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A new vision for innovation and medical technology in Europe

Submitted by on 03 May 2011 – 14:10

Herb Riband, Vice President External Affairs International — Medtronic International

Innovative medical technology and services can be a positive ”catalyst for change” that will help drive new approaches and solutions for Europe as we work to achieve the Europe 2020 Strategy and in particular the European Commission’s Active and Healthy Ageing Innovation Partnership Initiative.  However, in order to achieve this vision we need to acknowledge and address the following points:

  • Our current healthcare delivery model in Europe does not generate sufficient value from what we spend, and will not enable us to overcome the challenges we face.
  • We need to change our focus from just ”cutting costs,” to re-allocating spending to invest in innovative solutions that will deliver health and quality-of-life gains for patients, and higher quality and productivity for healthcare systems.

Our current healthcare delivery model is not providing sufficient value for European patients, healthcare systems and society

Europe is facing some critical challenges today, including: increasing pressure on national and local healthcare budgets, ageing populations and a growing shortage of healthcare workers.

Today, using existing models of healthcare delivery, Europe spends about 8% of GDP on healthcare.  According to a global study carried out by the L.E.K. Consultancy firm, between 2-5% of healthcare budgets are spent on medical devices, 10-15% is spent on pharmaceuticals and the remaining 80-85% of national healthcare budgets are spent on operating costs — staff, facilities and administration.

If we try to meet the growing demands of our ageing European populations with the “same old” healthcare delivery models, our spending will have to increase massively in the coming decades.  Clearly this is not sustainable.  All stakeholders, including industry, bear a responsibility to find solutions.

Innovation and medical technology can be “part of the solution” for Europe as we work to achieve the Europe 2020 Strategy and, in particular, the Active and Healthy Ageing Innovation Partnership Initiative

Innovation and medical technology can contribute products, services and processes that get more and better outputs from the 80-85% of healthcare budgets that are spent on operating costs.

How?  By driving improvements in the quality and productivity of our healthcare systems, and empowering patients to manage their health better and live active, healthy, independent lives.

One example is the remote monitoring of patients with cardiac devices like pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and insertable loop recorders.  Medtronic’s “Carelink” system is used by 600.000 patients in over 30 countries.  There is a growing body of solid “real world” evidence to support the value proposition of this system for healthcare systems, professionals and patients.  The data show that this system:

  • reduces patients’ in-office visits by 38%;
  • anticipates clinically-actionable health events and reduces time from the event to a clinical decision by 79%.
  • reduces average length of hospital stay due to cardiovascular causes by 18%; and
  • reduces costs by 40%.

This is just one example – and there are many others in the areas of Community Care, Orthopaedics, Ophthalmology, etc. – of how innovation and medical technology can be a “catalyst for change” in our healthcare systems by enabling all stakeholders to get more value from what we spend.

At the same time, the medical technology industry provides high-quality jobs in Europe (half a million employees) and contributes to the EU economy through significant R&D investments (8% of sales), training of healthcare professionals and workers, and exports.  And it’s worth noting that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 80% of the companies in our sector.

Europe needs to support and leverage this unique industrial asset, rather than sitting back and waiting for innovation to happen elsewhere.  We in Europe should not have to hope that other economies, such as China and India, solve the challenges facing European citizens and European health care systems.  These will NOT be sufficient to provide the outcomes we are seeking for Europe.

Key take-away points

Our current healthcare delivery model does not generate sufficient value from what we spend, and will not enable us to overcome the challenges we face unless we change.

We need to change our focus from just ”cutting costs” to re-allocating spending to invest in innovative solutions that will deliver health and quality-of-life gains for patients, and higher quality and productivity for healthcare systems.

Innovative medical technology and services can be a positive ”catalyst for change.”  How can we make this happen?

First, we need to articulate a comprehensive vision that recognizes the value of innovation and medical technology in Europe, building on the outcome of last year’s European Commission-led “Exploratory Process on the future of the medical devices sector.”

Second, we need to create and maintain the necessary conditions to incentivize and reward innovation from concept through to adoption and use, via an appropriate regulatory framework, HTA & reimbursement systems, and procurement and purchasing practices.

Finally, stakeholders in Europe need to come together to work together collaboratively to achieve this vision, for the benefit of European patients, health system stakeholders and society.