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Collaborative innovation as a key priority for the Czech healthcare system – insights from the EIT Health Morning Health Talks in Prague

31st July 2023

In an era of stringent regulations, a demographic downturn, and slow adoption of new solutions, the healthcare system finds itself at a crossroads. However, powerful and positive lessons emerged from the recent Morning Health Talks event held in Prague, hosted by the DEX Innovation Centre—an EIT Health Hub. With 50 influential healthcare professionals in attendance, the resounding message was clear: collaboration among doctors, researchers, universities, pharmaceutical companies, startups, and innovation agencies is the pivotal key to conquering these obstacles and unlocking a new era in healthcare.

Eleven out of twelve healthcare institutions in Belgium consider the full implementation of digitalization as one of their top priorities – said Jérémy Martin, the keynote speaker from Belgium at the EIT Health Morning Health Talks event that took place in June in Prague.  He pointed out that digital technologies can offer significant help with the prevention and early diagnosis, two key areas for improving healthcare. However, in order to unleash innovation in hospitals and clinics – not only in Belgium but across Europe – collaboration between different stakeholders is needed.

As an Omichannel Engagement Partner for the pharmaceutical & diagnostic company Roche, Martin’s job is to involve different stakeholders in the innovation process. He considers it vital for industry players to be accessible, visible and open for partnerships, which includes attending events, conferences and meetups, as well as constant learning and remaining open for new ideas.

Implementing 3D printing in a Liberec hospital

Commitment to promoting accessibility and collaboration aligns with the need for patience and understanding during the integration process, as emphasized by Vendula Macháčková, head of the science and research department at the Regional Hospital in Liberec.

When a complete novelty is introduced, it is not always easy for physicians to integrate it into their work. Healthcare is a complex and regulated system and not everything can be implemented immediately. It is necessary to be patient, otherwise, we will not achieve changes” – noticed Macháčková.

She added that collaboration can help accelerate the adaptation for innovations:  “At the Regional Hospital in Liberec, we cooperate with EIT Health on several levels. Firstly, we regularly participate in calls with our ideas for innovation to apply for funding from EIT Health and to receive dedicated funding from the EU. For example, last year we carried out the 3DIAMOND project together, supporting the implementation of a 3D printing system in preoperative preparation in the hospital.”

Overcoming the challenges of regulation and ageing

Another hurdle for innovation is that healthcare is a heavily regulated area. “And rightly so, as we work with people and their health” – remarked David Skalický, who deals with pricing, reimbursement and legislation at Roche. He added, however, that: “regulation should not discourage us from ideas and innovative thinking. In recent years, for instance, biologically targeted treatment lost its patent, and we should consider making it available to a wider number of patients who are indicated for it.Of course, such a step would not be possible without close collaboration between physicians, decision-makers and pharmaceutical companies.

According to Skalický, demographic trends also present a massive challenge for healthcare with the ageing of both the general population and the medical population. To overcome the latter, the system of postgraduate education of young doctors should be reformed in the Czech Republic, suggested the Roche representative.

Promoting longevity and cooperation

Another solution for the ageing population would be innovative methods that allow Czech – and European – citizens to live longer and healthier lives, as well as integrate these healthy ageing solutions in the healthcare and social systems. “There is a growing awareness of what longevity is and how we can promote it ourselves as individuals and citizens”, said a representative of the Longevity Tech Fund, Vladislav Severa, at the Morning Health Talks event. He added, “At a certain stage in life, people get wise, but they may not fully enjoy that wisdom for long. I would like that period of wisdom to last as long as possible for each of us.”

To summarize the event, Jan Kubalik from the DEX Innovation Centre emphasized, “This EIT Health Morning Health Talk proved that everyone involved seemed willing to cooperate, even while recognizing that there are still fairly significant barriers that need to be addressed. However, all stakeholders realize that no one can innovate alone, and by working together, we can address these challenges quicker. Through close cooperation, the challenges can be transformed into opportunities, paving the way for a more innovative and resilient healthcare system not only in Czechia, but in the whole of Europe.”

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