Future of health: Time for Europe to connect the dots

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[MedTech Europe]

Innovation can deliver patient-centric, digitally advanced, resilient and sustainable healthcare ‒ a new video series shows what’s possible if the EU seizes this opportunity for transformation 

Leon Davis was jogging when suddenly, he felt a pain in his chest. He arrived at a hospital, anxious, desperate for help and for answers. It was an enormous relief when clinicians discovered what was wrong and proposed a solution. And with the help of a wearable monitor, the doctors were able to access valuable data around the clock, offering Leon priceless reassurance. 

Leon shares his experience in the second edition of Connecting The Dots produced by BBC StoryWorks. The video series, commissioned by MedTech Europe, brings us into the real lives of patients and health professionals in Europe and beyond.  

If you have ever wondered what truly modern healthcare looks like in the real world, then look no further. You will see how a tailored combination of diagnostics, monitoring systems and surgical tools got Leon back on his feet.  

A pivotal moment  

Leon was a fit and healthy person going about his busy life when, quite out of the blue, he was abruptly reminded of his own mortality. He could be any of us, any time.  

But Leon’s story is also the story of Dr Sadia Khan, a consultant cardiologist. She makes it abundantly clear that innovative tools not only improve outcomes for patients, but also enhance the experience of healthcare professionals. In a world where it is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain skilled people to meet our rising care needs, supporting health professionals in delivering efficient care is essential.   

This is a pivotal moment for the EU. After delivering landmark reforms that are changing the healthcare and innovation landscape, European decision-makers can now embrace the power of technology to transform health systems for the better. At the same time, the new political cycle can strengthen European competitiveness and create jobs.  

Concrete solutions for Europe  

Anyone asking policymakers for change has a responsibility to put forward solutions. That’s where the MedTech Europe Manifesto for 2024-2029 comes in. Entitled Empowering Patients, Inspiring Innovation, it sets out a four-part vision for European healthcare and offers concrete proposals on how to make it happen.  

First, the future must be patient-centric. Watching the Connecting The Dots series, you will be struck by how patients describe their experience of being heard when clinicians and technologies meet their real-world needs. Whether that is through more convenient self-testing for cervical cancer or non-invasive ultrasound treatment of tremors, the patient is number one. 

Whether by accelerating recovery time, facilitating hospital visits, or even improving night’s sleep, technology can help. 

To support the next wave of innovations and ensure patient access to technologies, Europe must make its current CE marking scheme more efficient and predictable. By embracing better regulation principles, we can have a streamlined system with less overlap and fewer discrepancies between legislations.  

A digital future 

Second, one cannot browse these videos without seeing the power of digital health and health data. Remote monitoring is facilitate older people like Sara to live safely and happily at home, smartphone apps support people with diabetes, and real-world data makes research more representative of the population. We live in a connected world and healthcare must be at the cutting edge of the digital transformation.  

To make this happen swiftly and for all, the EU and Member States must foster interoperability for digital health services and modernise their funding mechanisms for digital health procurement. And, with AI-enabled tools on the horizon, the EU needs to be a leader in regulating a fast-moving field while unlocking this technology for patients. In short, we need a true single market for digital health to bring innovation back to Europe.  

Resilient and sustainable  

As we look to the future, we should ensure that our health systems have the resilience needed to meet future challenges. Those challenges will include demographic shifts, rising rates of chronic disease, healthcare workforce shortages, and whatever surprises the future may have in store.  

From telemedicine to robotic surgery, medical technologies can reduce the physical demands on health professionals and boost their job satisfaction.  

And in the face of the looming threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the latest technologies can help to prevent, detect, and manage the spread of infections today, without using antibiotics. As Professor Karen Ousey, University of Huddersfield explains, this can support responsible use of vital medicines without compromising patient care. Patients like Lucy, a mum of three, who had a wound infection after a Caesarean section.  

These tools must be deployed without delay. At the same time, Europe’s capacity to manufacture these products needs to be protected by increasing the EU’s autonomy in accessing supplies of critical materials and components. The medical technology sector itself is a component of a resilient health system. We call for effective measures to shield healthcare against international trade distortions that put our industry at risk. 

Finally, there should be no discussion of the future without considering sustainability. We see transformational potential in the Green and Digital agendas, and overlaps between digitally-enabled efficiencies and greener healthcare.  

Collaboration and partnership across the system can improve the social, ecological and economic performance of healthcare. Dialogue will allow manufacturers to navigate the transition to sustainable ways of working without interrupting access to vital technologies.  

There is much to look forward to as we face the future together. As the Connecting the Dots series illustrates, people in Europe, from babies in neonatal care to people in their tenth decade, can live healthier lives supported by innovative technologies. The task ahead is to ensure Europe is the place where innovation happens and is delivered to those who need it.  

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