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Home » EU Health, Health

Innovative E-Health Technologies and Services Can and Must Be “Part of the Solution” for Europe

Submitted by on 07 Oct 2011 – 13:10

Herb RibandHerb Riband, Vice President External Affairs International, Medtronic, Chair, Eucomed Public Affairs Network

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

European healthcare systems are facing critical challenges today.  These challenges include intense pressure on national and local budgets, ageing populations, a growing burden of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and increasing shortages of healthcare professionals and workers.

Using existing models of healthcare delivery, Europe today 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 national healthcare budgets are spent on medical devices, 10-15% on pharmaceuticals and the remaining 80-85% of budgets are spent on operating costs — staff, facilities and administration.

If we try to overcome Europe’s challenges with the “same old” health and healthcare delivery models, our spending will have to increase exponentially in the coming decades.  Clearly this is not sustainable.  All stakeholders, including industry, bear a responsibility to find solutions.

Innovative eHealth technologies and services can and must be “part of the solution” for Europe as we work to achieve the EU 2020 Strategy

Innovative eHealth technologies and services create 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 get the right intervention at the right time so they can manage their conditions better and live active, healthy, independent lives.  Below are three examples.

One example is the remote monitoring of patients with cardiac devices like pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and insertable loop recorders.  Medtronic’s CRDM CareLink® system, which allows “real time” monitoring of patients via the internet and secure servers, is used by over 50.000 patients in 1.000 European clinics.  There is a growing body of solid “real world” evidence to support the value proposition of this system for patients, clinicians and healthcare systems.  These data demonstrate that this system:

  • Reduces patients’ in-office visits by 38%, so more patients can remain at home or work more often, and clinicians can spend more time with those patients who need it most;
  • 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%.

A second example, also currently available in Europe, is the Medtronic CareLink® Diabetes Therapy Management Software.  This software powers a user-friendly, internet-enabled interface between patients, clinicians and medical technologies (insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor and blood glucose meter).  It provides the following benefits:

  • More effective communications between empowered patients and clinicians;
  • Enhanced opportunities for clinicians to optimize patients’ therapy for better outcomes;
  • Improved in-clinic efficiencies due to remote data transmissions; and
  • Proven lower patient A1C levels based on the use of this particular software.

Finally, Medtronic is looking ahead and collaborating with other stakeholders to develop a new eHealth-enabled paradigm in diabetes management.  The METABO project (www.metabo-eu.org), co-funded by the European Commission and a consortium of partners including Medtronic Ibérica, has been able to:

  • Provide new technology solutions to support patients and the healthcare professionals who care for them; and
  • Support the development of new patient monitoring devices and platforms to support patients, their interactions with clinicians, and their integration with health information systems and services, in order to achieve more efficient and effective diabetes care.

What needs to happen for Europe to achieve the benefits of eHealth?

Innovative eHealth technologies 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 Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.  However, it is essential that we address the following points:

First, 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. In times of budgetary crisis we need to change our focus from simply “cutting costs” to re-allocating spending to invest in and adopt innovative solutions that will deliver health and quality-of-life gains for patients, and higher quality and productivity for healthcare systems.

Second, we need to acknowledge that systemic funding, reimbursement, behavioural and other barriers prevent European patients from getting access to eHealth technologies and services that exist today.  Stakeholders in Europe must collaborate to break down the barriers and drive the uptake of technologies and services that add value to patients, clinicians and healthcare systems.

Finally, Europe needs to create and maintain the conditions that will incentivize and reward innovation — from concept through to adoption and diffusion — via an appropriate regulatory framework, HTA & reimbursement systems, and procurement & purchasing practices.