The green hills of the Basque Country, and the home of the Guggenheim museum - the cozy city of Bilbao, formed the background of the latest ITHACA expert visit on the 21st and 22nd of March.

The visit to Bilbao constituted the fourth of nine so-called EEPE’s (Exchange of Experience and Peer Evaluation Event), during which experts from the nine different regions and from different parts of the healthcare sector, be that research, enterprise, hospitals, etc., visit each other. The experts evaluate the healthcare system, with a particular focus on healthcare innovation to promote active and healthy ageing.

Here are six points from the latest peer evaluation session in the Basque Country:

  • The Basques are good at creating collaboration between enterprises and researchers and brining innovation into the hospitals. However, they might be missing a bit of focus on social innovation. The visiting experts would have liked to know, how the informal caregivers are organized and mobilized. The Basque may be more innovative in this area than for instance the Nordic counties, but this story was not told.
  • The visitors saw a lot of great examples of innovation, but almost no scale-up examples. The only example was the impressive unified system to share healthcare data. (video from Bilbao on big data handling in the making).
  • The Basques are good at creating partnerships – as mentioned earlier between enterprise and researchers – but are the partnerships effective? Even if you create many new projects and new enterprises emerge, do they last? Moreover, what do the end users feel about the result of the innovation?
  • In the Basque region, there is many great innovative projects going on, but the process of change management is not clear. What is the good story, what are you doing for the citizen, the visitors asked.
  • From what they saw, the visitors felt there is disproportionate focus on hospitals and treatment, compared to the much lesser focus on prevention.
  • The visitors also noted that research is more industry-driven than user-driven? Why not start with the users? What do they feel are missing, and what would they like their healthcare system to be like?

The next EEPE will be in the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany in July.