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Health First Europe attended the conference entitled “Innovation in health and new technologies: tools for the sustainable management of public health systems” organised by Fundación Comunidad Valenciana to stimulate awareness of the integration of innovation and technology with health. The event was attended by a variety of stakeholders including Anne Starkie-Alves of the European Commission Health Directorate General for Information Society and Media ICT for health (DG INFSO), Jenny-Lee Spencer, Senior Policy Manager for the National Health Service (NHS) European Office and Richard Tuffs, Director of European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) all of whom discussed various avenues through which innovation can help to achieve more sustainable health care systems.

In her role as Policy Officer for the European Commission, Ms. Starkie-Alves, explained the current importance of, and focus on, e-Health at DG INFSO. She emphasised that technology is at the heart of policy and that we are moving into an age of closer links between technology and healthcare. She asserted that innovation plays a key role in this and that “with the ‘partnership concept’ the new focus of the EU is to work together with enterprises and industry to improve healthcare, which is key to success”. Currently, the European Commission is undertaking this partnership concept through the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. The Partnership is composed of a steering group of 50 stakeholders that will hold its first meeting in May 2011. Furthermore, a new e-Health Action Plan is being formulated by the Commission for 2011 to 2020 which is expected to be adopted by the executive body by the end of this year. The Action Plan will address issues to achieve interoperability, innovation and a competitive market and will include a public consultancy with stakeholders.

As Senior Policy Manager for the National Health Service, Ms. Spencer illustrated that the NHS is facing similar problems as those throughout Europe with regards to an aging population and outlined new ideas which the NHS is pursuing to ensure sustainability. One of these ideas is the Quality Innovation Productivity and Prevention strategy (QIPP). With QIPP, the NHS wants to develop more sustainable and effective pathways to healthcare systems, share best practices regarding resources and learning, and improve efficiency and quality of the NHS services to ensure better value for money.

To conclude the conference, Richard Tuffs, Director of the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN), expressed how its’ dynamic network of more than 90 EU regions and its’ Brussels-based offices, facilitates knowledge exchange, joint action and project partnerships with the aim to strengthen its member region’s research and innovation capacities. ERRIN serves as a Brussels platform for research and innovation and assists regions to get their voice heard in Brussels – which can be a real asset when moving to influence political policy making. He suggested that health care systems must find ways to participate in the policy making process in order to maintain their point of view in the uptake of new technologies within European health systems.