EU Commission proposes new health technology assessments (HTAs)
The European Union Committee has revealed its proposal to implement a new health technology assessment amongst EU Member States to guarantee greater transparency and empowerment to patients.
The proposal will enable patients to take greater advantages of technology within the management of their healthcare needs and support the development of new digital tools to further shape traditional healthcare processes, albeit at a lower cost.
The move will also allow the EU to create a ‘standardised’ methods within the sector across member states through the use of clinical assessments. It will also impact manufacturers, where they will abide by one set of standards within the production of new drugs, medical equipment and medical devices.
Vice President of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen explains: "Reinforcing Health Technology Assessment co-operation at EU level boosts innovation and improves competitiveness of the medical industry. The healthcare sector is a crucial part of our economy, it accounts for approximately 10% of the EU's GDP.
“We are proposing a regulatory framework that will bring benefits to patients all over Europe, whilst encouraging innovation, helping the take-up of high-quality medtech innovations and improving the sustainability of health systems across the EU."
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“The implementation of a new EU HTA regulation will enable healthcare products to be bought to market faster, lead to greater cooperation at EU level and collaborate in four key areas: joint clinical assessments, joint scientific consultations, identifying emerging healthcare technologies and voluntary cooperation in further areas of interest.”
“Access to innovative health technologies for EU patients is a shared goal. Our healthcare systems are facing some unprecedented challenges from an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia,” commented EFPIA Director General Nathalie Moll.
“Undoubtedly, the 7000 new medicines in development; new treatments like gene and cell therapies or combination therapies for patients fighting cancer will play a key role in addressing these challenges. Continued collaboration on how we introduce these new technologies into our healthcare systems will be key. HTA is an important part of that process, informing health care decision makers about the relative value of health technologies. In our view, the Commission’s proposals represent a positive, collective step forward in supporting access to new treatments for patients across Europe”.
If adopted, the use of health technology assessments will come into force after three years, enabling member states to adapt its current processes to accommodate this new requirement.
However, not all member states are on board with the proposal. It has been reported that Germany is not keen to adopt the use of HTA reports, but has been widely favoured by member states.
A new app is providing vital palliative care in Ethiopia
A new mobile phone app has been developed to support patients needing end of life care in Ethiopia.
The Ayzot app has been created in collaboration between the UK's University Surrey, the University of Strathclyde, Hospice Ethiopia, the Federal Ministry of Health and Hello Doctor Ethiopia, an Ethiopian-based software company.
The app is named after a common Ethiopian expression roughly translated to mean "to soothe a sick person". The app is aimed at supporting patients with life-limiting illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, by helping them manage pain along with other symptoms.
A self-assessment management system leads the patient or carer through a common set of symptoms such as pain, nausea, drowsiness, breathlessness, tiredness, and loss of appetite.
Successful symptom management
Both patients and carers are encouraged to use the Ayzot app to assess the severity of each symptom using a combination of measures, including a pain assessment scale. The app contains both pharmacological and non-pharmacological medication information, and where appropriate it directs the user to get help and further information on things like wound care, spiritual care and diet.
During beta user-testing, carers reported positive changes in how they treated their loved one’s wounds because of the advice found on the app. Healthcare professionals commented on the app's potential to support them in delivering targeted care with limited resources. The patients testing the app reported that it helped them feel more reassured and supported with their pain management and symptom control.
Accessing palliative care
The majority of Ethiopia's 114 million people live in rural locations where access to palliative care is difficult, and there is only one hospice in the entire country. The pandemic has made accessing care even more difficult. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential palliative care in Ethiopia has been reduced" Dr Nicola Carey, from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Surrey said.
"I believe the app will help prevent disease and treat patients. We hope that Ayzot will be embedded into the national palliative care clinical provision to support healthcare professionals and provide enhanced palliative coverage in Ethiopia.”
The team behind Ayzot are now planning to test the app in other African countries.