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EUHA hospitals unite for enhanced patient care

We sat down with Johan Van Eldere, the recently appointed Secretary General of the European University Hospital Alliance (EUHA), to discuss his vision for the future of university healthcare and how EUHA can facilitate improved healthcare for all patients.
Image of Karolinska University Hospital in Solna.

How did you start your journey towards becoming the Secretary General of EUHA?

"My journey began as a medical student, and I graduated as a medical doctor at the University of Leuven in '83. Despite my initial trajectory toward surgery, the dean who oversaw the lab where I conducted student research steered me toward microbiology research at Leuven. Following my PhD, I ventured to the University of Oxford, delving into bacterial genetics research. Over the years, I ascended to head the departments of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. Serving as the medical director of the University Hospital of Leuven until 2018, I've been a part of EUHA since its inception in 2017, now honored to serve as its Secretary General since November (2023)."

What will be your primary areas of focus in the upcoming years within EUHA?

"The most important focus for me for the coming years will be to make EUHA a well-known and influential stakeholder at the EU level. From my recent and still limited experience with the EU, it has become clear that hospitals, although a crucial element in all healthcare systems, are underrepresented at the EU level."

"Industry (including pharma, but also medical technology, biotechnology, and other providers of healthcare-related material) and patients (via different kinds of patient organizations) are well represented and succeed in getting their messages heard and interests considered in the directives and regulations that come out of the EU."

"Hospitals, probably because healthcare is still a national competence, appear to focus on the regional or national level. Nevertheless, it has become apparent that the EU, in a roundabout way, is having a growing impact on healthcare via, for example, regulations such as the GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation), MDR (the Medical Device Regulation), or the IVDR (the In Vitro Diagnostics Regulation). As EUHA, our goal is not only to advocate for the interests of university hospitals but also to represent the broader concerns of the hospital and health sector."

"A second important aim will be to strengthen the collaboration between the EUHA hospitals. EUHA has chosen to be a ‘working’ alliance in which members learn from one another and collaborate to achieve a better quality of care for all patients."

"To unlock this, we will each need to invest more time and effort in different types of common projects. This, in turn, will need more financing, which we will try to obtain through different mechanisms, and more standardization of data sources and protocols. The ultimate goal would be to set up a network of 10 of the largest university hospitals in Europe that can rapidly and efficiently produce detailed information on all kinds of activities and that can as easily set up cross-border investigations of any kind."

What is the next step?

"I cannot realize these goals without the feedback and help from individuals across all our hospitals. It will be an important task for me to try and convince people of the splendid opportunities that EUHA can offer."

"While we already have individuals from our hospitals participating in EUHA initiatives, we require additional contributors who can dedicate more time to these diverse projects."

"We can point to successful EUHA initiatives, such as the H2O project led by Vienna and the Join4ATMP project coordinated by Berlin and Milan, which have secured grants to achieve their objectives and could make a substantial impact at the EU level. I hope that these examples will attract more people to start projects together with other EUHA members and realize the full potential of EUHA"

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Karolinska took over after Charité in November

Last November, Karolinska assumed presidency of EUHA after Charité - Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, which extends until June 2024. During this period, Karolinska will prioritize two of healthcare's major challenges: competence supply and efficiency. Read more about it here.

The European University Hospitals Alliance, EUHA, was founded in 2017 and currently has ten leading university hospitals as members. EUHA's mission is to drive quality and innovation in healthcare, research, and education by comparing outcomes, exchanging knowledge among staff, and collaborating in research and innovation. EUHA aims to highlight the role of university hospitals in healthcare systems and offer its expertise to policymakers and officials in the field. Additionally, EUHA seeks to collaborate with industry, patient representatives, and other stakeholders.

The ten EUHA hospitals

  • Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark
  • Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris
  • Barcelona Hospital Campus Vall d'Hebron, Barcelona
  • Charité – Universitätsmedizin, Berlin
  • Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam
  • Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm
  • King’s College Hospital, London
  • San Raffaele University & Research Hospital, Milano
  • Universitaire ziekenhuizen Leuven, Leuven
  • Vienna General Hospital-Medical University Campus, Vienna
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