“There is a growing demand for patients to be better informed, to be and to feel responsible for their own health”. So says doctor Manel Balcells, the present health commissioner for the Leitat technology centre, ex-councillor for Universities, Research and the Information Society at the Generalitat de Catalunya and one of over 200 speakers at Healthio. It is also the driving force behind this new health event that Fira de Barcelona is organizing from 3 to 5 May at the Palau de Congressos at the Montjuïc site.

Manel Balcells

Doctor of Medicine and Surgery from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, ​​Manel Balcells has had a long career in management that qualifies him to speak as an authority on the challenges facing health in the 21st century. “The patient has to be at the centre of the system, and at the same time must be able to make decisions on the treatment to be applied, and even on his or her own death. This is what we call patient empowerment”.

Doctor Jordi Serrano-Pons, family doctor and collaborator with the World Health Organization (WHO), is the scientific director of Healthio. “People are accepting more and more capacity for decisions in the different stages of their lives, and this has become apparent in recent years in relation with health, which means that the health system must be prepared to respond to this situation”, he says. Patient empowerment makes it possible for “the doctor-patient relationship to become more horizontal”, which will also allow the patient to be “less constrained and more involved in his or her own health”.

New technologies, new model

New technologies have a vital role to play in this new approach, but not only in terms of the doctor-patient relationship, but also in the way that the health professionals operate. Doctor Balcells thinks that “healthcare innovations must be included as part of all treatment procedures to make the health service more efficient and responsive to the user, to improve cost efficiency”. He also affirms that “a change of model is urgently required in which innovation has a leading role to play, together with greater recognition for the professionals who keep the system running”.

However, it is the new technologies as applied to the area of medicine that give the patient a new role and greater autonomy. Patients now have a number of tools at their disposal that can affect doctors’ decisions. Doctor Serrano-Pons says that “the tradition of medical paternalism, in which the patient has little or no information, and responsibility lies with the doctor, is now being called into question”. The scientific director of Healthio says that “prevention is cheaper than cure, and if patients are better informed and take more responsibility for their health, while they may not cure themselves, they will prevent more illness”.

Patient empowerment

In this context, the new health event organized by Fira de Barcelona presents innovations and solutions to encourage patient empowerment as never before. For the first time in an event of this type, visitors can explore the new developments that the exhibiting companies are presenting by following three tracks (health and wellbeing, personalised medicine and chronic illnesses and healthy aging) which offer a number of thematic pathways.

The first track looks into health and overall wellbeing, focusing on issues such as the promotion of healthy lifestyles and mental health, among others. The second axis looks at the latest developments that make more personalised medicine possible, with practical examples of how virtual reality can help in the treatment of various conditions, showing new tools for managing the case history of each patient and informing of the influence of the genome on health. The third track looks at chronic illnesses and ways to simplify the monitoring of diabetes and respiratory disorders, and the latest advances to achieve healthy ageing.

There will be more than 90 exhibitors, over 200 talks and presentations, and the participation of leading hospitals and health centres such as Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic, Vall d’Hebron and  Sant Joan de Déu children’s hospital, or the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital of Badalona, who will shape this first edition of an event which defines itself as the first trade fair event specialized in innovations in health.

E. PÉREZ MOYA