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Future focus: EIT Health Ireland-UK’s Marc Butterly considers the trends, challenges and opportunities in the health technology sector

by | Oct 11, 2022

EIT Health is Europe’s largest health innovation network, made up of healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, educators, learners,
researchers, patients and clinicians. A unique European body, it offers a depth of clinical pathway expertise and over 20 accelerator programmes. “We have helped about 1,700 European start-ups (90 in Ireland) deliver new healthcare products through direct investment, co-funding, grants, direct product refinement programmes and executive training,” says Marc Butterly. “We are co-funded by the European Commission, count over 150 healthcare household names as valued partners and hold stakes in more than 40 European start-ups. My job is to find and back winners there.”

Marc Butterly, Business Creation Lead, EIT Health Ireland-UK

What has been the lasting impact of the pandemic on healthcare delivery?

Remote, monitored, regulated and reimbursed care delivery. Covid-19 changed our innovation culture for the better, it’s becoming the norm to iterate across healthcare policy and product in a more agile way. Countries such as Germany, have created a system whereby these apps and devices can be prescribed by clinicians and reimbursed by insurers (known as DiGA).

Also the ‘collaborate or get out of the way’ culture, in the interests of patients and healthcare services, remains a powerful positive factor. Collaboration is core to what we do at EIT Health and represents an opportunity for permanent lasting impact on citizens.

What are the latest digital health solutions?

Solutions that harness real world data whilst bringing care closer to home are attracting investment. Innovations that empower providers and payers to make more timely, higher value interventions, at lower marginal costs are also of interest to EIT Health – commonly known as value-based healthcare.

How can wearable tech change how we think about medicine and key health indicators?

The global wearable technology market is projected to surpass $380billion by 2028. Its growing and impactful role in patient care cannot be ignored. An opportunity exists to pivot the delivery of care and reimburse wearable providers directly for low-risk class 2a devices. Whether it’s diagnostic, therapeutic or for improving a clinical pathway monitoring environment, these providers collect evidential data, adding value to the patient journey. Individual Member States are investing millions annually in class 2a healthcare start-ups and in innovation at university level for advanced research.

However due to regulatory systems, spinouts find it easier to export their products overseas for design improvements, regulation and iterative testing. Germany’s DiGA legislation represents a potential antidote to this. A system in place to reimburse start-ups directly for providing that class 2a care or service, fostering competition in the region.

Bearing in mind only four per cent of doctors have adopted it so far for approximately 30 apps, the system still has plenty of kinks to iron out and the available performance data suffers from a small data set. But with 7,000 doctors making 20,000+ prescriptions already it keeps with an agile stay left, shift left approach. France plans to introduce something similar.

How will patients and providers need to adapt to the healthcare trends to come?

Pharma pipeline is not as fluid as before. The days of new drug launches driven by massively expensive research arms seem for now to be coming to an end. Growth areas will shift to remote patient care. Innovation in care, service, diagnostics in or around the home will continue to help alleviate pressure on healthcare service costs.

How can key challenges to health service digital transformation be overcome?

A key challenge is escalating costs. New models of reimbursement could positively disrupt this trend. Another is access to data. Therein lies an opportunity for stronger EU frameworks, fines and regulation to be introduced over the means of control to access EU citizen data. A European Health Data Space represents a promising research opportunity too.

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