On November 5, 2019, the European Commission published a report entitled “Strengthening Strategic Value Chains for a future-ready EU Industry”, which was prepared by the Strategic Forum on Important Projects of Common European Interest (“Forum”). The Forum assists the European Commission in identifying key strategic value chains that can contribute to Europe’s industrial competitiveness and its green and digital transformation objectives.  To that end, the Forum proposes a common vision for joint actions and investments between the EU, its Member States, and industry.

The report identifies smart health as one of the key strategic value chains. Other key strategic value chains include the industrial Internet of Things and cybersecurity.

The Forum defines “smart health” as “the development of smart (usually digitally aided) solutions to improve the way healthcare solutions are delivered”, and highlights the importance of health data and health analytics to improve healthcare in the EU.  However, according to the report, a number of challenges at the EU-level appear to hamper the development of smart health solutions. These challenges include “the high costs associated with the installation of systems using advanced technologies, as well as concerns over data security, and a lack of integration and information sharing”. The Forum concludes in its report that there is a need for public intervention to overcome these challenges. In particular, the Forum refers to the need to (i) increase public funding in this area; (ii) regulate and harmonize—at the EU-level—access to and use of health data, and (iii) create trust by citizens through data governance and consent management models.

In light of the above, the Forum’s report provides the following six recommendations:

  1. create a federated European health data space with appropriate privacy protections;
  2. support the development of smart health products and services;
  3. adapt regulations and standards with the aim of “advancing standardization and interoperability of healthcare data”;
  4. promote skills for the development, uptake and effective use of smart health products and services;
  5. stimulate the demand-side and the uptake of smart health products and services; and
  6. create a pan-European operational network (a “European Smart Health Innovation Hub”) to assess and promote smart health initiatives.

The report sets out specific actions for each of these recommendations.