How can Europe work together to overcome the pandemic? How can digital health data be used to improve health care? How do we pool research expertise and research resources in order to speed up medical innovation? These were some of the issues discussed and agreed upon at the recent Members’ Assembly of the European University Hospital Alliance (EUHA), an association representing Europe’s nine leading university hospitals. The meeting, which was held online due to the current pandemic, saw the EUHA partners map out a way forward.

 

Coinciding with Charité’s EUHA Presidency, the past six months have been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the (online) EUHA Members’ Assembly on the 29th October. All 9 university hospitals were present and represented by their Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and accompanied by a few board members, including those representing research. EUHA president, Charité’s CEO, Prof. Dr. Heyo K. Kroemer, emphasised the importance of cross-European collaboration during the current pandemic: “Both the collaboration with our European partners and the sharing of expertise and knowledge have been of enormous help to us in our efforts to manage the pandemic.” Key topics of the meeting were:

EUHA Strategic Planning
Next to supporting COVID-19 management, EUHA has been developing its first strategic plan to align on priorities and strengthen the development of EUHA. On the 29th, the Members´ Assembly approved the Strategic objectives which focus on `leading by doing`: the development of innovative solutions and making use of our unique role as academic centres to improving population health and patient outcomes. These strategic themes will be delivered through six objectives over the next three years, for which the aligned working groups and network will develop plans for during the upcoming months. Our collaboration will be further developed by ensuring the benefits of EUHA membership are experienced by all staff across our organisations including through peer learning, international exchanges, and collaboration in developing innovative education and training.
Utilizing EUHA expertise to manage the pandemic

Also invited was the EU Commission’s Director-General for Health and Food Safety, Sandra Gallina. She emphasised that she would be counting on the combined expertise of the EUHA in her efforts to establish comprehensive, EU-wide programs and further develop European health care systems – with a particular focus on managing the pandemic. Another issue on the agenda was the digitalization of health care in Europe. According to the EU Commission’s representative, it will be important to include university hospitals in the development of a European Health Data Space in order to reap the full benefit of their expertise and enable rapid progress. Addressing these challenges is the remit of the EUHA’s ‘Digital Health and Data Network’ working group, whose launch in November 2019 was led by Charité. Its brief includes an exploration of the manner in which European health care systems can utilize clinical data to support innovations within the field of medicine, for instance the use of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PRCM) to improve the quality of treatment. However, health care systems must undergo restructuring if they are to generate and process large quantities of clinical data: What steps will need to be implemented in order to pave the way for a European Health Data Space?

Facilitating innovation by consolidating research capabilities in Cell and Gene Cancer Therapies
The Chief Executives of the EUHA members also agreed to intensify collaborations in cell and gene cancer therapies. EUHA will aim to pool and consolidate the expertise and resources needed for highly complex research in the field of cell and gene therapy. It will focus on research but also boost education and training for the operation of GMP facilities. Explaining the significance of this development, the Dean of Charité, Prof. Dr. Axel Radlach Pries, explains: “The innovative potential within this field is enormous. At the same time, however, the manufacture of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) requires a high level of clinical expertise and immense resources. Collaboration with our European partners will therefore be an important step in speeding up the development of ATMPs in Europe and closing the gap between ourselves, the United States and China.”

Charité hands EUHA Presidency to Karolinska
Charité assumed the EUHA Presidency on 1 May 2020. Underpinned by the motto ‘Rebuilding health care post-COVID-19’, Charité (represented by its Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dr. Heyo K. Kroemer) has been setting the joint health policy agenda for a duration of six months. The EUHA Presidency, which rotates among its members every six months, has now been handed over to Stockholm’s Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset. The next Members’ Assembly will take place on 10th June 2021 in Stockholm.