By Dr. Michael Devoy
Dr. Michael Devoy
Chief Medical Officer and Head of Medical Affairs and Pharmacovigilance for Pharmaceuticals Division, Bayer
“Thirty years from now...healthcare systems should focus on extending the length of time humans
can maintain healthy, active lifestyles."
Japan is leading the way in healthcare research, development and delivery for its aging populations, says Dr. Michael Devoy, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Medical Affairs and Pharmacovigilance for the Pharmaceuticals Division at Bayer.
“The way we deliver healthcare is going to have to change if we’re going to maintain an effective system in the future,” says Dr. Michael Devoy. His work as Chief Medical Officer and Head of Medical Affairs and Pharmacovigilance for Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division has been accompanied by a personal interest in the subject of healthy aging and how the delivery of care is likely to transform different societies around the world. “The traditional approach of delivering the majority of healthcare in large hospital-based systems will need to move to one that seeks to deliver care at home or in people’s communities,” Dr. Devoy states, citing Japan’s trials with robotics and robot nurses in homes of the elderly as pioneering examples of what the future of healthcare could look like.
In order to address the needs of its ‘super-aging population’—and the shortage of carers to look after senior citizens—the Japanese government has identified ‘priority areas’ for the research and development of robotics in nursing care. These include lifting and mobility aids – both wearable and non-wearable – toilets and bathing facilities, monitoring and communication systems, and nursing care services.1 Each element is intended to extend the length of time senior citizens can maintain healthy, active lifestyles, and encourage preventative rather than reactionary approaches to ongoing healthcare.
However, Japan is not the only country that needs to start thinking about the future of its healthcare systems. Most countries in the world now face similar challenges, as populations continue to grow, and life expectancies rise. “What will be critical is to prepare for what we see coming,” says Dr. Devoy, who thinks that while we face clear challenges in the future, they will be manageable if they are given priority and addressed with urgency. He acknowledges the pressures and financial stresses that healthcare systems around the world face, while underlining the importance of forward-looking strategies which allow policymakers to retain a long-term focus despite short-term pressures and demands.
A growing number of governments are commissioning research and developing strategies to address aging-related issues effectively. Dr. Devoy lauds Finland for its global leadership in policy development for aging societies: “To see the Finnish government prioritize aging during their Presidency of the Council of Europe is a tribute to the government’s foresight and innovation.” The emphasis on global is key here. Dr. Devoy stresses the need for “very broad societal collaboration”—in the form of events such as the Silver Economy Forum, in which governments, physicians, patient advocates, academics and supranational bodies can come together to lead strategic debates on how to prepare for the global demographic challenges ahead.