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What did you learn as an inventor/innovator making a ground-breaking medical device in the early 1980s?

It was an amazing time – as the world’s first desktop computers hit the markets in 1978.  I started a company called Medicom Ltd, which developed a suite of programmes to interview patients, help make a diagnosis, record health statistics, do accounts for General Practice doctors, connect to hospital lab equipment and so on.

I learned that the most important thing about all medtech is to keep things simple and reliable: doctors, nurses and other health care workers are busy and need devices that work....

The connectedness of everything – how will this affect regulation and supply of health care products?

The greatest change is transparency: in future, every government or insurance buyer is likely to be able to learn what others are paying in wholesale markets for similar things.  

The other great change we are already seeing is universal pricing in retail pharma.  In a globalised world it is really hard to keep prices high in one country and heavily discounted in another tougher market.  We have seen this in pharma for years: drugs get bought in the cheaper markets, and are then illegally imported into more expensive ones.

Do the same principles apply to medtech as the pharma industry when it comes to reimbursement? i.e. collaboration between developers and governments, seeing themselves as patient advocates

Yes in theory.  In practice, medtech is often many years behind what buyers expect from pharma companies.  I am often astonished at the lack of rigorous trial data showing clinical impact and cost-effectiveness.  

Trials of medtech devices are often very small, poorly controlled and almost meaningless compared to the scientific rigour in pharma or biotech.  Medtech companies need to smarten up their research.  

In the past it was enough maybe to amaze a surgeon or radiologist with some new 3D imaging machine, but now medtech manufacturers need to be able to prove significantly shorter time of operations, lower rates of post-operative complications, earlier diagnosis of small cancers and so on.

High-risk and low-risk countries in Europe – what’s the future?

For the next decade you will be able to divide Europe into three groups.  

Firstly, nations like the UK, Germany, France, Sweden and Norway with highly developed health care systems, and health budgets that continue to grow faster than inflation.  

Secondly, nations that aspire to these things but are still recovering from the economic crisis, such as Spain, Italy, Portugal and of course Greece.  

Thirdly, emerging post-Soviet bloc nations such as Estonia, Poland and Bulgaria where we are likely to see rapid growth in health spending as they look to catch up with the rest of the EU.

Is Big Data such a big deal?  How will Big Data affect health care?

Big Data will have a huge impact on the way we diagnose and treat medical conditions.  It’s all about matching patterns of disease, response to treatment and other things against other data we have for the same people such as their gene profile, lifestyle choices, diet and so on.  In the next decade we will be able to run a gene profile on a patient for less than $3,000. 

When you have a million such profiles to match against a million patient records, that really starts to make a difference in what I call genetic prophecy.  Predicting which patients will respond best to which drugs for which types of cancer. Predicting a decade ahead, who is most likely to have a sudden heart attack at a young age.

But even more important than Big Data is Little Data.  Big Data is about identifying a pattern.  Little Data is about identifying a person.  The key is linking all the data we have to develop a unique treatment plan for the patient who is with the physician right now. 

Tell us about your latest book – The Future of Almost Everything

This is my 16th book and has been really fun to write.  I have packed just about everything about the future into a single book, covering just about every industry, region and trend.  It’s published by Profile Books on 27th August 2015 and you can order copies here:   

“You don’t need a crystal ball to see into the future – you just need to read Patrick Dixon’s latest book, which covers all the major trends that are likely to affect your business, and quite a few others as well.   This book is the best single source out there for understanding how the business world is changing today.” Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship and director of the Deloitte Institute, London Business School 

“Patrick Dixon is an express train straight into the future. His book; The Future of Almost Everything, arms you with a smorgasbord of predictions that few would ever even consider - predictions which without any doubt soon will define our daily lives. Jump on Dixon’s train - it is worth it.” Martin Lindstrom, Brand consultant and bestselling author of Buyology

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