Blog post

Innovations in health and social care

Experts insights on the conference on enhancing health and wellbeing in Europe.
Dr Layla McCay

3 December 2019

How do we go from a brilliant idea happening not just in one health service/organisation but across the whole system, in every country? This was the question being addressed at the Innovations in Health and Social Care – Enhancing Health and Wellbeing in Europe event run by the Finnish Presidency in Brussels on 3rd December 2019.

The event was run in collaboration with the EC-funded TO-REACH initiative which focuses on how to disseminate innovation in health systems around the EU. And the conclusion: system change has turned out to be much more difficult than anyone expected - in healthcare and beyond.

The speakers reflected that part of the challenge is a lack of investment and recognition in innovation beyond the digital world. Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission, considered that to harness innovation to really improve patient care, we need to inspire and recognise more innovation in care models, in systems, and in workforce; and that we need to optimise the delivery process for innovation. This perspective was supported by Head of Unit, Health Innovations, Research and Innovation at the European Commission. She noted it both easier and more common to fund product innovation than process innovation – especially as process innovation is more bespoke for each setting. Every context is different, with different legal, professional, cultural and attitudinal barriers to overcome.  One size does not fit all, but we should learn from each other rather than seeking to reinvent the wheel. Walter Ricciardi, who leads the To-Reach project summed up the challenge well: when it comes to innovation, we have Star Wars technology with Flintstones delivery.

At the session it was discussed that we need to more systematically harness lessons from different types of health service and policy innovation – not just what worked and why, but what failed and why; not just between entire nations in all their diversity, but at a more granular level between regions in different countries with similar characteristics and challenges. 

The European Commission’s Health Directorate has started a “pairing and coaching” action learning project, stimulating innovation by bringing together health organisations working on similar challenges. The Confederation’s European Office will explore this further to see whether there is useful learning emerging for the NHS.  

Conference: Innovations in health and social care - Enhancing health and wellbeing in Europe, Brussels, 3 December 2019