Luxembourg, with the support of the new European Service Innovation Centre (ESIC), will develop new services related to health care in order to enhance patients’ quality of life, boost the economic impact of health-related services and stabilise the costs of the public health care system. Following a successful application by Luxinnovation, the National Agency for the Innovation and Research, the European Commission has selected Luxembourg as one of six pilot regions designated to demonstrate the power of service innovation at European level.
"Innovation is often associated with the development of new or better products, but this is far from the whole truth," says Jean-Paul Schuler, Managing Director of Luxinnovation. "Innovation is also very frequently done in services. These new services are essential for improving our daily lives and creating new jobs." The examples of service innovation that have changed the way we live are numerous: cash points, internet shopping and electronic bus tickets, to mention but a few.
As a result of Luxinnovation’s expression of interest, Luxembourg, together with Northern Ireland (UK), Limburg (the Netherlands), Upper Austria (Austria), the Canary Islands (Spain) and Emilia-Romagna (Italy), receives support from the new European Service Innovation Centre (ESIC) established by the European Commission. The aim of the ESIC is to help European countries and regions understand how service innovation can contribute to transforming their economies and lead to sustainable growth. The experiences of the six pilot regions will thus be used all over Europe to highlight the benefits of service innovation.
Improving services in the health care sector
Luxinnovation has orientated Luxembourg’s participation in this initiative towards service innovation in the health care sector. "We need intelligent health care and prevention services that will allow people to stay healthy longer and improve the everyday life of those who are ill," says Mr Schuler. "These efforts will contribute to improving the efficiency of the public health care system while maintaining its high quality level and stabilising its overall expenses."
This initiative also aims to encourage private companies to develop new services that are beneficial both to patients and to society at large. The intention is to start by testing new services on a small scale. If they are successful, they will be extended nationally and internationally across Europe.
European expert support
The ESIC’s role in this initiative is to provide Luxinnovation and its partners with advice on how to design and implement pilot actions for developing new relevant services. The Centre helps determine the interest for private companies and the potential for pilot actions to be extended on a larger scale if they prove to be successful. The ESIC experts have also conducted a study of Luxembourg’s policies, rules and regulations to identify barriers and possible improvements to facilitate implementation efforts for service innovation in health care.
The conclusions of the ESIC study were presented at the "ESIC Peer Review in Luxembourg" which was held on 6-7 February. At this occasion, Luxinnovation presented the outline and progress of the Luxembourg initiative to the participants who included, among others, representatives of the Ministry of the Economy, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research as well as the public research centres, IBBL and the ZithaGesondheetsZentrum. Representatives of several European regions highlighted through case studies how service innovation can be promoted and presented interesting lessons learned from which Luxembourg could benefit.
Pilot project: better life for diabetes patients
"Due to our unique position as a neutral actor with key expertise in the field of innovation support, Luxinnovation has been able to involve a wide variety of actors – relevant ministries, public research centres, as well as private companies – in this drive to enhance service innovation," Mr Schuler says. "In order to concretely start the development of innovative health care services, we are now preparing a pilot project focusing on the prevention of diabetes in collaboration with the Institute for Health Promotion of the ZithaKlinik."
"Chronic diseases such as diabetes are becoming increasingly frequent," explains Dr Marc Keipes, director of the ZithaGesondheetsZentrum. "Diabetes is expected to be a major public health concern in the future, in particular since diabetes type II occurs earlier in people’s lives and the life expectancy of diabetes patients is prolonged. The disease also causes high costs to the public health systems due to prolonged expensive treatments in the first place and the high risk for major complications, such as blindness, renal insufficiency or the amputation of limbs."
The pilot project entitled "ACTIVATE: My Lifestyle, My Health" is based on the assumption that more personalised health care, adapted to the needs of each person, will be more effective than standardised treatment, in particular to prevent or treat early stages of life-style related chronic diseases such as diabetes. The pilot project will therefore collect data on voluntary persons with risk factors for diabetes or recently diagnosed patients regarding their treatments, state of health and life style – diet and sport activities, for example, which are factors that are well known to have an important impact on the health of diabetes patients.
Analysis of the data collected will provide information about what kind of changes in the life style are most beneficial for the patients to improve their quality of life. This will also permit health care authorities to determine the best way to manage chronic diseases. In addition, the conclusions will highlight new opportunities for the development of innovative services by private service providers. If the programme proves to be effective, it will be extended to other chronic diseases as well as to healthy people and disseminated to other parts of Europe.
"We now invite all current and potential new partners to join the pilot action and provide the necessary resources for its implementation," Mr Schuler concludes.