“The health sector will conform to Europe, it will convert to European policy. The price of innovative medicines, research and data will take the health sector to the European level,” said the MEP Maria Manuel Leitão Marques at the meeting “(Re)use of Data in Health Research and Innovation,” organized by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP) in collaboration with the University Hospital Center of São João (UHCSJ) and CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research.
The MEP stated that “data is the hydrogen of health” and Europe will move towards the creation of a health data infrastructure at the European level (the “European Health Data Space”). She believes that one of Europe’s main challenges will be to create a regulated model while providing the researchers with enough data to compete in the research and the innovation markets with countries that have no data protection, like China; or that follow market rules, like the USA. This will require democratizing knowledge and upskilling all citizens in this area without leaving anyone behind, at the risk of creating mistrust or even rejection of technologies. For the MEP, the health data will transform the hospital of the future, where professionals will have more time to practice personalized medicine, which will, in turn, change the way medicine is taught.
At the opening session of this event, which was attended by around 350 participants, the vice-rector of the University of Porto Pedro Rodrigues welcomed the initiative of FMUP and CINTESIS as they discussed this “central” topic. The deputy director of FMUP, Francisco Cruz, classified this area as unavoidable and António Soares, from CINTESIS, considered it “a European and worldwide challenge”, recalling this Unit’s contribution to make this thematic area a priority in Portugal.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of UHCSJ, Fernando Araújo, considered that this is “a disruptive process” and “with enormous potential to solve health problems”. According to him, the UHCSJ and FMUP will be at the forefront of this “new world”, whose impact will be “massive” and will “improve patient’s quality of life” and reduce the expenses of the system.
In addition, João Fonseca, FMUP professor, CINTESIS researcher and responsible for the initiative, considered that health data has been underused and that its use in research and innovation could contribute to better decisions, better health policies and greater sustainability of the system. As for the risks in access, he is emphatic: “The issue of access to health data is similar to that of knives selling. Nobody bans the sale of knives because they can be used to kill people.”
Three major topics related to health data were addressed during the meeting. Luís Filipe Antunes from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP), Sofia Silva from the Health Regulatory Authority (ARS), and António Gameiro Marques from the National Security Office, discussed access and security under the moderation of Ricardo Cruz Correia (FMUP/CINTESIS) and the co-moderation of Carlos Martins, with focus on the importance of risk management.
Data quality and patient integration was the second topic under debate with the participation of Ana Luísa Neves (Imperial College/CINTESIS), Henrique Martins (Shared Services of the Ministry of Health), Filomena Santos (IQVIA) and Joana Feijó (HCP) and moderated by Alberto Freitas (FMUP/CINTESIS) and co-moderated by Tiago Taveira-Gomes (FMUP).
The third theme was economic sustainability. The discussion panel was integrated by Filipa Bernardo (AstraZeneca), Cláudia Ricardo (Roche), Luís Rocha (Novartis), and Ricardo Mestre (ACSS), under the moderation and co-moderation of Francisco Rocha Gonçalves (FMUP) and Pedro Pereira Rodrigues (FMUP/CINTESIS), respectively.
At the closing ceremony, Jorge Félix Cardoso and Pedro Pereira Rodrigues concluded that there are enormous opportunities and risks in the use of data and that it is necessary to include patients and health professionals in the process. The results of this work session, which includes analysis, will be examined by a workgroup created for this purpose.