In July 2016, I became a member of the Top Team for Life Sciences & Health. I was then, and still am, impressed with the multitude and diversity of subjects the Top Team faces. It covers the entire range from basic research to trade missions, including: development of medicines and medical devices, formation of new partnerships, implementation and up-scaling of e-Health, reviewing relevant regulations, overcoming institutional barriers, and the education of laboratory personnel and healthcare professionals. Confronted with this diversity it is important not to lose the common thread that runs through these topics. For me a crucial guiding principle is that innovation should raise the quality of healthcare and reduce healthcare expenditure as well. This also applies to the Top Sector LSH mission: vital functioning citizens in a healthy economy. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is not.
The sector Life Sciences & Health wants to grow, while the healthcare sector needs to contain costs. There is an interesting tension in this. I see beautiful innovations that can improve healthcare and also keep it affordable and sufficiently staffed. However, these examples often prove difficult to implement on a larger scale. Elsewhere in this edition is a discussion of the Fast Track initiative, which should secure the roll out of such innovations. On the other hand, medical technological innovation is one of the factors that has increased healthcare expenditure in the recent past. Sometimes this was because the medical products themselves were very expensive (e.g. expensive medicines), but even when they were not expensive they often increased healthcare expenditure by increasing the volume of healthcare.
Therefore medical technological innovation is always about organisational changes and new working methods as well. The ‘eHealth monitor’ is appropriately entitled ‘More than technics’. Innovation is not a goal in itself, but a means by which caregivers and patients can organise personalised healthcare. For this to happen people need to know what is already possible and available. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is pushing to make the possibilities of eHealth more widely known, for instance through the publication ‘eHealth zorg van nu’ and the National eHealth Week in January 2017.
I look forward to working with the Life Sciences & Health sector on sustainable innovations in Dutch healthcare. Those Dutch solutions can also serve a growing market abroad. “Global challenges, Dutch solutions” was a slogan of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which I gladly endorse.
I hope you enjoy reading on the latest developments and activities of Top Sector Life Sciences & Health.