Dr. Michael Heuer, President of Roche Diagnostics in Europe, Middle East and Latin America.
Some 60% of clinical decision-making is based on in-vitro diagnostics test results, yet diagnostics only accounts for about 2% of total healthcare spending. Diagnostics holds huge potential to benefit healthcare by improving diagnosis’ and thereby improving patient outcomes and saving valuable funds.
Dr. Michael Heuer, President of Roche Diagnostics in Europe, Middle East and Latin America, tells Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East about the state of diagnostics in the Middle East and how it can help transform healthcare for the better.
Where does the Middle East stand in the context of global innovations in diagnostics? Where is it excelling, and in what areas does the market still need to catch up with global standards and innovations?
Dr. Michael Heuer: The Middle East is quickly catching up with global standards of innovation in healthcare. The UAE is definitely at the forefront, with the provision of world-class healthcare services being at the centre of the government’s vision for 2020.
Within the MedTech and diagnostics industry particularly, a crucial way to ensure we meet global standards is by complying with set guidelines that have been put in place to drive international levels of quality and innovation. At Roche, we place great value on compliance across all aspects of our operations. I am a board member of EUCOMED, which is the organisation responsible for establishing core competencies and credible healthcare standards. In the Middle East, we adopt all their latest guidelines and also make sure our employees fully comply with these regulations through our partnership with MECOMED.
On the other hand, the global healthcare industry is also riddled with complexity. In addition to a rise in chronic and non-communicable diseases and the emergence of new epidemics, budgetary restrictions have also added to the financial strain on the healthcare sector, leading to a greater demand for diagnostics. We are also finding that the pressure for efficiency in healthcare is growing, while at the same time patients face delays in access to healthcare.
To tackle this, we have been working with regulatory authorities in the region to expedite the process of approval and reimbursement, to provide faster access to medications and healthcare solutions. We’re able to do this through our regional management centre and logistics hub located in the UAE, which allows us to provide services that are focused and objective-driven.
How are companies enhancing the diagnostics market in the Middle East?
Dr. Michael Heuer: Firstly, services need to be delivered by individuals who are both experienced and passionate. Efforts also need to be focused on delivering the best outcomes for the industry and patients within each of the markets we’re present in.
One of Roche’s priorities is to work with regional partners to accelerate regulatory timelines and improve the reimbursement process, since patients often face delays and limited coverage. To this end, we’ve been working closely with regulatory authorities across the region.
We’ve also brought to the region some of our best global innovations, designed to provide a plethora of benefits to both patients and healthcare providers. For laboratories and healthcare professionals, they are created to make intelligent use of space, with simplified maintenance through automation. The efficient sample management flow, fast reagent management and easy calibration ensure more reliable and faster results for patients. What’s more, our systems only require low sample volumes to provide the efficient results and support best patient care.
How is the diagnostics market evolving in the UAE, amidst the shift towards preventive medicine?
Dr. Michael Heuer: The economic growth in the Middle East in recent years has brought about a major change in lifestyle, resulting in a rise in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer. The high costs of managing these diseases has led to an increase in the need for early diagnosis, which has the potential to reduce their rate of incidence and help healthcare systems to maintain high standards of care.
The economic uncertainty in the region driven by the collapse in the oil price has resulted in a healthcare environment that is more cost conscious than ever before. We have to demonstrate the value we can add both for individual patients and healthcare systems by increasing efficiency and putting patients at the heart of decision-making,
Could you tell us about the importance of diagnostics in fighting infectious diseases, which is at the forefront of the government agenda?
Dr. Michael Heuer: Today, the global healthcare industry is faced with new and challenging issues, such as the increase in chronic and non-communicable diseases, the emergence of new epidemics like Zika and MERS and the spread of antibiotic resistance. The only way to achieve lasting solutions is for our diagnostics portfolio to adopt an integrated perspective and engage in international and multi-stakeholder collaboration.
We are addressing these variables by building on our expertise in providing the best customised lab-automation and Point of Care solutions. We do so through strategic consultancy services that elevate our partnership in the field of in-vitro diagnostics to the next-level.
What is the company’s strategy for 2018 for the UAE, and the region?
Dr. Michael Heuer: We are in the midst of a digital revolution. Enormous scientific and technological advances are being made at the world’s major life science and technology centres, creating huge opportunities for us.
We find this pioneering spirit and wealth of ideas truly compelling, and we are a part of it, on site and together with its many partners. Our recently launched cloud-based software NAVIFY, which fundamentally changes the way oncology care teams prepare for, implement and document treatment decisions for cancer patients, has provided tremendous decision support for these care teams. It helps in care team collaboration, and standardises clinical workflow by aggregating all relevant patient data from multiple sources into one dashboard.
Our aim is to further integrate diagnosis and treatment with digital technologies and applications. As clinical pictures and treatment options increase and become more diverse, we see this as an opportunity to provide doctors and patients with more comprehensive information to aid the decision-making process and integrate and interpret diagnostic data from a wide variety of sources.
Technological possibilities coupled with global pressure on healthcare systems call for far more than the development of novel products to meet future needs. It is just as vital that our treatments and tests are available to the patients who need them today. Regrettably, for a variety of reasons, this access is not yet guaranteed everywhere. I am certain that we can achieve a great deal through collaboration with governments, patient groups and aid organisations, and that’s exactly what Roche has been working towards.
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