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26th May 2023

New European project develops novel planning tool to help healthcare providers better adapt existing care in the event of unforeseen crisis events

The new EU and UKRI funded DYNAMO project will develop a digital planning tool for the flexible adaptation of patient care in situations where health systems are threatened by pandemics, natural disasters, or other crises. The European Commission launches the project in its Horizon Europe research and development programme as a response to experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the UK, the initiative brings together public procurers from Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece who not only see the need for such a novel health planning tool but are also ready to act now. With financial support from the EU and UKRI, they will tender the development of the new tool in a multi-stage procurement process.

The COVID 19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable existing healthcare systems can be to systemic shocks. During the pandemic, healthcare providers faced enormous pressure to maintain existing health services. Health authorities were struggling to rapidly plan adequate response measures. All in all, it became clear that threats to health systems from pandemics, natural disasters or other crisisevents can have a profound impact not only on the health of the population, but also on economic progress and social cohesion. Health systems in Europe must be enabled to react faster and better to such situations in the future. Against this background, the European Commission is promoting the development of innovative digital solutions that can help European health systems better respond to unforeseen shock events and structural crises.

DYNAMO is a three-year project financially supported by the EU and UKRIwith five million euros through a specific funding instrument, the so called Precommercial Public Procurement. In a multi-stage process, public procurers from four EU Member States will jointly tender the development of a planning tool that helps healthcare providers to adapt existing service delivery processes better and more quickly to emerging crisis situations. In doing so, the public procurement bodies will be supported by selected partners, including Hywel Dda University Health Board in Wales, UK. “It is very important to develop such a tool and make it available in the market”, says project manager Lutz Kubitschke from empirica in Bonn, Germany. “This will help maintain population health, economic wealth, and social cohesion at times of health system disruption. Our ambition is to generate a health care planning tool that can be widely used all over Europe.”

What is the DYNAMO solution to be used for in particular?

The DYNAMO partners strive for a digital health pathway planning solution unifying three core elements that cannot be found in one single application on the current market. To begin with, the DYNAMO solution is expected to enable the planning of alternative health service pathways involving different healthcare providers. Where appropriate, services from other public sectors such as social care may also need to be involved in the pathway planning process to effectively deal with crisis situations that threaten usual health care. The resulting service pathways may extend across different care settings such as home care and hospital care. In addition to cross-sectoral service pathway planning, the Dynamo solution is also to enable assessing important impacts of alternative service pathways already during the planning process. In a crisis, for example, this should help in deciding between alternative pathway options or in reallocating resources to reduce possible negative consequences for patients when usual healthcare is at risk. As a third core element, the DYNAMO solution is to support task-based staff planning and skills matching that is appropriate for health system threats. Unpredictable crisis events often require a short-term redistribution of tasks within the health workforce. Modelling alternative crisis pathways based on task assignments rather than job titles should be more flexible and allow for the shifting of tasks. In the event of a crisis, professionals from the health sector and possibly also from other service sectors can thus more easily replace each other for certain tasks, at least for a certain period of time.

What benefits are to be derived from the DYAMO solution?

Providing high quality health care tends to be a complex process which is difficult to manage even under routine conditions. This often involves health and care staff from different professions and institutions who need to work together smoothly. Multi-disciplinary care pathways are one instrument to develop and communicate collaborative health and care service delivery processes. They bundle interdependent tasks and activities in the sense of a “patient journey” through the health and care system, either for individuals or for patient groups. DYNAMO will provide a digital solution that allows alternative care pathways to be easily modelled and assessed during the planning process in terms of their respective impact on service delivery and associated outcomes. This way, DYNAMO will help health planners and service providers to improve the speed and quality of their responses to pandemics, natural disasters, or other crises. By delivering a flexible planning tool effectively supporting the modelling of “crisis pathways” across different health care settings, the novel DYNAMO solution will effectively support current health systems in becoming more resilient.