Global

Global

Views on the role of MedTech in solving global or regional health issues.

Most Europeans born today will live into their eighties but behind that impressive statistic lie inequalities and ill-health. It’s time we focused on adding life to years instead of years to life. In 1990, life expectancy at birth was 74.1 years in Europe. Today, it’s 80.9. This is a remarkable achievement, by any measure. However, adding to our quantity of life is no guarantee of quality of life. Yes, the chances of surviving cancer, heart attack and stroke are higher than ever, thanks to improved healthcare. The prospects of surviving without disability are less rosy. Startling statistic Here is one of the most shocking statistics I’ve read in a long time: men and women spend 79% and 74% of their lives, respectively, in good health. Or, to put it another way, men live more than a fifth of their lives in bad health while women live more than a quarter of their lives in an unhealthy state. This explains why policymakers are shifting focus to healthy life years . The EU is trying to add two healthy life years – or ‘disability-free life expectancy’ – to our lives by 2020. After all, adding two more years to life is not worth much if they are two extra years of misery. Today in Europe, 50 million people over the age of 65 live with two or more chronic conditions, according to figures published by the EU/OECD . This comes at a profound human cost as well as an estimated economic loss of €115 billion. Another challenge that lies behind the impressive life expectancy figures is inequality. Let’s take gender first: the typical European women lives to around 83 while her male counterpart is lucky if he celebrates his 78 th birthday. Even bigger disparities emerge if we compare Europe’s best-performing health...
As ‘thinking season’ kicks off, the focus is on how technology and big data can deliver better value healthcare to more people than ever before. January is a time for reflection, planning and predicting what lies ahead. It’s the season for assessing the mega-trends that will shape our future and working out how we will respond. Perhaps the most prestigious venue for future-gazing is Davos where world leaders from politics and business gather on 17-20 January for the World Economic Forum . Here, global influencers will look at how prevailing economic, social and political forces present challenges and opportunities for all of us. Last year, the key phrase from Davos was the ‘ 4 th Industrial Revolution’ . The WEF set the tone for thousands of conversations on the topic last year, including at the MedTech Forum in Brussels last December. This year – with the convergence of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological systems still very much in view – the theme will be Responsive and Responsible Leadership . But what can healthcare leaders expect from 2017? When it comes to healthcare , the WEF frames the conversation with some key demographic statistics: - By 2050, the world’s population will have risen to 9.7 billion - 2 billion people will be over the age of 60 To continue to meet the (growing) demands of healthcare consumers without blowing up healthcare budgets, new ways of delivery services will be required. Smarter, more efficient, technologies and systems will be essential. This brings us to the concept at the heart of many new-year health policy forecasts: value . Value-based healthcare has been something of a buzzword since it was coined by Harvard’s Michael Porter . Most of us have an intuitive sense of value. In healthcare, Porter...
Never before has there been a more compelling time and a more urgent need to disrupt and transform the way we delivery healthcare to the people of our planet. I am the son of a wonderfully devoted Australian country GP who later became the country surgeon in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. A father of 8, Dad was seemingly forever on-call and, with the exception of his faithful stethoscope, his scary scalpel and his trusty truck, he had absolutely zero technological assistance. No pager, no mobile phones, no EHR, no teleradiology. He was a truly old school practitioner and a mighty man, dedicated to his calling and adored by his patients. As a young lad, accompanying Dad in his old truck on long journeys late at night on those windy roads between each of the country hospitals (trying so hard to stay awake and keep my promise to Mum to make sure Dad did not fall asleep at the wheel), I knew there had to be a better, faster, safer, more effective and more efficient way of delivering healthcare. When my time came, and I followed proudly in Dad's brave footprints, I quietly committed to change the way the traditional hospital based and doctor dependent healthcare service was delivered. I got my chance years later when I set about exploring the possibility of building a simple tele-radiology system over the old 3K copper telephone system to link small isolated communities distributed over an enormous geographical area. This was not an idea borne without experience, as I had found myself performing obstetric ultrasound scans from the back of a truck in remote parts of Western Australia, in oppressive heat, shortly after completing my degree and qualifying as a radiologist. Working with pregnant mums to be in an aboriginal community,...
For the first time in history, a major industrial change is taking place in parallel with a global push towards a shared vision of the future. The 4th industrial revolution can be harnessed to address global development goals How can Europe make the most of the technology changes that are afoot? I would share some of the views of Professor Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum: these are, potentially, the best and worst of times. We have lots of technology but we are not having the conversations with the public about how innovations might affect our lives. There is not enough attention to the potential risks nor to the many positives that technologies can bring. Past industrial revolutions spurred growth but had environmental and other downsides. How can this revolution be better managed? One of the reasons we are lucky to be embarking on this work now is that we know what we want the 4 th industrial revolution to be for . Last year, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed. The SDGs ask every country in the world to play their part to reduce poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This is an unprecedented global consensus for what we want our future to look like. The first thing to do when someone says they have a new industrial or technological revolution for you is to ask them to explain how it will help the SDGs. Does this require a new way for countries and companies to think about their own priorities? Yes, responsible research is a requirement now and we’re seeing it from top companies like Dow, which has mapped their innovative activities against the SDGs. Not everyone is at the same level but growing numbers of corporate actors are producing very clear maps...
Information and communications technologies are playing an increasingly important role in healthcare delivery, while robots promise to revolutionise surgery and homecare. We speak to Daniel Susskind, author of The Future of the Professions, about what it means for health professionals and patients. How will technology impact healthcare workers? Daniel Susskind : We see two futures unfolding. The first is a future which many in the medical profession will find reassuring: it’s a more efficient version of what we have today. In this scenario, technologies help to streamline and optimise healthcare. This is already under way – doctors are using Skype to speak with patients and bringing online material into surgeries. Building on this will not radically change how people in healthcare work. The second future is one where technology – computers, robots and so on – actively displace the traditional roles of health professionals. For example, by diagnosing cancer, delivering treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, and using robots to replace or complement the work of carers. Which is more likely? Daniel Susskind : For now, we can see that both are happening but in the long run, the second future will dominate. Will robots replace doctors and nurses? Daniel Susskind : In the medium term, this is not a story of unemployment but of redeployment. We talk a lot about jobs – doctors and nurses – but that’s thinking about it at too high a level. It encourages us to think of what they do as indivisible lumps of work. Actually they perform lots of tasks and activities which change over time. Anecdotally, nurses’ tasks are very different today when compared with a generation ago. If you go back 25 years, it was more likely to be about bedpans and bedside conversation. Today, nurses can prescribe some medicines and perform...
Childhood obesity is increasing, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. In high–income countries, while prevalence may be plateauing, it remains high; and we are seeing an increase among children living in disadvantage. In January 2016, a report by the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity called for prevention efforts to target early life, specifically three critical periods: preconception and pregnancy, infancy and early childhood and older childhood and adolescence. An early-life focus is important because the health and social impact of excess weight and obesity in childhood persists into later stages of life, negatively affecting health, educational attainment and general life quality. Current high rates of childhood obesity are the product of a perfect early-life storm. Understanding the combination of factors that put children living in disadvantage at risk of obesity provide a clear focus for public health action. A perfect storm More children are now growing up in societies that facilitate weight gain and obesity by creating environments where a healthy choice is not the cheapest or the easiest option. Our recent review identified a range of factors likely to influence a child’s increased weight gain. These include maternal factors, prior to and during pregnancy. Diet, smoking, being overweight or obese when becoming pregnant, gaining excess weight during pregnancy and developing gestational diabetes can all increase the risk of the child being overweight. A father being overweight or obese at conception is also a risk for the child’s future weight. In the early months and years of a child’s life, many factors pose a risk to becoming overweight. These include the child not being breastfed or being breastfed for too short a time. A child’s risk of obesity is also strongly affected by the diet they learn to enjoy from the start of life, so early food...