As the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) 2016 begins in Vienna, Austria, here are some of the biggest trends, challenges and opportunities shaping the future of European healthcare.
As People Live Longer, How can Healthcare Systems Cope?
Europe’s increase in chronic disease incidence is an unwelcome result of the continent’s ageing population. At a time of budget tightening and faced with a shortage of healthcare professionals (HCPs), significant demand is being placed on European healthcare systems. All of this has led to fears that current healthcare models simply will not cope.
“Healthcare spending in Europe is stable at around 10% of GDP on average, but this varies widely” explained Sophie Perceval, from Market Insights at GE Healthcare. “In Western European countries, healthcare spending is about 10% of the GDP, whereas in Eastern Europe it’s between 4 and 7.5%. Across the board, though budgets are tight and healthcare providers are striving to achieve more with less, but without sacrificing quality of care.”
At European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna this week, healthcare technology companies will be demonstrating how their equipment and services can help meet this challenge. Patient throughput is one key target area.
“Take an MRI scanner” said Sophie. “If it can scan one additional patient every hour, then the hospital will be able to cater for more patients and reduce waiting time to get an MR exam. With the rapid advances in technology capabilities, imaging departments are increasingly able to not only scan more patients more quickly, but also to deliver quality diagnosis. This helps puts patients on the most effective treatment pathway, earlier.”
An example demonstrated at this year’s ECR is GE Healthcare’s ViosWorks*, a cardiac MR acquisition and post-processing solution that allows users to assess cardiac morphology and function, and flow of the heart and great vessels in less than 10 minutes, considerably reducing the cardiac exam duration while providing additional information.
It will also become increasingly important to improve care pathways by increasing knowledge transfer and collaboration between different specialties at hospitals and to understand individual medical outcomes. This is central to Sweden’s state-of-the-art Karolinska Hospital: a prime example of what the future of healthcare in Europe could look like.
At ECR, Gustave Roussy Institute, Paris will be discussing its program “One Stop Clinic” that has been developed for faster breast cancer diagnosis and treatment planning. Their model proves that when combining the right people, process and technology, you can contribute to excellent clinical, operational and financial outcomes with increased value.
“Effective use of digital technology is perhaps the most exciting area of development for European healthcare” said Jean-Michel Malbrancq, President & CEO, GE Healthcare Europe. “Better communication and connectivity within and between hospitals is already afoot and using digital tools to deliver care more cost-effectively presents a massive opportunity to relieve Europe’s strained healthcare systems.”
Aside from improved connectivity, the effective use of big data is set to be a major game-changer and GE Healthcare has invested US $2 billion to build its software capability by 2018, with 3,000 of its 50,000 global employees now software engineers.
“The latest radiological equipment can now draw on its own experience to help provide insights that will ultimately positively impact healthcare outcomes whether they are clinical, operational or financial. We have technology, for example, that uses big data to predict when a machine will need maintenance before it is actually required. This means hospitals can avoid machine downtime and prevent cancelled patient appointments.” explained Malbrancq.
New Ways to Pay
The way hospitals procure their equipment is changing. “The model before was: I buy the equipment, I take all the risk,” said Sophie. “This traditional approach was built upon the dual assumptions that users have both access to capital and the technical expertise to use the technology in question, but with highly advanced technology these assumptions do not always prove correct”.
“Now, we are moving towards a model where the risk is shared between the vendor and the hospital, so called ‘Managed Services’[i]. There are two reasons behind these longer-term partnerships: firstly, to ensure hospitals continued investment in technologies and solutions that make substantive improvements in patient care and drive health care systems efficiencies; and secondly to support hospitals provide access to care in the near-term without incurring detrimental levels of debt.
The drive towards ‘value-based outcomes’ will have a stronger role in procurement when the EU’s Public Procurement Directive agreed in 2014 replaces the 2004 Directive, and will need to be implemented by all Member States by April 2016. “In this regard the new EU public procurement directive should be applauded for providing the framework to stimulate the shift away from procurement decisions based purely on ‘best price’ to a more value-based procurement that fosters decisions based on an assessment of the ‘best price-quality ratio’ – which consider an holistic set of quality and patient care criteria, such as defined within a Managed Service contract,” said Graeme Holland, Director, Healthcare Policy, Europe.
“Embedded within that Directive is the notion that public procurement can contribute to improving health outcomes by encouraging innovation. In reality, this is a shift we require since many companies today only experience price-based tenders that in the longer-term may not offer the best value.”
Stay tuned to The Pulse@ECR, where we will be bringing you the biggest news, the latest views and live video coverage of this year’s conference.
[i] A Managed Service is a long-term partnership between one or more healthcare facilities and one or more technology providers, which at a minimum guarantees the sustainable availability of advanced healthcare technology and equipment, but that can additionally bring analytical and procedural evaluations capable of driving operational efficiencies and improving clinical and health care outcomes.
*ViosWorks not yet commercially available for sale.