By Jean-Michel Malbrancq
The advances in medical technology in the last ten years are staggering. Smarter equipment is helping healthcare professionals offer better care for their patients, from 3D ultrasound scanners that help clinicians to see babies with amazing detail to telecardiology systems that relay patient information from ambulances directly to hospitals.
Today marks the start of European MedTech Week celebrating the importance of the medical technology industry to European markets.
Europe offers a dynamic operating environment for medtech companies: the market is valued at around €100 billion, about one third of the global total estimate. The sector employs more than 575,000 people, Germany more than any other country, while the number of employees per capita is highest in Switzerland and Ireland. Europe is also innovative – the European Patent Office received more than 11,000 applications from medical technology companies in 2014, more than any other sector in Europe.*
This vitality is also true for GE Healthcare: we have 14,000 employees in Europe and we dedicate one third of the company’s annual global USD 1 billion research and development to Europe.
Globally, GE Healthcare has invested US $2 billion to build our software capability by 2018 and 3,000 of our 52,000 employees around the globe are now software engineers, including teams based in Poland, France and Hungary, where the engineers play a key role in the development of Predix, a new cloud-based operating system that connects people, data and machines over the Industrial Internet.
The operating system is open for developers from within and outside GE. It offers more powerful analytics with strong potential to lead to faster, more insightful diagnoses and insights to improve both care and efficiency.
Europe’s aging population, combined with budget tightening and a shortage of healthcare professionals means that significant demand is being placed on our healthcare systems to do more with less. There is a growing need for technologies that close the existing gap and bring more value to healthcare providers and their patients.
One of the key ways to achieve this is increased software capability and digitalization that can take reams of data and narrow down predictive analytics from a population health level to an individual level.
Basically this means that we are making medical technologies more intelligent. There are already some great examples of this: Pan-European medical service provider Affidea analyzes 65,000 CT scans each month using GE Healthcare’s DoseWatch software, developed in Strasbourg, France. It allows them to monitor radiation exposure and contrast media injection dose during a CT scan. Through data analysis, hospitals can eliminate inefficiencies while optimizing and personalizing dosage requirements for each individual, avoiding over-exposure.
In Helsinki, our engineers are building wireless tools that one day will be able to stream heartbeat, blood pressure, respiration and other information into the cloud, where software could analyze it.
These are just a couple of examples of how digitalization can transform the medical technology sector in the coming years. We have the innovation capability and scale in Europe, and we need to keep building on this while fostering collaboration and open platforms that are the foundation for every great innovation in the Internet era.
Jean-Michel Malbrancq is President and CEO of GE Healthcare Europe. In this role, Jean-Michel leads a commercial team covering 20+ countries providing healthcare technology, services and solutions to major European healthcare providers.