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Medical benefits being delayed by slow uptake of new medical technologies

Publication date: Nov 7, 2008 1:19:07 PM

Potential benefits of new medical technologies – including personalised medicine, at-home diagnostics and consultations, Europe- wide bio-banks and patient registries – are being delayed by slow uptake in many European national healthcare systems. That was the key finding of a conference hosted by UCL (University College London), where experts from industry and academia urged policy changes to integrate new medical technologies more quickly into the European healthcare system. Research into these new technologies must be advanced, to improve healthcare and ensure a competitive European role in future medical research and development.

“This is a subject of fundamental importance,” said Professor Mike Spyer, Vice Provost (Enterprise) at UCL. “Healthcare budgets are under pressure across Europe. At the same time, new developments in science and technology could transform medicine. The challenge is to deliver this potential in an affordable way. This will not only require healthcare to be more patient-centred, it also calls for the medical professionals to think beyond their specialities and take a far more holistic view."

The conference, “The Future Delivery of Medicine: 2020”, provided a showcase for the new health treatments and systems arising from the convergence of once-disparate technologies in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostic equipment, bioinformatics, medical imaging and other fields. These technologies, because they blur the line between different fields, require new methods of approval, reimbursement and administration. In addition, at a meeting before the start of the conference, a group of speakers and other experts discussed the following guidelines for future policy formulation.

Declaration of Principles

Many changes will be required across the value chain, from basic research through to delivery of medical care at the bedside and in the home. This will require fundamental rethinking and reshaping of all the processes that currently underpin healthcare systems, challenging healthcare professionals to look outside their specialities, and requiring regulators to rethink their views of risk and reimbursement authorities to take a different view of value and affordability.

To achieve our vision it will necessary to orchestrate the following strands:

1.TECHNOLOGY and PROCESSES

  • Convergence of once-disparate technologies in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostic equipment, bioinformatics, medical imaging and other fields;
  • Genomics: by 2020 every patient will have their genome sequenced, driving improvements in diagnosis and treatments, paving the way to personalised medicine;
  • Prevention and early detection of disease with biomarkers and other diagnostic devices;
  • Patients will do more for themselves through self-monitoring. In parallel, there will be a move to less invasive treatments;
  • A new view of clinical studies – in research-intensive hospitals, data and outcomes for every patient coming through the door will be captured and analysed.

2. MONEY

  • Finance is needed across the board, from funding for basic research, to seed funding for start-ups, venture finance for commercialisation;
  • Affordability and reimbursement – how will these products and improved services be funded?
  • A new view of value – advanced treatments may be expensive, but they will lead to cost savings elsewhere. Health Technology Assessments need to broaden out in the face of this new paradigm
  • Venture capitalists – and other investors – must embrace and help to drive the vision

3. PEOPLE

  • Technology transfer: for the vision to be delivered there must be real links between universities, industry and patients;
  • Personalised medicine: put patients at the centre and let them decide if they want to take risk of being in a trial, or have a treatment;
  • Data protection, privacy and management: biobanks and data repositories are at the heart of this movement. We need to look at ownership of data, how it is transmitted, and how large datasets are managed:
  • Partnership – the public needs to be consulted and in particular younger people need to be asked for their views;
  • Evolution of the healthcare profession – with support from expert systems and monitoring healthcare will become more formulaic. Making clinical judgements will be open to people with less expert training.

4. GLOBAL TRENDS

  • Ageing populations – increasing the burden of chronic diseases;
  • Growing health inequality – not only in developing countries, but also between one developed country and another;
  • Regulators – there is a need for harmonisation of regulatory authorities worldwide.

Notes for Editors

The conference was held at UCL, one of the world’s top 10 universities, and organised by the UCL Advances, UCL's centre for entrepreneurship and business interaction, and Science|Business, a London-based news service focused on R&D investment and innovation policy. Sponsors were Microsoft Corp., Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical R&D, Blueprint Partners, the Wall Steet Journal Europe and The Lancet. More than 200 guests attended the day-long conference, showcasing new medical technologies and debating their industrial and policy implications.

For more information, contact:

Richard L. Hudson, CEO & Editor, Science Business Publishing Ltd, +44 790 155 6421 richard.hudson@sciencebusiness.net

Timothy Barnes, Executive Director, UCL Advances, t.barnes@ucl.ac.uk +44 207 679 3671