As Europe prepares for a new, inclusive public-private partnership in healthcare, the case for patient engagement is stronger than ever.
As far back as 2012, the European Patients’ Forum (EPF) and MedTech Europe sat down to think about how we could work together more closely. We came up with the Patient-Medtech Dialogue – a forum for regular interaction on topics of mutual interest.
Now, more than seven years later, the need to collaborate even more closely has grown. At the most recent Patient-Medtech Dialogue workshop in Brussels, we looked at where we are today and how current trends will shape our future collaboration.
The conclusion was clear: we are embarking on a new era in multi-stakeholder partnership. An ongoing collaboration among healthcare actors that demands deeper mutual understanding.
In concrete terms, patients would benefit to know more about the lifecycle of medical technologies and how products are regulated and financed by health systems. Medical technology companies would benefit to better understand the value patients can bring in setting research priorities and developing products.
Patients want and should have a role in the innovative process and in conversations about regulation and access. If we are to have a truly patient-centred health system, this is obvious.
Take research and innovation as an example: While patients have been playing an increasingly proactive role in medicines development – notably through a number of Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) projects – this knowledge and experience will not automatically transfer to medical devices.
The European Commission and healthcare stakeholders are in the process of devising a successor to the IMI – the largest healthcare public-private partnership in the world for health research and innovation. The new public-private partnership will definitely take a much broader view of healthcare -and will seek input from patients and patient representatives.
As the focus shifts beyond medicines alone, medical technologies, digital health, and systems innovation will become increasingly important in this new partnership. We are convinced that there is an opportunity to move patients to the centre of discussions in this new era.
Solving shared problems
The workshop highlighted a number of other challenges that we must solve together. The lifecycle and regulatory environments of medicines and medical technologies are very different. Medtech development cycles are shorter – typically 18-24 months – and products are continually improved based on user feedback (from patients and/or clinicians).
In this context companies sometimes struggle to identify and engage with patients in developing and improving products. The number of patients available to spend time working on this remains very small. Building capacity must be a shared priority. Here, the European Patients’ Academy (EUPATI), could have a valuable role to play.
A call from patients is also to consider how to reward for the time they may spend working with companies without compromising their independence. Patients don’t want to be the only experts in the room who are not compensated, but they also don’t want to become industry consultants.
There are existing and emerging models that may help overcome some of these hurdles. For example, the Community Advisory Boards (CABs) which emerged from the HIV field more than 25 years ago were mentioned by experienced patient advocates. These offer an unbiased space for stakeholders to come together, including regulators, academia, industry and patients.
There is still work to be done to co-design a system that best serves the needs of all stakeholders. One thing is for sure: the more we talk, the more we learn and understand and can improve together!