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18th November 2022

The health of our society is intrinsically linked to the health of our workers – MEP Alex Agius Saliba

In his keynote at the Med-Tech World conference this week Hon. Alex Agius Saliba, MEP, spoke about the importance of having a common passion for a brighter, more innovative future for healthcare. Technology is so important to improve quality of life, he went on to say.

“I am intrigued by the med tech industry, because it brings the health sector – in its widest sense possible – together with technology. “

He went on to say that through tools we have in the field of AI and real time connectivity, which are brought about by a coherent and regulated digital space in Europe, medical professionals can access, understand, and diagnose a greater number of ailments preventively. Thus, avoiding risks and pain and unnecessary exposto facto medical interventions on patients of all ages and different backgrounds.

He also touched on the issue of commercialisation and potential misuse of sensitive personal data, saying he understood that the wealth of medical data being gathered by everyday electronic devices might be worrisome. However, he sought to allay these concerns, saying he believed that we are living in a continent where we are fortunate enough to be operating within the European Union, which is a world pioneer when it comes to data protection legislation.

“The very regulation of the digital market recently – recently we have adopted the digital services act and digital markets act to continue to strengthen our ecosystem.

“I believe this robust regulatory framework will allow us to look forward to a future of cross platform medical data processing, sharing with unwavering optimism and also peace of mind and confidence for our citizens and patients.

How can the EU be a real driver when it comes to med tech?

The minister also spoke about an initiative he pushed forward earlier this year. With a focus on developing a strong EU mental health strategy, he elaborated on the 4 pillars supporting the proposal. 

The 1st pillar addresses issues of awareness, promotion, and prevention, while the second the promulgation of the directive to disconnect without delay, the third, the promulgation of a directive on the use of the AI tech in the workplace to detect early signs of mental health issues afflicting workers.

Lastly, to commit to building a more equal inclusive sustainable European society resilient to pandemics and other global challenges.

How can we use AI to prevent mental health issues in workplaces?

AI is already being used on a regular basis to protect the health of young adults in the sphere of digital gaming – with early warning signals forcing users to take a break protecting them from over exposure and mental fatigue.

It is not being replicated where we need it most, said Agius – the high stress environment we spend most of our time in, the workplace. European studies conducted during the pandemic showed that the biggest issues we’re facing when it comes to mental health come directly from overstress, from always being connected within our working places. With the tech we have in place we can accurately predict when workers are at their limits and require rest, when they are mentally and physically overexerting themselves.

This can aid unions, employers, regulators in adopting real time measures that can bolster health and safety – preventing casualties. Stress induced conditions are preventable but people, especially those working in very demanding industries might fear speaking out, he said. AI would reduce the risk of these workers keeping these levels of stress and anxiety repressed. Sometimes seeking a professional career transformation coach can help. 

“I believe the health of our society is intrinsically linked to the health of our workers.”

Touching on medical cannabis, he said, “European regulation on the matter remains fragmented and incoherent. I believe it is high time for the EU to have a unified legitimate framework that facilitates business and promotes consolidation of a single European medical cannabis market.”