Wellbeing Summer Schools are accelerating Europe’s digital health transformation

Interview with Johan Kortas, EIT Digital's Action Line Leader Digital Wellbeing

This Summer, the EIT Digital Academy is conducting two Summer Schools about Digital Wellbeing. The first one is recently held in Lisbon. The second one has started last sunday in Eindhoven. What are these schools about and why is it necessary to innovate in Digital Wellbeing? We explore these and other topics with Johan Kortas, EIT Digital's Digital Wellbeing  Action Line Leader. 

Kortas sees a lot of interesting wellbeing applications coming on to the market. He also sees a lot of them fail. "For successful scaling up of new wellbeing applications, it becomes more and more important that health systems, reimbursement policies and data privacy policies becomes more uniform and recognised within Europe. One of the current weaknesses in the market for Wellbeing innovations is the low adoption rate in Europe of certain digital wellbeing products or services. This is mainly due to high pricing, poor usability, privacy issues or low compliance."

What will drive adoption of wellbeing innovations in Europe?

"As you might know, ageing, working and living longer while maintaining one's quality of life is a challenge and requires different approaches. This also depends on the culture, the health system and the wealth and prosperity one encounters in each specific country. Healthcare in Europe is very fragmented, so unifying initiatives within the European Union would be very helpful. Despite the EU's aim to get wealth and prosperity more equally spread, it is still difficult to accomplish a healthy life for all European people. The digital transformation of wellbeing can help."

What would be your strategic approach for developing and introducing Wellbeing innovations?

"The Digital Wellbeing Action Line of EIT Digital focuses on innovations for the prevention of diseases and personal accidents, and on stimulating people to adopt healthier lifestyles. Occupational health and prevention are important for workers. The earlier you can avoid health problems in working life the better. Digitalisation is a means in this strategy. With digitalisation, we can for example work on fall detection, lifestyle coaching and improve health in the work environment. Prindit, for example, an EIT Digital innovation activity, has developed an online cloud based tool to improve wellbeing and productivity of workers.

The core of these approaches is to make digital health solutions acceptable, so people will adopt them. That means that the digital health solutions should be usable, enjoyable, affordable and secure in terms of data privacy. It's very important that stakeholders in the healthcare system cooperate in developing,and trialling solutions, and align on sustainable business models that allow for large-scale, pan-European deployment."

How do you think the industry of the Wellbeing Action line will look like in the coming years?

"Maintaining quality of life during people's different life cycle phases demands digital wellbeing innovations. If people are getting older, their risks of developing chronic diseases increases. People are more active at a higher age than ever before, hence the risks of health related accidents. There is an increase in mental health issues amongst teenagers and workers. My vision is that these challenges offer enormous opportunities for stakeholders in the wellbeing industry. It also means new entrants will come to the market with disruptive health solutions like data science companies with prediction services, and we can imagine considering e-commerce companies with a virtual hospital service which could drastically reduce the number of hospital interventions. E-health and M-health-products and services, connected health solutions, remote health monitoring and do it yourself and self-automated therapies will be used on a pan-European scale, with lower costs in comparison of what exists today."

How do the EIT Digital Academy Digital Wellbeing Summer Schools contribute to this vision?

"The two weeks of Digital Wellbeing Summer School are much more than just school during summer time. The summer school's themes are linked to our Digital Wellbeing Action Line, namely Healthy Lifestyle and Occupational Fitness; and Independent Living and Long-term Care.


Our primary mission is that we teach students how to bring new innovations successful to the market and make  digital transformation succeed. At EIT Digital we see a key role for digital solutions now and in the future, in the prevention of diseases and personal accidents as well as for helping people to change lifestyles. Europe needs talented workers in this field in the years to come.  Students can bring new light to the field and may propose out of the box solutions and even may want to build their career in this area."

What is for you, the added value of the Wellbeing Summer Schools?

"The added value for the students is that they will get the opportunity to dive into actual health and wellbeing cases. They will be able think out of the box, learn a lot about innovation and entrepreneurship in a short timeframe, meet European entrepreneurs and network and finally, have a lot of fun as part of a multi-cultural team that acts like a start-up. They will also get to experience another European city. There is no other education programme that provides this combination! For EIT Digita,l it is part of our objectives to get talented students into contact with our partners and related SME's, and provide them with a good foundation from which to contribute to Europe's digital transformation. It's also  a nice way of communicating our ERB/I&E message to the outside world."

Who can attend these Summer School?

"What I like about our summer schools is that they are not only a key component of the EIT Digital Master School students' innovation and entrepreneurship programme, but they are also open to external participants. We have technical students coming from many different countries and they immerse themselves in actual health and wellbeing related problems, business cases and pitch as a team in front of a jury."

What can the Summer Schools provide to professionals?

"For professionals coming from established companies, working with international students in a high-pressure environment may generate an everlasting out-of-the-box result. Working with students for two weeks often brings them a new light on their daily work challenges and ultimately, these experiences will benefit their company to successfully introduce innovative wellbeing solutions into the European market."

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