One of the strongest trends I have observed in healthcare over the past decade has been the growth of patient power. Patients are actively shaping their care like never before. In response, health systems and companies are increasingly focused on the outcomes and experiences that matter to patients.
The voice of patients is also becoming more important to the development of medical technologies – a trend accelerated by the rapid uptake of digital tools. By listening to patients, companies can ensure that their products deliver value to patients by improving their quality of life.
The case for collaboration is strong: the medtech industry and patient organisations share the aim of improving the awareness, prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment of disease. So, why is closer engagement not yet the norm?
As someone with a close eye on compliance, I am acutely aware that companies and patient organisations are keen to collaborate in an ethical and transparent way. It is vital that no collaboration is ever commercially motivated, or perceived as such, where support is provided.
I also realise this may be new territory for some, and that even seasoned patient engagement professionals can benefit from clarity when building new partnerships. That’s why MedTech Europe has developed new Guidance on the interactions between the medtech industry and patient organisations.
The guide supports medical technology companies in working with patient organisations in a way that reflects the MedTech Europe Ethical Principles of transparency, independence, integrity & trust, and equivalence.
The nature and goal of any collaboration should be clear and open. This means entering written agreements detailing the objectives, supports (financial or in-kind) and any potential conflicts of interest, and being transparent about funding on campaign materials and websites.
The independence of patient organisations is in the interest of all parties. Ensuring that this principle is respected in decision-making and in external communications is fundamental to the long-term credibility of patient advocates.
Integrity & trust
To me, communications is another important aspect of partnerships between medtech companies and patient organisations. It should be neutral in tone, clear, accurate, balance and fair. It should reflect the reality of the trust-based partnership upon which the collaboration is founded. It is also vital the initiative – for example, a disease awareness or prevention campaign – has a clear patient benefit. The goal should not be to encourage the use of company products as this undermines the integrity of the campaign and all participating partners.
Finally, the level of support for a project – be it a campaign or a grant to help build capacity in a patient organisation – should be in line with fair market value.
I hope the new guidance will help to underpin effective mutual collaborations founded on the highest standards of respect, independence, transparency and integrity. In this way, we can ensure that patients have a strong voice in the improvement of patient outcomes and the development of more sustainable medical technologies.