Everything we know about healthcare will be totally different in twenty years. But while breath-taking new technologies become available, I believe our most important task is to integrate them in a way that always benefits patients.
Emerging medical technologies are fantastic tools with which we can completely reimagine the continuum of care. We can redesign how, when and where healthcare is delivered to improve the quality of our lives and the sustainability of healthcare systems.
Artificial intelligence is the most powerful breakthrough I see in healthcare. Digital health will revolutionize prevention, diagnosis, care and long-term monitoring, profoundly transforming outcomes for patients. While there may be some reluctance to ‘trust’ machines today for both security and ethical issues which must be addressed, I may imagine a day when it would be unethical not to consult AI before making clinical decisions.
There are other fields where we can see awe-inspiring progress. In nanomedicine, biomaterials, photonics and robotics, innovation is becoming a reality for patients. These technologies can combine to deliver unprecedented solutions: nanoparticles to treat cancer without using drugs, artificial pancreas to make life with diabetes simpler, exoskeletons controlled by the brain of patients with disabilities, retinal implants to treat age-related blindness, etc.
Today’s health systems are mainly responsive. We are still focusing on acute, short-term responses to chronic conditions. This is inefficient.
I see three ways in which technologies can transform the continuum of care for the good of patients. First, a modern health system should seek to avoid the acute phase of care through smarter prevention and earlier diagnosis. Basically, it is all about not becoming a patient, through wellness care.
Second, we must optimize the management of the acute phase when it occurs. Patients who require hospitalisation should benefit from personalized approaches and a faster return to their normal life back at home.
Third, technologies can enable accelerated and better recovery. Robotics is, for instance, a great tool for rehabilitation. The combination of sensor technology, remote monitoring, education and digital tools can reduce relapse by detecting early warning signs.
People recovering from stroke, for example, are at elevated risk of a second attack in the weeks after their first episode. They are faced with the very stressful prospect of a life-threatening stroke but with no way of knowing if and when it will occur. Technologies and big data can arm them and their medical doctor with the information they need through wearable smart medical devices, in order to take action if needed or, better still, focus on their recovery if their risk is low.
Can Europe be the place to invent this future of medicine? The big challenge we see ahead is finding ways to bring these very diverse technologies together into an innovation-friendly ecosystem. If we get this right, we can deliver a paradigm shift that will directly benefits patients, create thousands of jobs and make our healthcare systems sustainable.
The healthcare sector is currently expanding to include medtech, biotech, pharma, IT and big data, along with a much more diverse ecosystem of academics, start-ups, industry, healthcare providers and policy makers. Within the NOBEL Project, we are helping all these stakeholders to work together towards a common goal: make the healthtech revolution happen in Europe!
To do this, we follow three missions: building a community regrouping all emerging medical technologies, shaping together a common vision along the continuum of care, providing tailored support to the best European innovators to accelerate their development.
To me, Europe has unique assets in this global competition: excellent academic research, a fantastic network of innovators and SMEs, world-class clinical expertise. But maybe more importantly, we share a unique set of values to invent the ethics and social acceptance of the digital health of the future: with the patients’ interest at its centre.
This is not about pushing technology for technology’s sake. Our common goal must remain to improve citizen’s lives, in smarter ways.