The heart of innovation

28-01-01

“Innovation and the heart”, is the slogan of the European Congress of Cardiology, which has again chosen Barcelona, Fira and the Gran Via venue to hold its annual congress in 2014, from the 30th August to the 3rd September.

The Congress is organized by the European Society of Cardiology, which represents over 80,000 cardiologists from Europe and the Mediterranean region, and this year it once more tackles the challenge of reducing cardiovascular illness on the continent, where it is still the main cause of death – more so than the different types of cancer – with more than four million deaths every year.

The fact that the resources available for innovation in cardiology are shrinking, however, has led experts to warn that a new drive for research and development of new treatments is needed to tackle this new epidemic of cardiovascular disease.

A heavy financial burden

28-01-02The mortality rates for coronary heart disease are generally higher in Central and Eastern Europe than in Northern, Southern or Western Europe. The rate of strokes is also higher in Central and Eastern Europe than the rest of the continent. The reason for these differences can be ascribed to a number of risk factors such as smoking, obesity, a low level of physical exercise and, to a lesser extent, alcohol consumption. The role of the celebrated Mediterranean diet in prevention is highly significant.

Heart-related diseases represent a significant burden on the economies of the West: according to the Health Economics Research Centre of the Department of Public Health of Oxford University, heart disease costs 196,000 million euros, of which 106,000 is spent on medical care and 44,000 million more on informal care, while premature deaths cost another 27,000 million and the cost of absences from work and early retirements have been estimated at 19,000 million.

It is ironic that the steady aging of the population means that the problem is getting worse in spite of the advances that are continually being made in diagnosis and treatment, and this rapid permanent technological and pharmacological progress in the field of cardiology means that specialists need to specialize even further, which leads to ever-greater expense, while there are fewer resources to finance it.

The largest and most influential Congress

28-01-03The annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology is one of the most influential medical events in the world, with around 30,000 participants from 150 countries and the presentation of 500 scientific sessions and 10,000 oral communications and posters, all of which help to publicise the latest clinical trials and discoveries. There will also be presentations by international companies to demonstrate their innovations in surgery, diagnostic imaging and technological advances.

One change brought about by new technology is worth mentioning for its bearing on the relations between doctor and patient, even in the field of cardiology. Patients who use the internet to research their condition are far better informed when they visit a specialist, and this affects their interaction so that the doctor has to adapt to dealing with an ever more involved patient.

This phenomena is steadily increasing and affecting procedures for treating cardiovascular diseases. Among the initiatives developed for Mobile World Capital Barcelona, there is a pilot project under way, Icor, in collaboration with Telefónica, for cardiovascular monitoring of 200 patients of Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar.

Fira and cardiology congresses

28-01-04Fira and Barcelona have already played host to European Congresses in 1992, 1999 and 2009 and the World Congress in 2006. This new edition of the landmark event in international medicine also forms part of Fira de Barcelona’s strategic commitment to holding major medical and technological congresses.

The cultural assets and appeal of Barcelona, along with its infrastructure, are undeniably boosted by its outstanding position in the field of healthcare, and the presence here of experts and institutions with international prestige.

R.P.