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On 13 and 14 April, the World Health Care Congress took place in Brussels, Belgium under the theme of “Managing Budgetary Constraints While Maintaining the Quality of Care.” Participants came from all areas of the globe and included Health First Europe members the European Health Telematics Association (EHTEL), EUCOMED, the European Union of Private Hospitals (UEHP)  and the European Medical Association (EMA). The conference brought together CEOs from various health industries and included the participation the European Commission and the European Parliament focusing on the inevitable changes to the delivery of healthcare as a result of the budget constraints faced by Member States.

As one of the first keynote addresses of the two-day conference, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Permanente Mr. George C. Halvorson suggested that health systems must adapt from “a culture of expertise to a culture of continuous learning and improvement” if they are to remain sustainable.  He revealed that chronic diseases are the number one cost driver of healthcare as 75% of costs can be attributed to chronic illnesses with only 25% of costs deriving from acute care treatments. He also predicted that there will be an inevitable change in how patients are insured as the difference between local insurance and global insurance will soon disappear.

Angus Russell, Chief Executive Officer of Shire pharmaceuticals and Ulf Staginnus, Head of Pricing for Novartis pharmaceuticals in Spain, also contributed to the industry perspective on the delivery of healthcare suggesting that the audience for medicines is changing as patients are much more informed about their conditions today. Mr. Staginnus suggested that medicines are increasingly becoming a sector where reimbursements are more evidence-based with reimbursement occurring over time after the benefits of the product are known.  This new business model will widen the audience of the industry from solely physicians, towards patients, policymakers and payers.

Health First Europe MEP Supporter Dr. Milan Cabrnoch (ECR, Czech Republic) provided the European political perspective on the changes in delivery of healthcare following the adoption of the Cross-border healthcare Directive and he was accompanied on the panel by European Commission official Flora Giorgio of Directorate General Information Society, ICT Unit for Health.  Ms Giorgio outlined the Commission’s work on the epSOS project as means to simplify the ability of patients to receive healthcare across borders through the implementation of an electronic patient record with interoperability between Member State health systems.  She highlighted that the pilot project, first launched in 2008, will now be enlarged from 12 participating Member States to 23.

Overall, the World Health Care Congress looked to provide information to stakeholders on the state of current European healthcare systems including the challenges faced due to budgetary constraints. However, the event also highlighted the many opportunities yet to be realised for patients due to the new realities of delivering healthcare.