Key stakeholders within the Czech medtech industry highlight how medical devices can improve efficiency and quality of care across the country’s healthcare landscape, why greater levels of collaboration are of vital importance to achieving this, and how the Czech Republic stands out in the CEE region for its uptake of innovative digital solutions.
Healthcare systems across the world are being stretched financially by the need to care for ageing patient populations. “It is a very interesting time because the defining parameters of healthcare are changing,” notes Kostas Deligiannis, general manager Eastern Europe for GE Healthcare (GEHC). “Countries are evolving their infrastructure and modernising their institutions, mainly from a cost perspective, but also from an optimization and education perspective,” he adds, believing that this is particularly evident in Eastern Europe.
This evolution is particularly prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), with many questioning whether the region’s healthcare systems will remain sustainable in the long-term and if patients will continue to be able to access innovation. Rostislav Hartman, Zimmer Biomet’s general manager for Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania & distributor markets in the region, points out that, for the Czech Republic, “if the system does not adapt, it will not be able to offer high-quality services to the Czechs.”
Easing the Burden
One area which offers hope of reducing the financial burden is medical devices. In 2017, around 20 percent of health expenditure went to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, slightly above the EU average of 18 percent. However, according to CzechMed, the local association of medical device suppliers, in 2018, medical technologies accounted for less than seven percent of total healthcare spending in the country.
Regardless of whether it is out-patient care or ambulatory care, if you take away the medicines and prescriptions, what is left to provide care is medical devices
Miroslav Palát, President of CzechMed, reaffirms the importance of communicating to the key stakeholders what medical technologies are capable of and what they bring to the healthcare system. “Regardless of whether it is out-patient care or ambulatory care, if you take away the medicines and prescriptions, what is left to provide care is medical devices,” he explains, adding that, “they cover a huge spectrum of conditions, from diagnosis to treatment,” and are a vital part of caregiving in the country.
GEHC’s Deligiannis adds that “digital technologies, sometimes considered “expensive” are not just for saving lives, but also for tackling the cost problems of healthcare systems.” Tamer Shawky, in charge of the Central Region for J&J Medical Devices, quips “The Czech Republic does not want to compromise on quality, so the only solution is to improve efficiency.” As Deligiannis proclaims, “it is a competitive advantage to have a company like us in the back yard, elevating healthcare and helping to face the main challenges such as cost, accessibility and the accuracy of diagnosis.”
Some firms in the Czech Republic have looked to inter-stakeholder collaboration in order to introduce new solutions to the market; an approach which has led the country to be seen as somewhat of a pioneer within Europe. This includes J&J, whose innovative approach to surgical site infections (SSI) is helping to reduce their prevalence in Czech hospitals. The Czech Republic was the first country to launch this project within the global J&J Group. Shawky explains that “we have signed risk-sharing agreements with two hospitals in the country and are very excited to continue implementing SSI protocols” which have seen teams from the US and China coming to the Czech Republic to learn more about how they implemented the initiative.
We have signed risk-sharing agreements with two hospitals in the country and are very excited to continue implementing SSI protocols
Zimmer Biomet’s Czech affiliate has also been leading the way as the first company in the country to introduce innovative methods in orthopaedics, such as minimally invasive approaches and Patient Specific Instruments (PSI) for total knee replacement. The approaches “allow surgeons to make surgeries less invasive and help hospitals to ensure more effective treatments,” exclaims Hartman.
Sleep apnoea specialist ResMed is looking for new ways of working with payers and care providers, having agreed with the insurance payers to deliver all their medical devices to the patient directly, which is exceptional in the country. “We are in a unique position, acting as somewhat of a home-care provider, so our importance in the region is growing,” asserts general manager of the Czech affiliate Augustin Bernát.
Roman Samiec, Czech GM for French outfit Thuasne, which offers health solutions in the area of mobility, advises “the key to success is to ensure that you are meeting the unmet medical needs of the patient, adapting this to the local conditions and communicating your strategy properly to management when you see the fruits of your labour.”
As local authorities look for new ways to bring value and efficiency to the country, the Czech Republic has become somewhat of a regional frontrunner for the early introduction of digital technologies. “The Czech Republic is known for adopting the best technological solutions that exist, and I believe the country has potential, considering its proven record,” highlights GEHC’s Deligiannis.
The country’s openness to the digitalization of the healthcare system is an important asset
“The country’s openness to the digitalization of the healthcare system is an important asset,” asserts ResMed’s Bernát. This is evidenced by the fact that the Czech Republic has been ahead of even its Western European counterparts in terms of the uptake of ResMed’s digital offering. Bernát continues, “our digital solution could offer caregivers and payers an opportunity to follow up on the patient, motivate them to continue their treatment or, if needed, take units from those who no longer want or need to be treated.”
Effectively moving care away from hospitals and into the home, Bernát believes the Czech affiliate could become a “testbed” for ResMed globally, since “the Czech Republic has a minister of health who is promoting digital health and is moving the system in the right direction, along with insurers and other stakeholders starting to be open to discussions here, especially in digital technologies.”