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Medicine in Barcelona

Medicine in Barcelona

Adrià Escolà

Spin-Off Portfolio Manager at Vall d'Hebron Research

Cristina Vila Gisbert

Senior Associate at Cuatrecasas

Marc Terradas

Manufacturing Operations at Kern Pharma

The excellent hospital ecosystem and the major pharmaceutical industry in the Barcelona area make it one of the most attractive locations in Southern Europe for investment in health sciences.

Barcelona has a network of leading hospitals, while also being home to the headquarters of the main Spanish and international pharmaceutical companies and world class scientific research centers like the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the ALBA Synchrotron, the Institute of Photonic Sciences, and the Research Center for Biomedical Engineering. More than 700 healthtech startups working on biotechnology, medical devices, and the design of digital solutions are also based in Barcelona and it is the leading European city for medical and healthcare congresses.

To continue growing, the sector will need to meet several significant challenges. These include: (i) providing more competitive working conditions to retain healthcare professionals; (ii) making resource management and healthcare expenditure planning more efficient; and (iii) extending public-private collaboration.

Attracting and retaining talent

It goes without saying that healthcare professionals are essential for the smooth running of the Catalan social and health network. If we want Barcelona to remain a leading city in the field of health and medical research, resources need to be allocated to make working conditions internationally competitive.

Health professionals have a deep commitment to public service, but this must be backed up by decent remuneration, a reasonable work load, and career opportunities. If this is not the case, Barcelona will lose its position as a magnet for professionals and researchers in the field.

Regulations and tax rules should also be more flexible in order to remove barriers to investment and boost research and innovation.

Management efficiency

One barrier to the efficient management of the public health system is the lack of information on the resources that will be available in the medium term, and the range of future scenarios that will need to be tackled by the public hospital network. This can cause short-termism and inefficient management of resources. To counter this, there is a need for a broad, cross-party agreement on health that provides the system with stability and makes it possible to apply medium-term strategies.

Excessive administrative regulation that slows down decision-making is a second barrier to efficient management. Hospital managers need more autonomy to make decisions and to manage resources, while the system must meet the changing needs of the population and be more responsive to public health challenges that are increasingly common in a globalized world.

A third barrier is the lack of training in business and leadership management for middle managers in hospitals. Private companies have a very good understanding of how to train scientific or technical personnel to take up management positions but there is still much to be learnt in the public sector.

Public-private collaboration

If Barcelona is to continue being a pioneer in health, it is essential to promote public-private collaboration, not only with large companies in the sector, but with technology companies and the extraordinary network of start-ups and small companies whose pioneering solutions are now improving the population’s health and quality of life.

Our health model cannot depend exclusively on the annual public budget. To generate more resources, we need to take full advantage of the talent, quality of care and research, and the city infrastructure itself.

Each new solution that is developed in our hospitals, research centers, and universities must be encouraged to reach the market, where it will make an impact on the health of the population. At the same time new solutions need to remain accessible, generate fair economic returns for the system, and so attract (and retain) more talent and more investment.

Public-private collaboration offers a wide range of benefits: it is an excellent way of incorporating features of private management in public centers; of generating economic returns by taking advantage of assets we already have; of retaining and training great professionals; of promoting competitive collaboration amongst public centers; and lastly, of establishing essential medium-term strategies.

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