We are all patients of the future and tax payers of today. In both roles we critically depend on European health care systems to provide optimal support for disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment at an affordable cost. Technical progress in a number of areas now makes it possible to redesign our current health care system, to make it more personalised, more preventive, and more cost effective, an enormous chance not only for us as individuals but also as societies.
Here we propose a Health Care Compact for Europe, a data and computational model driven strategy that can offer European citizens new, tangible options for their quality of life: a revolutionary improvement of their health care based on a more sustainable approach.
The Heath Care Compact for Europe has the potential to be as successful as Schengen or Erasmus. It is not predominantly about more money, rather a new legislative and investment framework. Fruits are harvested from previous and on-going European Union (EU) and global research initiatives; technological possibilities are harnessed and new infrastructures created to enable the intelligent combination and exploitation of personal molecular data and health care data; EU citizens are informed, educated and engaged. The effects will be Copernican. Europe will extend and increase its scientific excellence and competitiveness, driven forward through the creation of a cost-effective, sustainable, equitable and truly personalised pan-European health care system. The benefits offered by the Health Care Compact for Europe could be felt by each European by 2025.
This new concept has become possible through the intersection of at least three major developments, which also form key objectives for the future:
(i) improved understanding of disease and drug mechanisms through basic and applied research, generating an accumulating knowledge-base,
(ii) continuing dramatic improvements in the (energy) efficiency of computing, communications and sensing, enabling Internet-of-Everything (IoE) applications and, most recently,
(iii) technological advances that are essential for the detailed molecular characterisation of every individual patient, the inherent basis of any truly personalised medicine, prevention and wellness strategy.
This wealth of information will, in particular, allow development of individual ‘guardian angel’ models, enabling the doctors treating us for serious diseases to test and optimise their individual treatment strategy on a detailed computer model of our individual biology. Just like the ‘Food Taster’ who protected kings of past times against poisons, such ‘guardian angel’ models can, with increasing sophistication, help guard against incompatibilities between the drugs we take, the foods we eat, and even the exercises we do (or don’t do).
We routinely use sophisticated computer models to guard against catastrophic mistakes in designing skyscrapers, cars or planes; it is high time we used similar techniques to reduce the risk of mistakes in medical treatment, prevention and wellness.
The idea and the related goals of this proposal find support in previous FET Flagship initiatives: ‘ITFoM: IT Future of Medicine’, led by Prof. Hans Lehrach (Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin), and ‘Guardian Angels for Smarter Life’, led by Prof. Adrian Ionescu (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). The technological roadmaps and the networks of partners generated by these two flagships create a unique opportunity for implementing a joint concept proposed here in the Health Care Compact for Europe. In this way partners from medicine, science and engineering, industry, finance, health care funders, patient organisations, regulators, administrators and the general public will join to develop a stepwise, global, coherent and integrated path towards truly personalised medicine and prevention in Europe.
Major effort is currently being placed on obtaining funding through a new, complementary FET-FLAGSHIP project - The Future of Health Care: deep data, smart sensors, virtual patients and the Internet-of-Humans - implementation of which is critical for achieving the longer-term goals of the HCCE.