Communicable Diseases

The MedTech industry develops products that help to control the spread of diseases by identifying infections and informing treatment choices.

Communicable diseases are a serious public health threat, not least because epidemics can be difficult to predict. For example, as the 2009/2010 H1N1 flu pandemic illustrated, mutations in the influenza virus can turn annual flu outbreaks into global health threats. 

The viruses and bacteria that cause these infections can travel beyond borders – and across oceans – ensuring that major outbreaks of communicable diseases are a shared public health challenge.

Diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), once thought to have been in decline in Europe can make an unwelcome comeback, and less common viral infections such as Ebola have the potential to spark worldwide concern when infection rates suddenly surge. 

In addition, the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, which has arisen from the misuse of antimicrobials over several decades, highlights the importance of accurate diagnosis of infection and smart use of medicines. 

In vitro diagnostics (IVDs) are tests conducted on blood, urine, stools or tissue samples that provide information used to diagnose medical conditions. During epidemics of communicable disease, the availability of IVDs and laboratory services is crucial to detecting – and containing – outbreaks. 

How technology helps

Identifying infected individuals is essential to providing prompt treatment and to stopping the spread of disease. This is where vitro diagnostics (IVDs) come in. Swift and accurate tests can improve survival rates for infected individuals and reduce the duration of illness, as well as protecting public health. 

From an economic perspective, efficient use of healthcare resources is paramount. It is essential to treat the right disease first time, every time. The indirect costs of communicable diseases can also be reduced through efficient diagnosis and cure, helping people to return to normal life without delay. 

Precision prescribing

Knowledge is power. When it comes to treating diseases it is essential to know what is causing the illness. Take multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), for example. If a patient has MDR-TB, their doctor needs to know which bacterium is making their patient sick so that the antibiotic they can prescribe the right antibiotic. 

Not only could prescribing the wrong antibiotic prolong the patient’s illness, it may even make matters worse by leading to further antibiotic resistance. It is also an inefficient use of resources. 

‘A high-quality laboratory system that uses modern diagnostics is a prerequisite for the early, rapid and accurate detection of TB and drug resistance’ 
– World Health Organization 


The need for speed

We do not know where or when the next communicable disease crisis will come from – all we know is that it will come. 

When new infections or uncommon diseases spread, developing a test is an essential element of the disease control response. When the number of Ebola cases in West Africa grew, the WHO stressed the need for access to diagnostic laboratories to boost detection. 

Ebola also highlighted the need to incentivise the development of rapid diagnostics, as well as building the capacity to ensure that these can be rapidly deployed in the case of major outbreaks. It is essential to develop laboratory infrastructure – including human resources – capable of handling dangerous pathogens. 

Preparing for the future 

IVDs have come a long way in a short time, and research and development continues to improve the performance and availability of these crucial technologies. 

Modern lab tests are embracing molecular biology techniques which can make diagnostics faster. For example, the power of data analytics can be harnessed to compare the DNA of infection-causing bacteria with genetic libraries to help identify rare strains of disease. 

Point-of-care testing also promises to make IVDs more accessible, particularly in low-resource countries where communicable diseases are a significant burden. 

The IVD industry will continue to invest in developing technologies that can help to prepare for health emergencies and minimise their impact when they occur. 

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Lab Diagnostics

Smart healthcare decisions are informed by accurate diagnostic information. By analysing blood, urine and tissue samples, lab diagnostics can help to prevent, diagnose and monitor illnesses.

Healthcare professionals diagnose illness based on symptoms, patient history and a range of sophisticated tests run under specialist laboratory conditions. These tests can check samples of blood, urine and tissue for the tell-tale chemical and molecular signs that something is not right. 

Role of lab tests

By testing for molecular and genetic markers, lab diagnostics can diagnose conditions ranging from pregnancy to HIV. They also help physicians to discount possible diseases by confirming that a patient does not have a particular condition. 

Lab tests can screen individuals to check for early signs of disease. For example, breast and cervical cancer can be detected before physical symptoms develop. This facilitates earlier intervention and improves outcomes for patients. 

Genetic tests identify people at higher risk of diseases, and predict the risk of blood clots and adverse reactions to general anaesthesia. Prenatal and new-born screening has the power to pick up a range of inherited disorders. 

Tests for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease can identify people for whom treatment and lifestyle changes could significantly improve outcomes. Diagnostics also play a valuable role in monitoring chronic diseases.

Modern lab diagnostics are increasingly valuable in informing treatment choice. Companion diagnostics show, for example, whether a certain cancer medication is likely to be suitable for a particular patient. 

Benefits of diagnostics

Informed medical decision-making is better for patients and the health system. Getting the right treatment for the right patient improves outcomes and reduces recovery times, ensuring that patients are back on their feet as quickly as possible. 

Early diagnosis and care can prevent illness from developing and slow disease progression. Monitoring of people with ongoing disease, such as diabetes, can reduce the risk of serious complications. 

This information-powered approach makes health systems more efficient by helping health professionals choose treatments that are more likely to be effective, and stop interventions which are not working for their patient. 

Lab tests also rapidly detect infectious agents, including drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA. This significantly improves hospitals’ capacity to contain outbreaks. 

Future developments 

Innovation continues to drive advances in lab diagnostics. The revolution in molecular biology and genetics is unlocking a powerful range of tests that identify disease markers. Technology is also supporting faster tests results with greater automation and accuracy. 

However, the value of lab tests is yet to be fully realised in many healthcare settings. As the range and sophistication of diagnostics improves, it is vital that providers are aware of the latest innovations at their disposal. A tool has no value when left in the toolbox.

The medtech sector has a role in addressing this information deficit among healthcare providers. We are also working to improve awareness among decision-makers of the value lab tests bring to the health system and to society. Developing the evidence required to demonstrate the value of high-tech testing is an industry priority. 

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Orthopaedics is the medical specialty that focuses on injuries and diseases of the human body's musculoskeletal system. This complex system includes your bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves and allows you to move, work, and be active.

The MedTech industry develops products that reduce the burden of musculoskeletal diseases on individuals, families and the wider economy. These innovations improve quality of life and add enormous value to European society.

Orthopaedic disorders are the single largest source of pain and disability globally. The World Health Organisation says that such diseases are responsible for half the chronic conditions affecting people over 50 in the developing world.

In fact, orthopaedic conditions are the major cause of years lived with disability in all continents and economies, and are the most common medical causes of long-term absence from work.

Orthopaedic care is also essential to the treatment of sports and spinal injuries, as well as fractures and breaks sustained through trauma. MedTech has solutions to help get people back on their feet, living life to the full.

'Musculoskeletal conditions are a major burden on individuals, health systems, and social care systems, with indirect costs being predominant.' 

            -  World Health Organisation 

Bones & joints

The unavoidable process of ageing leads to wear and tear on weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. In other words, the joints in question are simply worn out.

These conditions place a considerable strain on sufferers, their carers and on healthcare systems generally. They also keep large numbers of people from being fully active members of society. Given the demographic challenge of an ageing population, Europe will be particularly impacted by these conditions in the coming years.

There are a number of conditions which cause particular problems. Nearly 25% of people in Europe have some form of rheumatism or arthritis, according to the WHO; they are the commonest chronic illnesses in Europe.

Osteoporosis is another problem. This is a disease whereby the bone becomes porous and brittle, losing much of its structural strength and leading to a high risk of hip, wrist and other fractures.

It is a progressive disease, with the elderly – especially women – and those with a family history of the disease being particularly likely to be sufferers. Again, Europe’s ageing population makes this disease a growing concern. Estimates suggest that 40% of all women over the age of 50 will suffer an osteoporotic fracture.

Trauma and spinal injuries

Injuries sustained through trauma – such as road traffic accidents – can result in serious damage to the musculoskeletal system. Spinal cord injuries, shattered bones and dislocated joints require skilled intervention and rehabilitation to restore mobility.

Trauma injuries affect people of all ages and can have a profound impact on quality of life, limiting the ability to work, study and live and active life1.

Sport injuries

Regular physical activity is essential to good health. However, along with the benefits and pleasure of taking exercise comes the risk of sports-related injuries. From torn tendons and sprained wrists to fractured hips and broken ankles, the impact of sports injuries can range from a few weeks on the side-lines to long-term mobility issues.

Prompt and accurate diagnosis of injury followed by appropriate treatment and care can minimise the impact of sports injuries and accelerate recovery.2

How the MedTech industry helps

Caring for musculoskeletal conditions begins with diagnosis. X-rays and CT scans can identify fractures, breaks and damage to ligaments and tendons, helping healthcare professionals to design a suitable treatment plan for their patient.

For some musculoskeletal conditions, joint replacement is the ultimate solution. Joint replacement is an area of major activity in medical technology, as manufacturers strive to improve techniques and technology to speed and improve recovery, increase device life and reduce overall care costs.

Damaged hips, knees, hands, shoulders, feet, ankles and other bones and joints can now be replaced. These devices, implanted by skilled surgeons and supported by post-operative rehabilitation, can restore lost mobility.

Delaying joint replacement can come at a cost. Early access to joint replacement significantly improves patients' quality of life without impacting on healthcare resources.

Trauma and sports injuries can require the implantation of metal plates to support the limbs. External braces can also be used to provide temporary support during the recovery period.

Spinal injuries are particularly complex and require innovative interventions to reduce pain and provide stability. Procedures such as kyphoplasty surgery, where a small balloon is used to elevate a fractured vertebrae before a cement-like material is inserted to stabilise the bone, have radically improved outcomes for people with serious back injuries.

Advances in medical technology and surgical expertise have considerably improved the prognosis for a range of sports injuries. For example, a ruptured cruciate ligament could be a career-ending injury in the late 20th century but many professional athletes can return to activity a year after surgery.

Related resources:

  1. Source – WHO- “Every year, around the world, between 250 000 and 500 000 people suffer a spinal cord injury.”
  2. Source: Injuries in the EU Statistics Summary (2005 – 2007) – “For a conservative estimate, about 6 in 1 000 unintentional fatal injuries can be related to broad categories of sports, like rock climbing, boating sports, or horse related sports.”
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The MedTech industry develops products that reduce the burden of blindness on individuals, families and the wider economy. These innovations add enormous value to European society.

People can lose their eyesight for a variety of reasons. Our vision deteriorates with age so, as Europe's population ages, more people need their vision corrected. The most common solution is one of MedTech's earliest innovations – spectacles. Those who prefer not to wear glasses can avail of contact lenses and laser eye surgery.

Vision loss can also result from eye diseases which affect a large and growing number of Europeans. Around 1 in 10 suffers from cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), according to research by Deloitte. 1

Impact on our economy and society

Blindness carries a significant economic burden. Nursing care, hospitalisation, surgery and loss of productivity have a direct effect on healthcare and social systems.

  • Direct healthcare costs of eye diseases are estimated to be in excess of €18 billion per year, according to a study of 11 EU Member States 1.
  • There are also significant indirect costs:

-  More than 120 million workdays are lost per year due to eye diseases.

-  20% of the total annual economic cost of blindness is due to health spending. 

-  More than a quarter of the total cost is due to productivity loss while the remainder – more than half is attributed to the cost of informal care.

"The economic costs are tremendous," says Omer Saka, Director Market Access Strategy & Health Economics Group at Deloitte Belgium. "By deploying cost-effective treatments and prevention methods you can avert the healthcare costs and the burden on society from productivity loses and indirect costs."

MedTech solutions

Although the potential burden of eye disease is growing in Europe for demographic reasons, the MedTech sector has developed a range of solutions that can help to minimise the impact of vision loss on individuals, their families and the wider economy.

One way to contain costs is to identify problems early and intervene accordingly. 

  • Screening for glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy has been shown to save billions of euros.
  • Early identification of cataracts and prompt treatment of ARMD has been shown to be cost-effective.
  • Cataract surgery is another excellent example of how the MedTech industry has responded to Europe's needs. Around one in five people aged over 40 can experience 'cloudiness' caused by the accumulation of proteins on the lens in their eye. Vision can be restored by surgically removing this protein build-up. 

In the past, people stayed in hospital overnight after the operation but today, same-day surgery means patients can have their cataracts removed in the morning and sleep in their own bed that same night. This works just as well as inpatient surgery and is just as safe. It is also cost-effective and popular with patients.

Same-day cataract removal is more efficient for health systems, saving money on costly hospitalisation. Research has found that same-day cataract surgery cut costs by 69% compared to inpatient surgery2 . 

"There is a huge economic burden which runs into billions of euro,' says Professor Ian Banks, of the European Forum Against Blindness. 'This is money we could use for building hospitals, schools and roads. This money and the human suffering that goes with it could be saved if only we stopped blindness before it happens."

Seeing matters

The impact of blindness on individuals, families and society is profound. People who lose their sight suffer a dramatic drop in quality-of-life: their mobility and independence are severely restricted; they can suffer psychological distress; and they must deal with an increased risk of falls and household accidents.

When a family member is blind, it becomes a shared challenge. Spouses, siblings and offspring often spend hours caring for loved ones who cannot see.

Technological advances continue in the eyecare sector with the industry delivering value by facilitating not just the restoration of lost vision but also quicker recovery times – helping people get back to living normal, productive lives. 


Related resources:

  1. Deloitte: Cost of Preventable Blindness (October 2014)
  2. Fattore G, Torbica A. Cost and reimbursement of cataract surgery in Europe: a cross-country comparison. Health Econ. 2008;17:S71–S82
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The MedTech industry develops products and services that help people living with diabetes to manage their condition on a daily basis. These innovations reduce the risk of costly complications and thus contribute significant value by improving efficiency of healthcare systems.

Our vision and mission

Our Group brings together Diabetes technology companies to champion the objectives of patients and their associations for the best choices to prevent, manage and ultimately cure diabetes.

Our group commits to:

  • Actively raising awareness around diabetes prevention and diabetes care;
  • Demonstrating the value that high-quality, safe and innovative devices bring through improving the quality of life of people living with diabetes and containing long-term costs of the diabetes pandemic;
  • Partnering with external stakeholders, both public and private, to ensure that the most effective technologies are available across Europe;
  • Being a trusted partner in the diabetes environment.
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Care outside the hospital

The MedTech industry develops products that facilitate the delivery of health services in the primary care setting and in people's homes. These technologies save lives, are convenient for patients and make efficient use of healthcare resources.

‘Community care’ has no hard and fast definition. However, what it means in practical terms is the decentralisation of care, shifting it away from hospitals and bringing it closer to primary care.

Patients can be treated in settings such as their local general practitioner or at home, by encouraging out-patient ambulatory care and using facilities like day-care units or local clinics.

For the elderly and disabled, accessing services locally is more convenient than travelling to hospitals for outpatient appointments or being admitted to hospital. When it comes to monitoring, telemedicine allows people to preserve their independence while wireless technologies securely share health data with their healthcare team. 

Delivering efficiency 

Europe's ageing population means that more people will require care. Now, more than ever, it is essential to find ways to make the most efficient use of healthcare resources.

Technology can help. Hospitalisation is unavoidable for people with acute illnesses or in need of surgery. Many chronic conditions, however, can be managed just as well in the community.

Inpatient hospital care is expensive. Research shows that many older people are admitted to hospital inappropriately and stay longer than necessary. As institutional care can cost 10 times as much as home care, it is clear that community care is preferable where appropriate. 

Industry view:

“Together, we need to be courageous and smarter about how we use the resources we have and to direct them towards models of care that can deliver a demonstrable positive return on investment in healthy life years for citizens.” 

Source: Contract for a Healthy Future 

The medical technology industry continues to develop products that enable people to better manage their disease or health condition themselves and minimise their use of hospital care. This can be empowering for patients, providing them with flexibility and choice.

Unlocking potential 

The medical technology sector is committed to playing its part in the collective effort required to restructure our health services. By facilitating community care, the industry provides smarter alternatives to the traditional model of locking up resources in bricks and mortar.

Many of these technologies are new. They have the potential to change patient care, yet health systems tend to evolve slowly. Realising their full benefits will mean investing in the infrastructure that will deliver effective community care, including public awareness. This will provide a further step towards sustainable, cost-effective healthcare systems.

Breaking down silo budgeting structures for the treatment of people with chronic conditions can help ensure patients receive consistent, high-quality care across all care settings. Payers need to move towards paying for an 'episode of care' rather than paying based on the site of care.

Community care is diverse sector

Wound Care

A wound is an injury, such as a cut or tear, to a part of the body. Usually these are external, and are known as ‘open’ wounds. However wounds can also be ‘closed’, for example bruises, with no external damage to the skin. Different kinds of wounds may be treated in different fashions, depending upon the cause and how serious they are. The treatment of such injuries is known as wound care, and has been practiced since prehistory.

The medical technology industry has continued to advance the science of wound care and wound management. The introduction in the 1950s of synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyethylene and polyvinyls helped significantly accelerate natural wound healing processes. This was followed by "wet" polymer dressings, and research in the 1990s led to improvements in composite and hybrid polymers which further expanded the number of materials available for wound dressings.

The industry has developed increasingly specialised techniques for dealing with different types of wounds. For example, the treatment of burns has been revolutionised by advances in technology, and the number of people dying from burns has decreased significantly. The use of skin grafts and tissue engineering has changed the management and the outcomes for severe burns victims.

Good wound management can help to accelerate healing, reduce the impact on patients and break the cycle of repeat hospitalisation. Wound care can be provided in a community setting, including in patients' own homes.

For example, transportable Negative Pressure Wound Therapy (NPWT) devices allow patients to return home to manage chronic wounds and heal faster. Because patients can be shown how to apply NPWT themselves, this technology empowers patients to play an active role in their healing and improves patient wellbeing.

Home Dialysis

Chronic kidney diseases (CKD) are typically caused by diabetes, hypertension and inflammatory diseases of the kidney. Left undiagnosed or untreated, CKD can cause total kidney failure (end-stage renal disease – ESRD) which is treatable only by dialysis or transplantation, i.e. Renal Replacement Therapy (RRT).

For medical reasons, most dialysis patients are not suitable for transplantation and due to the limited availability of donor kidneys, the majority of patients with ESRD require dialysis therapy for the remainder of their lives. Thanks to innovation and supportive care systems, there are now different methods to perform dialysis, and even the opportunity to receive treatment at home (e.g. during night or continuously during day), contributing to quality of life and well-being of patients.

Hemodialysis is a treatment method where patient’s blood flows outside of the body through disposable bloodlines into a special filter, the dialyzer. Peritoneal dialysis, is a blood purification method using the patient's peritoneum, i.e. the tissue that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity.

Of the 552,000 kidney failure patients in Europe in 2013, 62% were treated with dialysis. It is estimated that the number of people with kidney failure will increase to around 650,000 by 2020, putting enormous pressure on hospital services and budgets.

For patients, making several trips per week to a dialysis clinic is a considerable inconvenience and impacts greatly on their quality of life. But there is an alternative. Home dialysis cleans the blood in a way that kidneys would but gives patients greater flexibility about when to undergo dialysis.

Not only does this keep patients alive, it offers the freedom to pursue work, study and family life. 

Ostomy Care

Around 700,000 people in the European Union have an ostomy, an artificial opening in the abdomen to allow for the elimination of waste. The majority of ostomies are permanent and require care to minimise the risk of infection, hospitalisation and even death.

Ostomy surgery saves lives and quality after-care allows people to continue playing an active role in their families, communities and the workplace. Still, ostomies are prone to complications because exposure to bodily waste can irritate the skin and cause infection.

Inadequate ostomy care is a significant burden for people affected and for the healthcare system. Around one third of patients who have colon surgery (colostomy) and up to two thirds of patients who have urinary system surgery (urostomy) and small intestine surgery (ileostomy) are affected by skin complications.

Patients often suffer from skin problems in silence because of the stigma that surrounds ostomy care – few people want to discuss digestion, bodily waste or skin disorders. One study has shown that only 38% of patients diagnosed with a skin disorder recognised that they had a medical problem, and more than 80% of patients with skin disorders did not seek professional healthcare.

This can be reduced with a little innovation: modern ostomy products are personalised and fit individual patients and their body types. They help to reduce the risk of complications, and also reduce the need for hospital care by allowing services to be provided elsewhere, like at home.

People who need ostomy surgery often require care for the rest of their lives. This is why they value tailored ostomy bags that are more personalised, fit properly and do not irritate their skin. It provides a better quality-of-life and allows patients to live their lives normally and in dignity. Getting ostomy care right is good for patients; good for everyone.

Incontinence Care

Incontinence is one of healthcare's great taboos. European studies estimate that between 4% and 8% of the total population are affected but the subject is rarely discussed. Incontinence is often associated with older people but can affect people of any age. 

The estimated prevalence of urinary incontinence in middle-aged and older women in the general population appears to be in the range of 30% to 60% and the percentage increases with age. One quarter of young women, half of middle-aged and postmenopausal women, and three quarters of elderly females in nursing homes, experienced some degree of involuntary urine loss.

People with continence issues often suffer in silence. Incontinence has been linked to social isolation, depression and lost workplace absenteeism. Those affected may be unaware of innovative products such as incontinence pads, catheters and bladder installations that can allow people to maintain their dignity and confidence.

These products empower patients to manage their own condition with minimum recourse to hospital care. This delivers freedom to live a normal and full life, playing an active role in the workplace, family and the community.

e-Health and Telemonitoring

Modern health systems are embracing information technology in ways that can make services more convenient for patients. This also has efficiency benefits for the health systems as a whole.

eHealth is the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and services in health and healthcare delivery. Such tools and services are increasingly used by both healthcare professionals and patients, and are playing a significant role in improving the health of European citizens, changing how they manage their health and receive their healthcare services.

Innovations powered by eHealth have huge potential to improve the quality and productivity of healthcare systems, and can help deliver equitable access to safer, more user-friendly services for Europe’s citizens. Given the pressures caused by an increasing incidence of chronic conditions and the demographic challenges of an ageing population, these improvements and efficiencies will be vitally important.

For example, technology can now facilitate remote monitoring of cardiac implantable electronic device (CIED) in patients with heart failure. These life-saving devices – which include pacemakers and defibrillators – deliver tiny electric pulses that help to control irregular heartbeats.

According to medical guidelines, patients with pacemakers should be followed up every three to 12 months and those with a cardiac defibrillator need to be checked every three to six months. This is to ensure that there are no new problems with the heart and that the device is working properly.

For patients, it means regular visits to the clinic for routine check-ups and, if their symptoms worsen in between appointments, it can require emergency care.

There is an alternative. Modern CIEDs can be monitored remotely and on a 24-hour basis. The new generation of pacemakers automatically sends information wirelessly so that doctors can securely check patients' hearts from anywhere at any time. If there is a problem, they can intervene without waiting until the next scheduled appointment – by which time the patient's condition may have worsened further.

This can save lives, and saves hospital resources, time and money. Remote monitoring would have seemed like science fiction in the 20th century but in a world of smart phones and smart TVs, smarter medical devices are a natural step forward.

Asthma care is also being revolutionised. It is now possible to track asthma medication use in real time by using sensors attached to an inhaler. The sensors automatically capture the time and location that an inhaler is used. This data is shared with mobile devices via Bluetooth technology.

This system allows patients and their doctors to use mobile applications to monitor asthma control and adhere to the medication and quickly adjust, if necessary. A study has shown that patients using this kind of system experience fewer symptoms, better quality-of-life and better lung function compared to those monitored using traditional methods. This opens the door to a more responsive, dynamic care; better for patients, better for society.

Related resources: 

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The MedTech industry develops products that reduce the burden of cardiovascular conditions on individuals, families and the wider economy. These innovations save lives and add enormous value to European society.

Diseases of the heart and circulatory system are the leading cause of death in Europe and a major cause of disability. The risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease and stroke increase with age.

As Europe's population is ageing, preventing these conditions – and managing them efficiently when they occur – is essential to keeping people in good health while making efficient use of healthcare resources. 

How technology helps

Blood tests can identify patients with high cholesterol who may be at elevated risk of heart attack; modern imaging devices are used to detect a narrowing of the arteries. 

By intervening early, heart attacks and stroke can be avoided. This spares the individual the trauma of a life-threatening or life-changing event and reduces spending on hospitalisation and ongoing care. 

Modern medical technologies enable minimally-invasive surgery. These advances continually improve outcomes for patients and help them to recover more quickly. 

Coronary heart disease  

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is caused by a build-up of fats such as cholesterol in the arteries of the heart. This build-up can cause arteries to narrow, restricting the flow of blood and sometimes depriving the heart of oxygen. 

CHD kills around 681,000 Europeans per year and is a major cause of disability. This eats up €60 billion in healthcare costs. In addition, CVD causes productivity losses and can incur indirect costs associated with informal care at home by family members. 

Fortunately, the human, social and economic impact of cases of CHD can be reduced. Advances in medical technology facilitate surgical procedures which bypass the narrowed artery by grafting a blood vessel from elsewhere in the body. This allows blood flow to take a new, unobstructed route. 

Arteries can also be reopened using angioplasty and stenting. A 'balloon catheter' can be inserted into the narrowed section of the artery and then extended to widen the vessel. A small 'stent' can be inserted to hold the artery open. 

Stenting technology has evolved since the first stent was inserted in the 1980s, making them stronger and lighter. Some stents also release a drug to prevent further complications. 

The right treatments for the right patients

For many patients, bypass surgery and angioplasty are life-saving treatments. For others, medication and/or lifestyle changes could be considered. Modern diagnostic tools allow doctors to assess fractional flow reserve (FFR) during a routine heart scan. This technique shows the severity of the narrowing of the arteries and helps healthcare professionals to identify patients who could benefit most from stenting. 

This test enables doctors to save lives by selecting the optimal treatment for each patient, reducing their risk of heart attack. For society, FFR keeps people healthy longer and makes health systems more efficient by getting stents to those who need them most. FFR has been shown to reduce healthcare costs in Germany, France, Italy and the UK.

Heart failure

You rely on your heart to pump blood around your body but when it fails, you are in trouble. The number of people suffering heart failure is on the rise as we are living longer. It will hit one in five adults over 40 years of age during their lifetime – around 6.5 million people in Europe. 

Heart failure is everyone's problem. Between 1% and 2% of health budgets are spent on heart failure, more than half of which is gobbled up by the cost of hospitalisation. 

One way to help your heart to pump blood around your body at the right rate is by inserting a small cardiac implantable electronic device (CIED). These life-saving devices – which include pacemakers and defibrillators – are of particular importance for people with chronic heart failure.

They deliver tiny electric pulses that help to control irregular heartbeats. In short, CIEDs keep people alive. 

Remote 24-hour monitoring 

According to medical guidelines, patients with pacemakers should be followed up every three to 12 months and those with a cardiac defibrillator need to be checked every three to six months. 

For patients, this means regular visits to the clinic for routine check-ups and, if their symptoms worsen in between appointments, it can require emergency care. 

The new generation of pacemakers automatically sends information wirelessly so that doctors can securely check patients' hearts from anywhere at any time. If there is a problem, they can intervene without waiting until the next scheduled appointment – by which time the patient's condition may have worsened further. 

This can save lives, as well as hospital resources, time and money. Remote monitoring would have seemed like science fiction in the 20th century but in a world of smart phones and smart TVs, smarter medical devices are a natural step forward.

Continued MedTech innovation is essential if Europe is to rise to the challenge posed by increasing rates of cardiovascular conditions. The sector is working on new technologies – and on refining existing products – to improve outcomes for patients so that they can live long, healthy and productive lives. 

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