Driving innovation in European healthcare

  • Posted on 16.09.2011

Driving innovation in European healthcare


John Wilkinson

Former Chief Executive of Eucomed

Driving innovation in European healthcare

My pulse is already racing at the prospect of this year’s MedTech Forum. The sequence of events following the 2008-2009 banking crisis has played out rather predictably with a broader economic crisis emerging in 2010 and only this year has the full force of public sector impacts been seen as the spending or money printing spree used to avoid deep recession has shifted to efforts to rebalance economies and pay back the debts that were created by ten years of fiscal laxity.

For all involved in healthcare these are very challenging times and the MedTech Forum puts itself at the centre of the issues that we face. The overarching theme of innovation is no coincidence. As an extremely innovative industry medical technology would always wish to promote both its achievements and potential but now the more thoughtful commentators on the scene are also realising that innovation is the only way to square the circle of rising demand for healthcare and relatively less money and people to satisfy the demand.

Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, John Dalli, has repeatedly endorsed the need for innovation and his championing of the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing has been a feature of its development. He has done this along with his fellow Commissioners in DG Research and DG Information Society.  We are honoured to have Commissioner Dalli deliver a keynote which will address both the challenges and the responses that the EU are initiating.

EU Vice-President and Commissioner Neelie Kroes is unfortunately unable to join us but has agreed to provide a video address on her views around the emerging potential of eHealth during an important debate on this subject which brings a wide range of expert perspectives together.

Robert Madelin, Director General of DG Information Society will appraise us on progress with the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing during a session which includes a global perspective from Professor John Bridges of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The meeting is also very important for Eucomed and our members as we respond to a new Economist Report on “Future Proofing Western Europe’s Healthcare” by releasing our plans for the Association in response to the environmental changes that we are all challenged with. The innovation theme is central to our view of the best way that our industry can support the needs of member states and the various ways that governments respond to innovative technologies is highlighted in a new report by PWC and covered in a session by the principal author, Chris Wasden.

Clearly, having very effective but not overly burdensome regulation is central to creating the right conditions for clinicians, managers and industry to innovate. With patient safety a given as top priority, it is essential  that for the rapid innovation that must take place in reconfiguring our health systems to occur, the regulatory system is designed and managed to stimulate such change. Isolating regulation from the goals of the system can only lead to bureaucratic disconnections and barriers to safe implementation of change. That is why the discussions on future regulatory challenges that go well beyond the Recast are essential and I particularly look forward to the debate ‘Getting Regulation and Innovation Right’. This includes Professor Sir Kent Woods, Head of the UK competent authority the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, and Jacqueline Minor, Director with responsibility for medical technology at DG SANCO (Health and Consumer Policy) in a very high-profile panel.

Much more is included in the programme including a top class CEO Panel discussion, a disease management perspective on sustaining healthcare systems, and specialist sessions on environment and procurement in the context of innovation.

I am excited by this programme, so have a look and see if you can get one of the fast dwindling remaining seats. Be part of shaping the future for the sake of all of us.

John Wilkinson, Chief Executive, Eucomed

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