An innovation mindset can transform the delivery of healthcare


Sustainable Livelihoods

Picture of Jean-Luc Lemercier
Jean-Luc Lemercier

Corporate Vice-President of EMEA, Canada, Latin America, Japan and Asia Pacific at Edwards Lifesciences

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be long behind us and business practices have returned to those employed until early 2020. However, while it is natural to want to turn the page on this period, we must not miss the opportunity to heed the lessons learned and make much-needed changes to our healthcare systems. With EU funding now available, we can rewire health systems so that they are able to cope with the undoubted challenges ahead of us.

The pandemic was a wake-up call, demonstrating that the pressures on our healthcare systems are hugely impacting hospitals and their workforce. Today, across Europe, cancelled appointments, postponed surgeries and growing waiting times continue to be a challenge, as reported by the 2022 Ipsos Global Health Service Monitor.

This is not just a snowball effect of the pandemic’s aftermath. It is also due to structural shortages in the healthcare workforce, exacerbated by COVID-19. Doctors, nurses and even entire hospitals continue to face unprecedented challenges. Forty percent of medical doctors are close to retirement age, while 80% of nurses reported some form of psychological distress due to the pandemic, according to the 2022 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) on health and care workforce gaps in the European region.

The same WHO report warned that without immediate action, these workforce gaps in Europe could spell disaster. The WHO argues that we need to rethink healthcare workforce planning and make room for innovation to prepare for an ever-growing ageing population and rising chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.

Digital innovations can reduce the burden on hospitals by supporting healthcare workers

A business-as-usual approach is not only undesirable but also unrealistic both from a financial and a human resource perspective. Now is the time for all stakeholders to discuss, collaborate and agree on the best way to renew our healthcare systems so that they both become more efficient and better meet the growing needs of patients at a time of healthcare workforce scarcity.

To achieve this, we need to reconcile the overriding ambition of achieving better population health, with the concrete adoption of innovative solutions that have the potential to improve the quality of life of patients and the sustainability of healthcare delivery.

Businesses in structural heart disease and critical care monitoring solutions can lead the way. For example, Edwards Lifesciences invests 18% of its revenue in research and development (R&D) annually. This investment is designed to develop therapies that transform the health of patients and allow them to return rapidly to their normal lives. We know that these people will subsequently make an important contribution to their families, communities and the economy. Furthermore, by helping patients recover rapidly and fully, their length of stay in the hospital is reduced, thereby relieving the strain on healthcare systems.

Equally, digital innovations can reduce the burden on hospitals by supporting healthcare workers to advance their efficiency and reduce their workload. However, for such innovation to reach the hospital setting and patients, we need to be able to broaden access to it. That requires a change in the way we measure both investments in innovation and effectiveness in healthcare.

Public and private sectors should partner to strategically invest in improving detection, early access to innovative treatment and outcomes for our populations

For this, we need to realise three elements: policies at the EU level and in countries that recognise the role of capacity-enhancing innovation to reduce the burden on hospitals and their workforce; encouragement to adopt such innovation; and new regulatory pathways that accelerate the availability of these technologies.

As the EU institutions enter the last year of their current mandate, this is not a time to return to the status quo and waste policy, regulatory and funding efforts on short-term fixes. Instead, public and private sectors should partner to strategically invest in improving detection, early access to innovative treatment and outcomes for our populations.

By adopting an innovation mindset and making the right investments in a differentiated delivery of care, Europe can strengthen its strategic attractiveness for innovators and improve the health and quality of the lives of people.

This article is a contribution from a member or partner organisation of Friends of Europe. The views expressed in this #CriticalThinking article reflect those of the author(s) and not of Friends of Europe.

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