Regional ICT based Clusters for Healthcare Applications and R&D (RICHARD)

Published on: 28/12/2011
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The RICHARD project intends to define and implement innovative models for the management of Chronic conditions based on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in four different European Regions.

The objective is the definition of new scenarios of care that, through the use of technology and the integration of resources and capabilities of the territory, allow patients to be supported outside the hospital, enabling a better quality of life.

The RICHARD project arises from the need to identify, design, and integrate new efficient and sustainable models for the care and support of patients based on the needs of the territorial models. The main idea of the project consists of "giving guidelines" for the integration of ICT in the health system where the territorial and regional healthcare systems, academics, public or private companies, organised in "Clusters", cooperate to define a Joint Action Plan.

The regions involved are contributing from the beginning of the project with their leading experience in terms of technologies, research results and organisational models and undertake to realise a common model.

RICHARD's rationale is to enable the shift from "diseases focused" ICT applications to "sustainable and territorial chronic care models", where innovation is driven by the regional needs. Despite the long-term vision being an integrated Chronic Care Model, a gradual "disease driven" approach is taken, with research and analysis focused around a specific set of diseases. This allows the project to simplify the complexity of changes to the organizational model and to reach important results during the project life. The chosen diseases are: Stroke in Tuscany (Italy); Cognitive diseases and dementia in Västerbotten (Sweden); Diabetes in Yorkshire and Humber (United Kingdom).

RICHARD's main activities are tailored to enhance and promote the study of new or promising ICT-based care models, applied to the management of chronic conditions, and to deal with the need to respond, through ICT research, to emerging needs of healthcare in Europe.

The outcomes are:

  • Assessment of existing ICT Based Models: highlighting benefits and limitations of ICT based models implemented at regional level for the defined chronic diseases.
  • Resources Mapping: identify in each region the main stakeholders of the value chain (public, private, academic) that play a major role in research, development and related business activities in healthcare, including investment possibilities.
  • Common requirements definition: improve the definition of ICT based models for the management of chronic diseases at regional level.
  • Joint Action Plan (JAP): improve health-care territorial pathways integrating research topics and research results to create an innovative ICT based chronic care model.
  • Implementation measures: improve regional and trans-regional cooperation with the design of a shared collaboration framework based on research and innovation.
  • Mentoring: facilitate the adoption of ICT- based clinical models in each region, and facilitate the entrance of new actors in the value chain for the provision and maintenance of the service to be delivered.

Policy Context

Enhancing research cooperation for the convergence of ICT applications towards sustainable chronic care models is one of the key objectives of the project. This strategic orientation will take into account the policy framework established in the European Union and Member States on eHealth.

In particular, the following sets of policies or initiatives will be considered as part of the framework in which project activities will evolve:

  • The eHealth Action Plan, Commission Communication (SEC-2004-539) on eHealth - making healthcare better for European citizens: An action plan for a European e-Health Area.
  • The Commission Recommendation of 2July 2008 on cross-border interoperability of electronic health record systems, to enable the free flow of patients as well as eHealth products and services.
  • Conclusions on preparatory work for the pilot European Innovation Partnership "Active and Healthy Ageing" in which the European Council endorses the Commission's proposal for an Innovation Union, and in particular the launch of a European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.
  • Council of European Union conclusions "Innovative approaches for chronic diseases in public health and healthcare systems" .
  • The Lead Market Initiative7 launched by the European Commission following the EU's 2006 Broad based innovation strategy. The Lead Market Initiative for Europe will foster the emergence of lead markets of high economic and societal value. And eHealth was chosen to be one of the six markets of the LMI initiative due to its market potential in terms of growing demand and market growth opportunities, changing demographics and disease patterns, and healthcare capabilities.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

All the participating regions share the shared vision of the common needs for the development of a sustainable chronic care model, which should ideally keep or raise efficiency levels in the provision of care, extend services to a much wider range of chronic diseases and therefore contribute to lower the cost burden on healthcare systems, which in all European countries is currently attributable in a large part to chronic conditions and aging.

The work-plan has been designed in such a way that all activities and intermediate results are coherent with such vision and can contribute to the launch of a well-structured Joint Action Plan likely to bear an impact on the social, economic and regional development dimension of healthcare.

The work-plan revolves around six highly complementary work-packages, three of which corresponding to the phases of analysis, elaboration of the Joint Action Plan and measures towards its implementation and the other work-packages focus on horizontal activities (management, dissemination and assessment) and on the mentoring actions for the benefit of the region of Lodz (Poland).

Project management involves the control of time, cost and responsibility and it is essential to ensure the meeting of objectives and milestones. The task of project management runs throughout the project, and is set up to ensure that these actions are carried out effectively. RICHARD will be carried out by applying a two level management approach between the Coordinating Party: the project coordinator, which will take responsibility regarding the liaison with the partners from the administrative point of view, and the technical coordinator. 

Main results, benefits and impacts

The RICHARD project has all the elements to become a reference initiative in the improvement of European regional healthcare systems in the field of chronic care management. Impact can be expected both locally at the level of each cluster, and in a broader perspective in terms of contribution to make Europe globally more efficient in the use of ICT for health.

From a technical point of view, the project has potential to contribute to efficient, sustainable ICT based chronic care models. At the moment Europe is home to a wide range of ICT driven experiences focusing mostly on one or a set of pathologies, whereas a systemic approach to chronic conditions or diseases is often lacking. This is also the case for the regions taking part in the RICHARD project, which can reasonably be considered as the leading regions in the provision of ICT based services for specific pathologies.

If the specific objectives of the project are to spread, step up and turn ICT research into innovative services to tackle problems emerging in specific pathologies (stroke, dementia and cognitive diseases, diabetes, etc.), the sum and integration of such advances might allow the elaboration of chronic care models likely to meet the needs of European regions in terms of:

  • Quality of service;
  • Accessibility for ALL;
  • Sustainability in terms of affordability within the budget limits of regional healthcare authorities;
  • Compliance with the European policies to ensure a free and truly trans-national market of eHealth products and services.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Lessons learnt

The project is still in its first phase and it is not yet possible to describe lessons learnt at this stage. Lessons learnt will be published as soon as they will be available.

Scope: International