The global CEO panel on day two of MedTech Forum 2012 in Brussels started off like a bit of a cold shower. We must stop “patting ourselves on the back and take stock of reality in southern Europe,” said Alexandre Conroy, President, EMEA, BD. It’s not a pretty picture, as we heard yesterday and today.
Conroy cited one facility in southern Europe that was doing 300 total knee replacement procedures in 2011 and is down to four this year. And then there are the payment delays. They are not new, but in this economic climate, cash flow takes on added weight. Michael Heuer, President, EMEA-LATAM, Roche Diagnostics, noted that his company has waited as long as 1000 days to receive payment. “I would rather devote resources to innovation, not [to running] a collections agency,” he added.
Panellist Xavier Berling, President Europe, Stryker, who recently relocated back to Europe from Japan, had this message for MedTech Forum attendees: Europe must maintain its competitive advantage of launching products first, but it must focus on value-based innovation. “Today, that is coming from India and China,” he stressed. Echoing the comments of several other CEOs on the stage, Berling stressed that all healthcare stakeholders—insurers, providers and industry—need to sit around a table and have an adult conversation. Innovation cannot come just from industry, concurred Rob ten Hoedt, Senior Vice President and President, EMEA and Canada, Medtronic. “The current path is unsustainable,” he said. “The partnership with stakeholders is barely there right now.”
But it was not all gloom and doom. In fact, I got the impression that the C suite was using a bit of aPere Fouettard strategy in all of this. All of the panellists expressed, in one form or another, their pride in the EU model. They want to make sure, though, that its best days are not behind it. To build a sustainable system, some difficult choices need to be made. And that brought to mind a statement made by Chris Llewellyn, Partner, Mckinsey & Co., on the morning of the first day of the conference. We are at an inflection point, he said. Industry and the healthcare ecosystem are “changing fast and forever. We need to make bold decisions.”