Digital Made in Europe

How about the future of the European Health Care sector in the age of digitalization and artificial intelligence? In brief, we must cope with the most pressing challenges to strengthen our Health Care industry again, now. This is a call for (even more) action to bring Europe forward again.

We must develop a smart sector strategy and industrial policy that creates conditions that will facilitate Europe to again compete with other locations around the globe. While these other locations are currently benefiting from significant state intervention, we must prevent ourselves to be drawn into a subsidy game. We must improve conditions by a set of locational benefits, enabling innovation and speed of the Health Care sector.

Let us share three examples to underline the need for action:

First, there is a lack of international standards for the approval of both medical devices and medicine in Europe. The United States relies on a strictly centralized process through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The European Commission is synchronizing regulations of several different countries as they combined to form the European Union. We do have a significant opportunity to de-bureaucratize, harmonize and accelerate such process in Europe.

Second, we do have a deficit in resilience in terms of pharma companies continuing to produce critical medicine in Europe, or will do so again. A significant share of Generics has been moved to China and other countries in the past. Due to a too strong cost and price focus, Europe has lost its independence with respect to selected medicine as well as underlying APIs. Given that a new wave of CGT therapies is currently being developed and increasingly entering the market, there is an opportunity for building a stronger position in Biopharma for Europe.

Third, we must provide conditions to health care startups in Europe, which motivates them to stay and drive innovation right here. The European digital health ecosystem is still relatively nascent compared to the United States, while it’s growing and maturing at speed. The current venture capital market is by far more progressed in the United States. It fuels new start-ups in Digital Health Care, based on a capital market which provides seed funding, and early-stage investors are available. There is no reason, however, why Europe`s startups cannot not play on par. To support them, initiatives like the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Hub in Mainz / Germany as well as the AI Startup Hub in Heilbronn are great examples, which we need more of and which have to prove success beyond announcements.

Bottom line, a lot of challenges for the EU and its members states to cope with, and lots of opportunities to leverage. Attracting new startups or founders like Björn von Siemens - who decided to re-locate his Caresyntax venture to the Unites States - can be a kind of litmus test for European regulation. Let`s make sure our entrepreneurs are comfortable in Europe.
No health care company, of course, is just waiting for a sector strategy and proper regulation. Health care players are actively moving forward and driving their transformation, sometimes being a role model for politics, sometimes suffering from a lack of proper policies, still moving. A key enabler for any strategy is a bold digitalization roadmap. Digitalization is vital for what is Europe`s unique way towards health equity and back to global leadership in the Health Care sector. Therefore, the DSI outlines how European health care companies get effectively digitalized, while leveraging unique assets of Europe. It summarizes which regulation we need to strengthen competitiveness of such European companies.

We should go to work with a lot of self-confidence in Europe. Just because it seems that more funding is available elsewhere, we must be even smarter in Europe and do the right things even better. The United States, for example, are Europe`s most important partner in many respects. Technology and know-how, however, that are critical to Europe`s security and well-being must be owned by Europe. This has become obvious over the past years with its geo-political challenges.

When it comes to artificial intelligence, specifically, we must recognize that it is increasingly possible to place our medicine knowledge into machines. This is a fundamental change because so far, at least since the Renaissance, millions of practitioners have lived on this planet. They have probably spent on the order of dozens of millions of person-years learning and teaching, so that our health care can be maintained and running. In the future, machines will be able to run health care for us, so that we need to ask ourselves how do we make best use of them. Some globally leading tech companies have taken the wrong turn in the past. AI systems optimizing themselves do not necessarily consider the benefit for humans. Whenever AI services are biased by proprietary purposes it easily shows a conflict of interest. This is true for Health Care but also relevant to other sectors. While named tech companies are trying to fix this, the current discussion, which the DSI calls the behavioral approach again goes wrong. AI is not supposed to hold authority over humans. There is a chance for Europe to develop proper AI regulation, accordingly. The current AI Act of the European Union is a first step. The time is now as super-intelligent systems, which will provide Everything-as-a-Service are developing fast.

We would like to mention that this DSI initiative represents our own views. By sharing our DSI perspective, we would like to fuel the discussion and provide some food for thoughts. We appreciate feedback and follow up. It is good to be connected in the health care community as much as among digitalization, data and IT experts, searching for common ground.
While building our DSI experience from working with a lot of bright leaders and great talent in the health care sector and beyond for more than 20 years, we must give a lot of kudos to managers, mentors, peers, clients, team members and other stakeholders. We appreciate that they had been sufficiently patient with us to discuss and explain. Forgive us if we haven’t considered it all, sufficiently. Thank you, a lot, indeed!

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