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27th September 2016

Spotted: young healthcare innovators!

Most of us have settled back into our school routines by now, but for today’s young medtech innovators, ‘school’ takes on a whole new meaning.

Take medical device innovation student Tudor Besleaga, for example. As part of his PhD programme at University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Healthcare Engineering, Besleaga is designing a wearable medical device that assesses the risk of sudden cardiac arrest with the support of a UK-based medical device designer and manufacturer.

During his doctoral research, the mechanical engineer found that heart rate monitors would be more useful if they automatically flagged up events like abnormal heart rhythms and palpitations. The challenge for Besleaga and his team is to develop a wearable device that’s robust, comfortable and easy for patients to use, as well as trusted by doctors.

When he finishes his studies in two years, Besleaga’s ‘final exam’ will be the unveiling of a usable product that could help save lives.

But that’s not all. As Europe’s demographics continue to change due to longer life expectancies and record numbers of migrants (among other factors), medtech innovators like Besleaga are increasingly challenged by more than just coming up with the most cutting-edge technologies. They also have to learn how to navigate the healthcare system itself to make sure patients will actually be able to make use of those technologies.

This is one of the main topics of conversation that will take place later this week at the most important annual health-related event in the European Union, the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG).

Here, experts from different fields within the health system will gather to discuss European healthcare policy and how innovation fits in. Members of the Young Forum Gastein (“Young Gasteiners”) ‒ a group of exceptional scholars under the age of 35 who are involved in health research and public administration ‒ will also contribute to the deliberations.

One such person is Yannis Natsis of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), who will be speaking in a session on “Healthy innovation: putting patients before profits”. Part of his job as a Policy Coordinator at the EPHA is to closely follow issues of medical innovation and patient access to treatments.

“The access to innovation debate is a recent debate and a harsh new reality because many Europeans cannot afford their treatments anymore,” Natsis told This Is Medtech. “The challenge is for the public to set the new rules of the game with a view to guaranteeing genuine innovation for all that’s affordable and driven by public health needs.”

And how can young innovators make a difference to the future health of Europeans? “We can contribute to an inclusive debate and push for transparency and public accountability,” said Natsis. “At the same time, it is critical to ensure that all issues are on the agenda, so as to prevent the public debate from being hijacked by narrow commercial and political interests,” he added.

When it comes to looking after our wellbeing, today’s scholars may be our greatest advocates.