From better than placebo to better than best practice
“We face a paradigm shift in healthcare innovation. It has been said before (and probably enough) that the Netherlands is blessed with a strong scientific and economic starting point. Our challenge now is to deliver innovations that add more than ‘just’ higher quality: those that also reduce cost and increase productivity.
Every country in the world faces the same problem of unsustainable healthcare cost. Emerging countries even face a double burden: the lingering threat from infectious diseases rooted in poverty, and the rising threat from lifestyle diseases normally associated with affluence. This means there is a global market for solutions developed and proven in the Dutch healthcare system. It also means that ‘better than placebo’ is no longer good enough for either healthcare or business – new solutions must be ‘better than best practice’.
The focus of these solutions is shifting, too. Innovation is no longer just about high-tech ways to treat complex diseases and extend life. It is increasingly about keeping people independent, at home and out of healthcare. That is where the volumes are. That is where the market is. It is also not something that comes naturally to us. Dutch healthcare exerts a lot of clinical pull on high-tech innovation. The industry must make a conscious effort to focus on solutions that extend healthy life years rather than absolute lifespan alone.
Industry in turn can and should look to government, insurers and healthcare to quickly absorb such innovations if and when they emerge. Our healthcare system too must be better than best practice to fast-track testing and (preliminary) approval and reimbursement – of course, this also means that solutions that fail the standard (better than best practice, not just placebo) are rejected more quickly. I fully endorse the topsector plan’s recommendations to achieve this.
As a home market, the Netherlands is small. But as a proving ground and springboard to world markets, the Netherlands could be without equal. Other countries still test for better than placebo. Few, if any, could test for better than best practice, even if they wanted to. With our clinical research infrastructure and public health expertise, we can – and we should.”
- Don’t beat placebo, but the quality, cost and productivity of best practice alternatives
- Innovate to extend healthy life years rather than lifespan alone
- Make the Netherlands into a proving ground and springboard to world markets
Paul Huijts is director-general for Public Health at the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. He was a member of the team that developed the Life Sciences & Health topsector plan.