Europe must support the efforts of people with a special medical condition to rejoin an active, independent life. Millions of Europeans are suffering in silence. Helping them would increase both the cost-effectiveness of European health care systems, and boost European competitiveness. That was concluded at a conference in the EU Parliament today.
Debilitating pain and fear of exclusion because of regular therapeutic needs keep millions of Europeans of all ages from fully developing their potential. Action is necessary to support the re-integration efforts of people with a special medical condition who see their mobility and independence reduced. From support groups to medical innovations, there is a lot that Europeans can do to help these men women and children to live productive and happy lives, without losing sight of public health costs and pressures.
"Health is wealth"
The demographic developments with an increasing ageing population in the EU will affect society in numerous ways. By 2030, the number of "older workers" will have risen by 24 million and the EU will have 34.7 million citizens aged over 80. The upcoming trends in the health care sector such as cost savings, competitiveness, public funding, private health insurances and staff shortages need to be addressed.
Medical technology holds the solution to many of these challenges. When giving priority to high-quality health care, governments invest in a healthy and resourceful population. This is an investment, which in the longer term will help reduce overall social expenditures. This was highlighted by Mr. Laurent Selles, Deputy Head of the European Commission's Cosmetics and Medical Devices Unit, who stated that investment in health provides a good return from the users.
Innovation holds the solution to Europe's success
Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for enterprise and industry, has repeatedly stated that the medical device sector is an area in which society and citizens directly benefit from innovation and technological progress.
According to Mandy Leighton, President of the European Pain Network, not only can innovation in medicine and medical devices contribute to making healthcare systems more efficient; it contributes to better health and well-being which, in turn, brings wealth and productivity, employment, exports and improved European attractiveness in an increasingly competitive and global market. She added that user-driven innovations are simpler, cheaper and have a high success rate. "Often, merely improving an existing solution can be revolutionary to patients' lives".
Mr Sten Scheibye, President and CEO of Coloplast, stated that innovation was probably the most important driver for growth for Coloplast and its industry as a whole. "It is essential that the regulatory framework and reimbursement schemes encourage and value innovation and make new innovative products easily accessible to patients. Without patient's access to innovative products, there would be no incentives for the European medtech industry to drive innovation. One cannot exist without the other, and governments need to prioritise high-quality health care, which includes patient access to innovative medical devices", continued Mr Scheibye.
How to slow down the brain drain to the US and Asia
Various studies have proven that the European medical devices industry is lagging behind the US and Japan in terms of research. Janez Potocnik, Commissioner for Science and Research, aims to boost research in Europe in the hope that this will contribute to the EU's overall competitiveness. More financial resources should be allocated to health care in order to pursue the growth potential that the medical devices industry holds.
Marc Suhrcke, Economist at WHO, elaborated at the conference on how innovation, and R&D could be good for the economy. He also highlighted the fact that the US invests more resources than the EU in R&D, and he called for a joint look at what could lead to a good R&D investment strategy.
European medical devices sector has much to offer Europe
The medical devices industry should play a major role in bringing Europe closer to the Lisbon objectives, and can be instrumental in creating economic growth and competitiveness. The medical devices industry holds a large potential for growth and is at the forefront when it comes to utilising innovation in building global competitiveness.
Innovative products will continue to help prevent diseases, shorten hospital stays and save lives. When giving priority to high-quality health care, governments invest in a healthy and resourceful population. In the longer term, this is an investment that will help reduce overall social expenditures.
Billions of patients worldwide depend on medical technology at home, at doctors' surgeries, in hospital and in nursing homes. Medical technology represents less than 7% of total healthcare expenditure in Europe. The user training and technical support it provides are often indispensable. Feedback from doctors, nurses and patients enables the medical devices industry to constantly perfect the technology.
The European medical technology industry invests an average of more than 6% of sales in R&D and employs close to 400.000 highly skilled workers. Small and medium-sized companies make up more than 80% of this sector.