European healthcare is sick. Faced with ageing populations, as birthrates stay low and people live longer and longer, public healthcare budgets across the EU are under increasing pressure. If trends continue, it seems inevitable that public healthcare systems will be on the path to collapse.
Speaking at the 2016 European Health Parliament, Vivek Muthu, chairman of healthcare at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said that the current approach is simply unsustainable: “We do not have a healthcare system in Europe, but a disease-care system”.
Could new technology be the solution? Does the future of healthcare include remote diagnosis and treatment, and healthcare apps to track patient data and assist with disease management? Should Member States work with the European Union to promote greater research and innovation in the healthcare sector?
The truth, of course, is that there is no ‘magic bullet’ solution. A technology-led approach would come with its own challenges; issues of data privacy, exclusion of less tech-savvy parts of the population (such as the elderly), and the possible reduction of face-to-face contact with healthcare professionals. Nevertheless, any solution to the pressures facing European healthcare will have to rely on innovation.
We had a comment sent in from Shaun, who sees huge opportunities in “new communications technologies – so much potential for more reassurance, better decisions, better coordination across providers, more efficient resource allocations and lower costs”.
The EU is currently spending nearly €80 billion on research funding as part of its Horizon 2020 programme. How can the EU get the most bang for its buck when it comes to health? In other words: how can that money be best directed to help improve healthcare systems in Europe?
To get a response, we spoke to Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation, and the man responsible for making sure that Horizon 2020 contributes to jobs, growth and investment across Europe. We asked him if EU research funding was doing enough to promote the sort of healthcare opportunities that Shaun mentioned in his comment.
As Shaun says, significant advances have already been made in new communications technologies in recent years. Sometimes the best solution might involve application of existing technology, rather than creating entirely new bespoke tech for the healthcare sector. So, should tech companies and medical companies cooperate more to apply existing technologies to healthcare?
How can technology be used to improve healthcare in Europe? How can the EU promote breakthroughs in health technology? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!