World Heart Day is approaching and it deserves to be highlighted that as patient advocates in the heart valve disease sector, our relationship with the medtech industry is as important as our partnership with the medical profession and the healthcare system. We base this relationship upon the ethos of innovation, information and independence.
I see innovation as key to patient outcomes and quality of life and I believe that it comes from that all-important collaboration between industry and physicians. We are very fortunate that advances in treating heart valve disease with groundbreaking transcatheter procedures have completely transformed the landscape for patients.
A decade ago, most patients either received no treatment or they endured an open-heart surgical operation. Granted, open-heart surgery has been a very successful procedure for nearly 60 years. However, it is very invasive, and recovery can be long and hard; especially for the elderly population.
Now many people can have their valves replaced or repaired while awake staying in hospital for a matter of days and returning very quickly to a good quality of life.
The first step to treatment is disease detection where we are also experiencing promising developments. New types of digital stethoscope are not only making detection much more reliable, but they offer the promise of allowing detection in the community with practice nurses and pharmacists.
Even before detection, it is important that future patients, their families and carers are aware of the disease and their potential options. I see, even amongst the oldest patients, a growing thirst to be informed.
They are more likely than ever to be connected online, searching for information and joining communities to talk with others about their condition. The medtech industry needs to embrace this by being as open as possible about their clinical studies and their data. We deserve and need to know the pros and cons of the different treatment options, so that patients can make informed treatment decisions in collaboration with their physicians.
The support of industry is important for us and our patients, but in some quarters, it can be misconstrued as being done for commercial gain. The truth is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, partnerships between patient groups and industry are based on our shared aim that the right patients get the right treatment at the right time.
We need to demonstrate this day-in, day-out by being transparent in our dealings and by ensuring that our independence at patient groups is respected and maintained at all times.
Our patient group, Heart Valve Voice, is part of a wider umbrella group for cardiovascular diseases called the Global Heart Hub. We have developed guidelines for interaction which set out the key principles that underpin respectful relationships with physicians, healthcare providers and industry. This transparent and principled approach allows a two-way flow of information while maintaining each party’s independence.
This is beneficial for all as we want to protect the path for innovations which have and will continue to transform the lives of people suffering from heart valve disease.
World Heart Day is celebrated every year on 29th of September.