Are you planning to go on trade missions more often? And why should Dutch MedTech companies sign up for such trade missions?

In The Netherlands, approximately 700 companies are active in the MedTech field, from which 95% is SME. Innovation is taking place on a very large scale, but in many cases promising  ideas perish during the develop- and implementation phase. Trade missions can help Dutch companies to look for new distribution markets. This, in order to learn from each other how innovations can be integrated in the healthcare process and healthcare procedure in a successful way.    

What is the interest of medical technology for the Netherlands?

The development of medical technology and medical devices takes place in a rapid pace and is unevitable in healthcare. Whether it may be about good and safe care in hospitals and nursing homes, or supporting doctors and district nurses and more self management for citizens: medical technology offers multiple chances  to improve healthcare and to keep healthcare affordable.

Innovations like 3D-printers (opportunities: faster production process, less waste and customization, for example by developing a tailor made knee prosthesis) and digital medical devices for lifestyle monitoring (you may think of a blood pressure- and blood glucose monitor, which makes it possible to let people have personal control/self management over their disease) bring multiple opportunities and challenges for healthcare. The same applies for robotics, for example for employment support. The key question is how we can improve the quality of healthcare with the application of medical technology and keep it affordable at the same time.

What is the role of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports in stimulating medical technology?

The most specific example is my recent announcement of the new grant scheme for promising care (‘veelbelovende zorg’). This grant scheme has been set up to make promising medical treatments, medical technology and medical devices available for the patient more quickly. I will make 105 million euro available on a yearly basis. With this financial aid, developers of new care ideas (like SME’s, hospitals and researchers) are helped in  setting up and carrying out scientific research.  They will also receive professional support with the research set-up.

Too often we see good care ideas getting stuck in the developing phase, so those ideas will not reach the patient. The research part for the last step, getting these ideas to the basic healthcare insurance which creates patient accessibility,is complicated, expensive and time consuming. Especially for smaller companies, individual researchers or hospitals, these are reasons  to pull out of the program. That is a real shame and also bad news for patients, who might would have benefitted from the innovations. With this new grant scheme, the last hurdle in the innovation process can be overcome.

What does the future of medical technology in the Netherlands look like?

I really like this question, since I promised Parliament to develop a vision on medical technology and medical devices before the end of this year. I work closely together with stakeholders - patients, healthcare providers, health insurers and companies - to create a common ambition.

My first conclusions from the conversations with these parties are that The Netherlands is in a very  good position with regard to innovation. But, we leave many opportunities unused, when it for instance comes to a more efficient and adequate allocation of healthcare.

I am convinced that medical technology can play an important and supportive role here. In this respect, I think it is important to consider the interest of the patient thoroughly in developing new products, so that innovations fulfill societal and medical needs.

Another ambition is to have better insight in the added value of medical technology and outcomes for citizens. This, in order to make better shared decisions in the allocation, the use and the reimbursement of medical technologies and devices. I am aware of the challenges companies and healthcare institutions are increasingly facing, like the stricter European rules on market authorization of new medical technologies and devices.

I am also aware of the fact that citizens sometimes need to ask at three different counters to be qualified for the right medical device. However, I am convinced, when we jointly formulate societal objectives with all parties involved, and we make better use of the opportunities that MedTech can bring to reach these objectives, we can make the Netherlands one of the top ranked countries in the World.