In Europe today our healthcare systems face a lot of challenges. Our population is getting older as life expectancy increases – potentially meaning a lot more elderly and infirm people who have to be cared for. In Europe we’re rightly proud of our healthcare systems: but if we’re going to keep them going we’ll have to do things differently.
Yesterday I had the pleasure to receive a report on just what we need to do: “Redesigning health in Europe for 2020“. President Ilves of Estonia and his task force have ably set out the opportunities for healthcare in a digital age – like how to put patients in control of their personal data; like the need to get all our systems connected and talking to each other; how to revolutionise health through transparency and accountability; and how to include everyone in this revolution, including those without Internet access. I’m grateful to them all for their hard work.
I’m convinced there’s lots of technological solutions that could help us here. Already ideas like telecare are proving their worth. But we have to open our minds to innovation in healthcare.
And if we’re looking for innovative ideas and new ways of thinking – then I’m convinced we can find the solution in Europe’s smaller and medium-sized companies. Smaller companies are great at thinking differently to challenge received wisdom; great at coming up with new ideas and innovations; and great at dynamically responding to new challenges. I should know – I’ve been involved with them since I was a kid.
And yesterday I was reminded of just how much innovation and impact those smaller companies can make, when I awarded the best ideas for active and healthy ageing. This competition, organised by TICBioMed and the European Commission, was a good opportunity to recognise the contribution of smaller companies – and give their wonderful work the spotlight it deserves, for the general public but also potential customers, partners and investors.
And the winners really did have some inspiring ideas – for every link in the healthcare chain. From making personal healthcare appealing by connecting up medical devices to your smartphone – to helping ward staff coordinate and communicate – to providing integrated solutions for critical care, cutting treatment costs by up to 30%.
I hope this award will become an annual event – moving beyond active and healthy ageing and into other areas of e-Health. Because the potential for innovation is huge – and we need to recognise and reward it.