News items Six million euros for research on maintaining regular healthcare during new pandemics

29 November 2023

In a new 6-million-euro project funded by the Horizon Europe programme, a consortium of researchers from seven countries will develop new ways to make healthcare more flexible and resilient during pandemics and other health emergencies.

'During the COVID-19 pandemic, a great deal of  regular healthcare across Europe was adjusted, postponed, or even stopped,’ says Aura Timen, Professor of Primary Care at Radboud university medical center in Nijmegen and coordinator of the new RAPIDE project. ‘The entire spectrum of care was disrupted, from elective surgeries to chronic conditions, cancer care, and mental health. Many people also chose to avoid necessary regular care and, for example, did not visit their general practitioner or hospital, despite having health problems.'

Patient flows

Disrupting or interrupting regular care during a pandemic or other health emergency can have long-term consequences for patients and healthcare systems. Learning from our experiences during COVID-19, and building on research into healthcare optimisation and forecasting, the new project will create and experiment with more flexible and adaptable ways to deliver healthcare. Greater use of community and at-home care can help to make acute hospital resources available to deal with crises; they can also help to improve healthcare efficiency during ‘peace-time’. 

Part of this research involves restructuring patient flows during health crises. Timen explains, 'We are exploring whether we can relocate care. Can patients stay at home more often? And if so, what is needed for this? This relocation could involve tools closer to the patient, such as more online appointments or apps that provide training programs and directly report progress to the hospital or attending (primary care) physician.

Living labs

The research results, in the form of practical, flexible models of care delivery during health crises, will be tested in real-world settings known as living labs. Scenarios and care models will be explored and assessed in collaboration with healthcare providers and patients, across hospitals and primary care, in four different European countries. Additionally, the study will explore how we can adapt such flexible care models to the healthcare systems of other European countries.

The four-year project is named RAPIDE, which stands for Regular and Unplanned Care Adaptive Dashboard for Cross-border Emergencies. In the Netherlands, the partners include Radboud University, RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), the University of Twente, and HAN University of Applied Sciences. International partners include institutions, companies, and organizations from Slovenia, Norway, Ireland, Italy, Malta, and Estonia, as well as the European Forum for Primary Care.

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