Health is wealth:
the vital role of medical technology
European healthcare policy-makers’ obsession with cost-containment could be an expensive mistake. On Target Editor Chris Ross looks at how investment in medtech could provide the solution by delivering wealth through health.
Improving public health must become an economic priority, says Dr Drago Cerchiari, the Chairman of Eucomed. Without long-term investment in health, healthcare and social costs will continue to rise and the European economy will suffer.
Drawing parallels with a former EU Health Commissioner’s famous “Health is Wealth” speech in 2003, Cerchiari warns that Europe should look at “what health puts into the economy and what illness takes out”.
The money or the medtech
Cerchiari’s words come at a time when the healthcare industry finds itself under increasing pressure to contain costs. And nowhere is this focus sharper than in the medical technology environment. Yet, far from being the root of the financial problem, medtech may well be the answer to economists’ prayers.
Achieving this depends on a cultural shift in perception, thinking and understanding. The medical device and IVD (in vitro diagnostics) sectors, while different in many aspects, are complementary in their aim to improve patient care. Their leading European associations, Eucomed and EDMA respectively, have joined forces to inform and educate policymakers and stakeholders about how early awareness of the specific benefits of medical technologies can reduce the need for later medical intervention.
The medical device and IVD sectors currently have over 10,000 products available in Europe alone – and yet, according to EDMA President Jean-François de Lavison, awareness of them remains low. “When we mention healthcare products, most people think of the pills and potions they buy at the local chemist’s,” he said. “Yet when you walk into a hospital, or a doctor’s practice, medical technology is everywhere.
Much of it is very familiar: orthopaedic shoes, contact lenses, blood tests, pregnancy tests, infectious diseases tests and cardiac markers, for example.”
The fashion to ration
Despite their widespread use and value, medical devices and technologies currently suffer as a result of the increasing obsession with cutting healthcare spending. Such rationing of healthcare is leading to discrimination in patient access to innovative medical treatments. At the same time, new methods of rationing – such as the centralised procurement of medical technology – are having a negative impact on innovation.
Pressure to keep healthcare budgets under control has led to widespread reprocessing of single-use medical devices – which, Eucomed says, is dangerous and counter-productive.
“Many hospitals attempt to clean devices or outsource the job to reprocessing companies. They assume that this can save money. This assumption is incorrect,” says Dr Cerchiari. “A single-use medical device is designed to be used once then disposed of. If reused, there are potentially severe consequences for patient safety. These are: infection, injury, diagnostic errors and ineffective care. These consequences have a cost. The cost of repeat surgery. The cost of repeated diagnostic tests. The cost of hospitalacquired infection. The cost of patient incapacity, pain and suffering.” The trend towards cost-containment in health is, says EDMA, misplaced. Health should be seen as a driver of economic growth. So how can medical devices and IVDs play a part in this growth, and in the process facilitate a shift in cultural thinking away from healthcare rationing? Investment in diagnosis will, says de Lavison, provide economic benefits by reducing overall healthcare expenditures. “Finance ministers should work hand in hand with health ministries. Together they should consider the positive economic impact of investing in medical technologies.”
Taking control of health
The increasing longevity of the patient population has, of course, impacted on the costs of managing public health. However, according to EDMA, there is evidence that investing in population health brings substantial benefits to the economy. For example, researchers at Oxford University have recently estimated that cardiovascular disease costs the EU €169 billion annually, with Germany and the UK along accounting for 54% of this. Productivity losses represent 21% of costs, and informal care 17%.
“Cardiovascular disease represents an average annual healthcare cost of €230 per EU citizen. It is the leading cause of sickness and premature death, killing 2 million people every year in the EU. Healthier lifestyles, early diagnosis and better access to innovative treatments can help to reduce the burden on society of cardiovascular disease.”
Medical devices undeniably have a major role to play in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Interventional cardiology, including coronary angiography, coronary stents and the management of arrhythmia and stroke, provide excellent examples of the contribution made by medical technology to patient care. In its 2004 review of the sector, Eucomed highlights a continuous trend of innovation in the development of procedures in these areas, pointing out that advanced techniques used in minimally invasive surgery help to avoid complicated procedures and reduce the length of stay in hospital. Diabetes is another therapy area where medical technology can play a major role.
According to EDMA, diabetes accounts for between 5% and 10% of a nation’s health budget, with over 194 million people suffering from the disease worldwide. “If nothing is done to slow the epidemic, the number will exceed 333 million by 2025. Diabetes patients suffer from an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. Combined with the promotion of healthy lifestyles, the use of innovative medical technology, such as blood glucose self-tests, can considerably reduce the impact of this illness.”
Recent studies demonstrate that intensive control of glucose levels can reduce the risk of new eye disease by 76% and the risk of early kidney disease by 54%. Similarly, it can reduce the risk of nerve damage by 60% and the prospect of heart disease by 56%. “In vitro testing is the basis for better decisions in health care,” says de Lavison.
Now’s the time
Persuading purchasers to invest in medical technology remains a significant challenge for the sector. Over the coming months, On Target will highlight the benefits of such technologies and the vital roles they have to play in improving public health. Like its close sibling, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical product industry is among the most innovative sectors in the UK. Next month, we take a close look at the European market.
|Who are EDMA and Eucomed? |
|EDMA (European Diagnostic Manufacturers Association) represents the interests of the In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) industry in Europe. EDMA’s membership is composed of 21 National Associations and 14 corporate members, dedicated to the manufacturing of biological and chemical reagents, automated machines and devices that are used for the medical analyses of body fluids. EDMA’s mission is to raise awareness of the value of in vitro testing, to support an appropriate regulatory system, to work towards a realistic economic environment for health care in Europe, and to be an effective voice in globalisation. For further information, visit www.edma-ivd.be/ |
|Eucomed is the voice of the medical technology industry in Europe. Eucomed represents 4,500 designers, manufacturers and suppliers of medical technologies used in the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and amelioration of disease and disability. Eucomed members include national trade and pan-European product associations and internationally active manufacturers of all types of medical technology. The mission of Eucomed is to improve patient and clinician access to modern, innovative and reliable medical technology. For further information, visit www.eucomed.com |