Michael Strübin

Michael Strübin joined MedTech Europe in September 2018 to help develop the industry’s voice in the digital health field and to represent MedTech Europe’s members vis-à-vis digital health policymakers and stakeholders.

Michael came to us from the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHAlliance), an international association of health and technology companies, governments and research organisations to advance personal connected health, where he led European policy and advocacy activities and managed the involvement in EU-funded projects. Before PCHAlliance, he ran the European operations of the Continua Health Alliance, and contributed to other associations in the eHealth field.

Michael’s educational background is in political sciences and humanities, which he studied in Germany and the United States. He spent the first years of his career in the fields of international social development and philanthropy, working in Washington, Warsaw, Berlin and Baltimore. Since 2003 he has been based in Brussels where he lives with his family.

Digital health has the potential to make healthcare better for patients and for healthcare professionals, as well as to accelerate the shift towards more efficient and cost-effective ways of delivering care. It promises to make healthcare better, safer, and more centred on the patient. Yet, despite this great potential, the people I speak to – including policymakers, experts, payers, patients, healthcare professionals and of course our member companies – have a shared sense that progress is too slow. There is a growing frustration that, in some instances, we have technologies that can solve pressing problems, but we are not putting them to use. So, what’s holding us back? One of the answers I hear most often is the lack of interoperability – the capacity of information systems, devices or applications from different vendors to connect and send or receive data. In a recent MedTech Europe member survey on digital, our members identified the lack of 'common standards for interoperability and connectivity' the single most important issue to address. Interoperability in practice would mean that digital health technologies could ‘talk to’ one another; they would securely share data in ways that optimise the health of patients and populations, and make care more efficient. They would, for example, enable patients with chronic conditions to send their data to their general practitioner (GP), rather than having to go to the doctor’s office; or hospitals and GPs to access the same health record to coordinate care for a given patient; or health systems to aggregate data from different sources to derive insights and enable research. Sadly, often technologies and systems cannot connect and share data. For example, hospital staff might not be able to access information held by their patient’s GP. Two hospitals cannot exchange medical records because they run on different IT systems...
I’ve always believed that you get what you pay for, and digital health is no exception. Despite the promises of digital transformation to make healthcare services better, safer and more efficient, analogue healthcare services – visits to the doctor/hospital, therapies and drugs – have proved remarkably resilient. The reason seems to me quite obvious: analogue services are paid and reimbursed by European publicly-funded healthcare systems. Digital services such as mHealth apps, personal health management, remote monitoring, diagnostic algorithms etc. are often not. That is the premise of the paper “ Proposed Guiding Principles for Reimbursement of Digital Health Products and Solutions ” that the European Commission’s eHealth Stakeholder Group (eHSG) just released. The eHSG was set up in 2015 as a Commission expert group contributing to the development and implementation of eHealth policy at the EU level, and to provide input on the Commission’s eHealth-related activities. The paper was developed by a small band of stakeholders including industry, providers, healthcare professionals and pharmacists in a series of workshops and cooperative exchanges over the better part of two years, before it was reviewed and validated by the full eHSG in 2018/19. Although I personally joined the effort only after September when I became part of MedTech Europe’s team, I’m pleased to say that my colleagues and members at MedTech Europe have contributed quite substantially to this important work. The paper contains recommendations seeking to give guidance to healthcare authorities about principles and criteria to consider when making funding decisions about digital health. They call for specific criteria, funding, guidelines for evidence generation, and specific instruments for assessing digital health. I detect a growing awareness that digital health reimbursement is a major issue holding back deployment. Sebastian Gaiser, chair of the MedTech Europe Digital Health Committee, observes: “European funding and reimbursement systems...