Health Brief: Health design wins the day

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The winner of the DesignEuropa awards has come from the healthcare sector for the second edition in a row, highlighting the increasing importance of a user-friendly approach in developing medical devices.

The portable and compact patient monitor IntelliVueX3, developed by Royal Philips, won the prestigious prize for design this week, which is organised every other year by the European Union’s agency for intellectual property (EUIPO).

The Dutch medtech juggernaut has triumphed on home turf, as this year’s edition was hosted in the city of Eindhoven, the beating heart of Dutch design and also notably the home of the Philips headquarters.

The winning device allows constant physiological measurements of a patient from admission to discharge within the hospital and even outside the healthcare setting, as it works either wired or detached to a bedside.

“This type of technology has never been so needed – especially during the pandemic,” Sandra Lesenfants, the president of hospital patient monitoring at Philipps, said while receiving the prize.

Speaking to EURACTIV on the sidelines of the ceremony, she said the biggest challenge in designing for the healthcare environment is coping with multiple users, from clinicians to caregivers, as well as patients in the emerging sector of home healthcare.

According to her, the added value of design is in raising access to health, as “in some regions of the world, the access to care has nothing to do with what we have here in Europe.”

One of the company’s missions, she added, is to design for these customers in order to drive better patient outcomes. This is why the device has been developed with an intuitive smartphone-style operation.

A stronger link between design and the healthcare sector was the fil rouge of the entire event, as was highlighted by the president of the jury, the Finnish recognised designer Päivi Tahkokallio, who was a former president of the Bureau of European Design Associations (BED).

“Especially in healthcare devices, what is important is that they are user-friendly,” she told EURACTIV, adding that design, whenever it is implemented, improves the quality of the product.

For her, designers always try to put themselves in the shoes of the users and it is a good thing that users – whether they are professionals or patients at home – are somehow represented in the process of conceiving a medical device.

Another medical device – an angiography system developed by Siemens Healthcare – ranked first three years ago at the previous edition of the DesignEuropa Awards.

This demonstrates how design became more relevant once developers started to target not only health professionals.

“It’s not a change in philosophy for us, but we see more competition moving into that new area [empowerment of patients], and therefore protecting intellectual rights and patents plays an important aspect in our strategy,” said Joost Bekkers, head of trademark at Philips.

He added that despite the barrier to entry still being high due to the technological aspect, a medical device company needs to secure its innovation in order not to hamper the possibility to invest more.

A digital stethoscope that detects abnormalities in lungs using artificial intelligence (AI) was also among the finalists in the category reserved for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

StethoMe, developed by the Polish company of the same name, is based on algorithms that detect lung-related diseases like asthma, bronchitis, targeting mostly children – and their parents – with its funny design.

“We usually see medical devices in a pragmatic way and not as pretty things, but I think this should be changed because patients, especially, kids deserve good design and more user-friendly devices,” Stethome’s Honorata Hafke-Dys told EURACTIV.

The digital stethoscope did not make the cut as the winner for the category was the professional lighting system Relio², developed by the Italian entrepreneur Marco Bozzola – yes, another Italian winning something in this blessed 2021.

Bozzola dedicated the award to a friend of his who ran a similar business and who took his life during the pandemic, overloaded by the pressure in such a competitive environment, delivering a message about the importance of mental health in every sector.

(G.F.)

EU news

Be sure to check out EURACTIV’s European Special Report which focuses on metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and the different obstacles MBC patients face across Europe, as well as the opportunities arising from the European Commission’s push for an EU-wide plan to tackle cancer. EURACTIV will also hold an event on the same topic – you can find more details here.

On Tuesday (19 October) the plenary voted on the Committee’s on Employment and Social Affairs report by Danish MEP Nikolaj Villumsen from the Left group in the European Parliament, with recommendations to the Commission on protecting workers from asbestos. Voting followed the debate that took place on Monday (18 October), during which European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said that “the report will go down in history”. Parliament was supportive and while thanking Villumsen for his work. “We owe that to all construction workers in Europe, we owe that because our words about a green transition have to become reality”.

MEPs adopted a draft report on Tuesday (12 October) to strengthen the EU’s pharmaceutical strategy to ensure that every patient has reliable and timely access to medicines, as shortages have been increasing since 2000. EURACTIV France reports.

COVID-19

On Monday (18 October), the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) human medicines committee (CHMP) approved two additional manufacturing sites in Italy for the production of Comirnaty, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

Both sites will manufacture finished products and will produce up to 85 million additional doses to supply the EU in 2021.

In other news related to the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine, on Monday (18 October), the EMA started evaluating an application to extend the use of the vaccine to children aged 5 to 11.

Currently there are two vaccines, Spikevax (previously COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna) and Comirnaty, that are authorised for use in people aged 12 and older.

On 15 October, ECDC published the report “Facilitating COVID-19 vaccination acceptance and uptake in the EU/EEA”. While 74% of people aged 18 and over in the EU/EEA are currently fully vaccinated, coverage is far from equal across countries, ranging from 23% to 91% of people fully vaccinated. The report aims to further support member states in identifying barriers to the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination, and designing and implementing interventions aimed at increasing vaccination coverage.

WHO

On Tuesday (19 October), the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a position paper on “Building health systems resilience for UHC and health security during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.” The paper calls for renewed and heightened national and global commitment to building resilient health systems through integration of universal health coverage and health security efforts.

Medicines approval

EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) recommended six medicines for approval at its meeting on 11-14 October. These include: Trodelvy (a first-in-class treatment for inoperable or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer), Rybrevant (for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer), Aspaveli (treatment of adult patients with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria), Cibinqo (treatment of atopic dermatitis), Vaxneuvance (against pneumococcal pneumonia) and Sitagliptin SUN (treatment of type 2 diabetes).

The Committee also recommended extensions of indication for ten medicines: Edistride, Forxiga, Hizentra, Kisplyx, Lenvima, Repatha, Skyrizi, Xeljanz, Zeposia and two extensions of indication for Keytruda.

From the Capitals

TIRANA

Term starts for Albania`s unvaccinated students. University students in Albania headed back to their classrooms on Monday, late starting the new academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

SOFIA

Bulgarian government under pressure to impose severe COVID-19 measures. This week, the Bulgarian government will impose stricter restrictive measures as it grapples with the fourth wave of the pandemic. The country is expected to introduce a mandatory green pass for a number of public places indoors and limit mass events. By  Krassen Nikolov |  EURACTIV.bg 

ATHENS

Government accused of using COVID to control media. Greek politicians bickered on Monday over a decision of the conservative New Democracy government (EPP) to grant Greek media €40 million state funds to promote a COVID-19 prevention campaign. By  Matthaios Tsimitakis |  EURACTIV.gr

ROME

Italian workers without health passes will not be fired, or paid. A new decree signed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi provides new details about COVID-19 health passes that will be mandatory for every public and private sector worker in Italy from Friday (15 October). Anyone who has been vaccinated, has recently recovered from COVID, or has tested negative within the previous 48 hours has a right to the pass. By  Viola StefanelloEURACTIV.it 

Doctors in at least 15 Italian hospitals against abortion, report says. Partial data from a new study shows that in at least 15 Italian hospitals, it’s impossible to have an abortion because all gynaecologists, anaesthetists and non-medical staff identify as conscientious objectors. By  Viola StefanelloEURACTIV.it

DUBLIN

Rise in COVID-19 cases throws Ireland’s reopening plan into uncertainty. A recent spike in COVID-19 infections has cast doubt on whether the final stages of Ireland’s phased reopening will be able to go ahead as planned. By  Molly KilleenEURACTIV.com

BERLIN

Germany locked in fierce debate over legalisation of cannabis. As the Social Democrats, business-friendly liberal FDP and the Greens are due to enter complex coalition negotiations, their youth wings may have one thing in common: a desire to legalise marijuana. By  Nikolaus J. KurmayerEURACTIV.de

BERN

Swiss government rejects ‘care initiative’. Swiss minister of health Alain Berset communicated last Tuesday (12 October) the Swiss government’s rejection of the “care initiative”, a popular initiative that aims to ease working conditions for care workers. By  Janos AmmannEURACTIV.com

EU PRESIDENCY

EU ministers call for unified criteria regarding COVID pass. Slovenia’s Janez Poklukar said that the informal meeting of the EU health ministers in Brdo pri Kranju on Tuesday 12 October asked for unified criteria to implement the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule. European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides also called for coordination. By Janos Ammann | EURACTIV.com

Upcoming events

20 October | Living with Cancer after Cancer, virtual event

28 October | Metastatic Breast Cancer – How can we improve care for patients and survivors?, EURACTIV event

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