron Barcelona Hospital Campus, Spain. The institutions work together to improve patient care now and in the future. All members have a capacity of more than 1,000 beds and are centers of excellence in research as well as national reference centers. They cover the existing European Reference Networks (ERNs). The alliance’s motto, “Leading by Doing,” stands for its intention to be a capable advisor at the European level and develop innovative solutions for central challenges in the European healthcare sector.