University Hospitals Münster and Twente Sign MoU for Cross-Border Healthcare Collaboration

University Hospitals Münster and Twente Sign MoU for Cross-Border Healthcare Collaboration

(IN BRIEF) University Hospital Münster (UKM), Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST), and the universities of Münster and Twente have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on healthcare, education, and medical-technical progress in the German-Dutch border region. The aim is to ensure future-proof healthcare for the region’s approximately 3.4 million inhabitants in the face of challenges such as an aging population and a shortage of skilled workers. The collaboration will focus on digital e-health solutions, staff education and training, and making healthcare easily accessible through telemedicine. The MoU also highlights the importance of cross-border medical research and knowledge exchange to drive medical progress. The collaboration is seen as an opportunity to develop and implement innovative technologies that improve access to and the quality of care in the communities. The signatories emphasize the need for systemic restructuring and express their commitment to preparing the healthcare systems for future challenges through cross-border cooperation.

(PRESS RELEASE) ENSCHEDE, 8-Jul-2023 — /EuropaWire/ — The two largest hospitals in the border region, University Hospital Münster (Universitätsklinikum Münster, UKM) and Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST), joined the universities of Münster and Twente in expressing their intention to collaborate in the future by ceremoniously ratifying a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Over the next five years, they intend to learn from one another in the field of public healthcare as well as in the education and training of medical staff. In addition, they aim to jointly advance medical-technical progress. Their goal is to safeguard the future of healthcare in the border region as resources become scarcer.

By signing the MoU, the representatives of all sides made it clear today that the future of medicine in the German-Dutch border region should be shaped through collaboration. “The goal is to ensure future-proof healthcare for the approximately 3.4 million inhabitants of the EUREGIO area,” says Prof. Alex Friedrich, Chief Medical Officer at UKM. “From a medical point of view, various challenges will arise in the next twenty years due to the ageing population, for which we will have to adapt the healthcare landscape. Illnesses such as cancer, strokes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases, injuries due to old age, obesity and diabetes will increase. At the same time, the scarcity of human resources in particular is posing a problem across Europe, and the health sector is also running into a shortage of skilled workers at almost all levels.”

The shortage of skilled workers necessitates finding smart solutions through digital e-health applications, such as robotics, tissue engineering using personalised 3D cell printing and telemedicine. “We must offer joint provisions for the further education and training of our staff, bring digital medical care to all sectors and make it easily accessible to patients. In doing so, future healthcare for inhabitants of the region can be maintained at the highest level,” Friedrich continues.

Medical research knows no borders

With a view to collaboration, the Rector of the University of Münster, Prof. Johannes Wessels, emphasises that research on both sides of the border will also spur medical progress in the future. The bilateral exchange of knowledge through job shadowing and joint research projects will be fruitful, partly due to the beneficial cultural differences between the working methods of each country: “Medical research knows no borders. We are constantly learning from one another and it is important to get an all-round view. In this way, we can understand where there are overlaps, but also differences. In this respect, it is worth looking through the eyes of researchers from both countries.”

This border-spanning 360° view is very important to all signatories of the MoU. As the representatives from Twente made clear today at the historic Haus der Niederlande in Münster, both the Technical Medical Centre (TechMed Centre) of the University of Twente (UT) and Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) have an inherent interest of their own in establishing a follow-up to the five-year trial collaboration outlined in the MoU, according to Remke Burie, Managing Director of the TechMed Centre. “The growing need for care and the shrinking workforce require transformative solutions. This collaboration between the two border regions offers a unique opportunity to drive technical progress in different border regions. By leveraging our collective expertise, we aim to develop and implement innovative technologies that improve access to and the quality of care in our communities.”

Unique opportunities

Miriam Vollenbroek-Hutten, a member of the MST board, adds: “The EUREGIO offers unique opportunities thanks to the highly specialised UKM and MST hospitals, the two universities, scientific institutes, laboratories, innovative MedTech companies and other healthcare facilities. This cross-border collaboration makes it possible to unite experts from different fields and disciplines, nationalities and healthcare systems, which could accelerate innovative processes. The work towards solutions for high-quality and efficient healthcare and patient-centred care could gain tremendous momentum in the EUREGIO if considered from two perspectives.”

The Memorandum identifies opportunities for collaboration, above all with regard to the quality of healthcare, medical innovation and research, as well as in the education and training of medical professionals. In order to meet future demands, systemic restructuring is needed on both sides in the medium term. The directors of University Hospital Münster and Medisch Spectrum Twente, the largest hospitals and maximum care providers in the region, are calling for the change to be sped up. In signing the Memorandum of Understanding, the main aim is to explore opportunities to prepare the two healthcare systems for the challenges ahead through cross-border collaboration. “The COVID pandemic showed us that we need to be prepared. This pandemic won’t be the last crisis to affect our healthcare systems. The crisis caused by the shortage of skilled workers could also become an epidemic in a figurative sense, if we do not change course. We need healthy workers, who want to work for—and continue working for—us. To achieve this, we need to make working times more flexible and make the professional field as attractive as possible,” says Friedrich, with a view to the future.

The Memorandum is part of a development of growing and broadening collaboration between Münster and Twente. It has initially been set for a period of five years, after which the collaboration and opportunities for further collaboration will be evaluated.

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SOURCE: University of Twente


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