The past few years have seen a seismic shift in the entire healthcare landscape. The COVID-19 crisis required a new level of “always-on” and “right now” innovation to enable care to be delivered to the front lines, to all patients, and across geographies. As COVID-19 evolves from an acute crisis to a chronic issue with unpredictable ebbs and flows, the hyper-focused approach to innovation is more important than ever. The world now knows what we can do, even when conditions are less than optimal. Our focus on helping patients by getting the best evidence, tools, and support to clinicians demonstrated the power of collaboration, imagination and dedication. Moving forward, patients and healthcare partners will accept nothing less than that level of commitment to transform the future of health forever.
I’m incredibly proud of the way our industry has pivoted to adapt to the needs of patients and HCPs through telementoring, telemedicine, virtual training, and new innovations that have enabled more precise and reliable outcomes — but there is so much more to do.
With the thirst for innovation greater now than ever before, there are some key actions that are essential to continuing to set a new standard of care:
1. Collaborate to advance science, faster
Europe is at the center of many of the world’s most novel innovations. From AI algorithms developed in Haifa, Israel allowing personalized treatment of AFib patients, to technology providing 3D imaging of organs to help pre-operative planning developed in France. Digital solutions are already helping us learn from each other, treat patients faster, create capacity, reduce length of stay, and improve the planning and efficiency of surgical procedures. Innovation is not only a company sport, but one that benefits from new ideas from academic partners, the initiatives coming out of our innovation labs from start-up entities, as well as diverse ways of thinking and executing new projects. Continuing to foster collaboration will help us to solve the most pressing issues faced by patients and healthcare providers every day.
2. Consistently engage the “med” and the “tech” in MedTech
Many businesses, including ours, are digitizing end-to-end and that is crucial. I am most excited by the medtech on sensors, miniaturization, and artificial intelligence of automatic navigation. These are the technologies that tackle tough tissues, combining software and biopharmaceuticals to deliver local effects with the goal to cure diseases like cancer.
3. Anticipate the opportunities – and challenges – of innovation
As the next decade sees more healthcare transformation than the entire past century, policies in both the EU and the US are advancing to support the changing environment. With these advances come challenges particularly around data and how to fuel innovation while protecting patients. Privacy, safety, interoperability, and security are all issues that are evolving as rapidly as the innovations themselves.
We need to address these issues and meet the public’s demand for transparency, tackle health inequities, protect the planet, and maintain the pace of innovation to create a future where medical intervention is smarter, less invasive, and more personalized.
No technological evolution is without its challenges and our major hurdle is data fragmentation. New EU policy initiatives such as the recently released Electronic Health Data Space legislation (European Health Data Space (europa.eu) only go so far in addressing the issues around data governance. There remains an urgent need for multi-stakeholder, bottom-up partnerships to address data issues to enable digitalization of surgery.
4. Support a healthier planet in the interest of healthier people
Just as technological advances lead to societal challenges, the interdependence between human health and the health of the planet is becoming increasingly fraught by the effects of climate change. We have an opportunity to continually improve the environmental footprint of our operations, our products, and our value chain—from what we source from suppliers to the products we manufacture and deliver.
The industry must collaborate, nurture start-ups in this space, and work with other industries to find solutions to address shared and systemic issues. There are lessons to be learned from Europe where companies are trailblazing strategies to address climate change, moving from quarterly metrics to long-term impact goals. The medtech industry must identify those issues against which we can have measurable impact and act quickly to activate against those goals.
As the world continues to expect and demand more from medical intervention, we must continue to set the pace in developing new standards of care for all patients. This means support a policy and regulatory framework conducive to innovation, increasing collaboration, adopting new technologies, and investing in meaningful and measurable sustainability initiatives. I’m confident that with these intentions, we can deliver better outcomes for patients and inspire the next generation to join us on the journey to reimagine the future of health.