On 18 October 2018, the ICT4Life Final Conference was held at ICAB – Business & Technology Incubator, in Brussels. The event was entitled “Meeting the Challenges of Digital Health Innovation for Integrated Care in the EU” and aimed at discovering how the ICT4Life platform responds to the needs of integrated care systems and provides tailored solutions for diverse regional contexts. A specific session addressed the pilots and the strategic approach based on end-users’ feedback. The event gathered experts from other EU-funded projects to discuss the challenges faced by digital health innovators when it comes to exploiting in the market H2020 projects’ results.
The event started with a projection of ICT4Life video and an introduction of “What is ICT4Life” by the project coordinator Alejandro Sánchez-Rico de las Heras. He stressed out the context in which ICT4Life platform has been developed: a context of ageing population in which integrated care allows for a better continuity of care. In such context, ICT4Life ambition is to promote patients’ empowerment, training and improved care support and enhanced communication and social interaction thanks to personalised interfaces. This support will be sustained by a multimodal data collection as well as advanced monitoring for activity analysis.
The first session focused on “Integrated care in the EU” and was opened by Pascal Garel, Chief Executive of HOPE (the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation). He stressed out that the continuity of care with social care implied by the development of integrated care solutions goes together with new roles and skills for healthcare professionals. For this reason and despite that some evidences are still needed, he advocated that we must bring all stakeholders to undertake the transformational change required. He discussed evidences of good practices underlining that there is not a single solution or approach, but things are moving forward in many EU countries like Denmark, Poland, Malta and Finland among other.
Frédéric Destrebecq, Executive Director of the European Brain Council, presented its approach on “Integrated care for brain disorders in Europe”. He stressed out that prevention and risk reduction, timely intervention, reduction of stigma and research are key elements in mental health care. He used the example of the need of coordinated care in cases of stroke to show the need to transform our health and care systems to address the challenges posed by brain disorders and that digital solutions hold the key to this shift.
Eloisa Vargiu from the H2020 project CONNECARE, presented the H2020 EU-funded projects response to integrated care challenges. In 2015 the European Commission funded five projects under the H2020 call SC1-PHC25, which aim was to develop innovative solutions to improve and advance home-based integrated care for people suffering from chronic conditions, including co-morbidities. The solutions developed by the five funded proposals (Polycare, CONNECARE, ICT4Life, CAREGIVERSPRO-MMD, ProACT) address this call to advance digital integrated care increasing citizen’s independence and quality of life.
The second session explored how end-users contribute to digital health innovations. First, Marie Bourcy and Julie Dujardin from Belgium Alzheimer Association presented the patients’ perspective and the potential impact that the disease can have on day-to-day life at its different stages. The patients can be helped to maintain their autonomy and the key aspect is the focus of attention (on medicine, meals, home routine, riskless mobility etc). Following this presentation, Mirela Popa, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering at Maastricht University, showed that ICT4Life project demonstrated how technology can be integrated in the daily life of patients for improving their well-being, safety feeling and contributing at timely prevention of health issues. Indeed, abnormalities or emergency issues are timely detected, and the caregivers and professionals are informed by automatic alerts. Moreover, ICT4Life event summarisation and analysis, regarding the user’s behaviour patterns during months, support the professionals in the health diagnosis process, inform the caregivers and motivate the patients to make healthy changes.
Then, the perspective of carers was addressed by Stecy Yghemonos, Secretary General of Eurocarers. He stressed out that being an informal carer can have a negative impact on professional life, social life, health and well-being. One of the key claims of carers is related to training and support that are perceived as not sufficient. Laura Carrasco, Director of Madrid Parkinson Association showed how ICT4Life platform answers to these challenges by helping carers to have the situation under control remotely. It allows to connect and maintain social relationships as well as to help directly with the caring tasks thanks to tools like reminders and agendas. Communication tools used by all the actors involved in the caring process and access to professionals (especially physicians) are the key aspects of the carers’ support.
The health professionals’ perspective was also addressed. Annabel Seebohm, Secretary General of the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), stressed out that integrated care leads to better communication and coordination while fostering patient autonomy. However, any application in integrated care needs to provide the evidence as to safety, effectiveness, costs and privacy, as well as equity in access to high quality care. Then Federico Álvarez from the Polytechnic University of Madrid showed ICT4Life added-value: the use of novel technologies to facilitate data access to health professionals providing relevant results. Data are used particularly to monitor patients’ health status evolution, assess the impact of treatments and understand symptoms correlation.
Finally, the third session addressed the following topic: “From pilots to exploitation: how to bring EU funded initiatives results into the real world” and started with Ariane Girault from the Association E-Seniors, who presented ICT4Life Fieldwork and how it developed tailored solutions in diverse regional contexts. She revealed the results of ICT4Life testing and survey, showing that even though the users involved in the fieldwork were coming from diverse regional contexts, the feedback collected was homogenous and particularly regarding the very good acceptance of cognitive games and the fact that sensors system and Kinect camera were well integrated in a daily routine. In general, the devices implying a passive behaviour (cameras, bands and sensors) are more appreciated than the app which required an active behaviour.
Isabella Notarangelo from HOPE (the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation), presented ICT4Life exploitation and the development of a strategic approach based on iterative testing and end-users’ feedback. Iterative testing results are similar in the countries where it has run (France, Hungary and Spain). However, they are part of territorial and complex ecosystems changing from country to country in terms of governance, funding systems and provision of care models. These differences are essential to consider in the integration of the ICT4Life platform into the market.
Finally, Andrew Pomazanskyi from the H2020 Project SmartLife addressed the exploitation challenges of H2020 projects’ results focusing on an SME perspective. He stressed the specific hindrances related to eHealth, like high costs or lack of universally accepted practices and protocols as well as more general health challenges like the fact that it is a compartmentalised sector (ambulatory care, hospital care, prescriptions etc) with a diverse and complicated system of financing and reimbursement across the EU.
The event was closed by Pascal Garel reminding that our common objective is to improve the quality of care in the European Union and H2020 projects provide for opportunities to innovate and explore in the field of digital health.