Editorial by HFE President John Bowis
Health First Europe has always believed that by bringing together all health stakeholders, solutions for challenges in healthcare can be found that benefit all patients. In 2012, we continued in our conviction that together we could better protect patients and improve access to treatment by working with the EU institutions and other EU health stakeholders. This past year, our work on patient safety and health technology assessment (HTA) produced concrete recommendations for policymakers on how the EU can support the improvement and delivery of care for patients.
In 2013, we will not only further our work on patient safety and quality of care, but also expand our issue engagement to look beyond safety and access, to patient empowerment, health literacy and community care. Encouraging patients to be informed about their care is of great importance as health systems adapt and change to the meet the needs of an ageing population as well as shortages of healthcare professionals and tighter budgets for delivering care.
In April 2012, the HFE Task Force on Patient Safety launched and validated its recommendations for patient safety and healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) under the Patronage and Sponsorship of MEP Christofer Fjellner at a roundtable of high-level participants. The recommendations not only sought to raise awareness of the importance of quality and safety of care for patients in Europe, but also to guide policymakers as they consider how to improve patient safety in health systems throughout the EU.
Following the publication of the Commission’s report on the Member States’ implementation of the Council Recommendations on patient safety, we organised a follow up debate to discuss the current state of infection control and the next steps for reducing HCAIs in Europe. Though encouraged by the progress achieved by Member States since the adoption of the Council Recommendations in 2009, stakeholders agreed that there is more to be done – specifically in terms of standard setting, targets and comparable reporting systems for infection.
In 2013, we will continue to monitor the developments at EU level following the Commission’s report, calling for a public consultation in order to better understand stakeholders’ views on the implementation of the recommendations. Additionally, we will be furthering our participation in the European Network for Patient Safety and Quality of Care. We believe that safety and quality must always be at the centre of healthcare delivery and Health First Europe will be at the forefront of ongoing discussions for protecting patients.
Improving access to treatment
Health First Europe has been engaged in a continuous dialogue with policymakers on health technology assessment (HTA) and recently launched its recommendations for policymakers on HTA in November of 2012 calling for more transparency in HTA processes and greater stakeholder involvement. Health First Europe welcomed the provision in the Patients’ Rights in Cross-border Healthcare Directive for a permanent collaborative network for HTA to facilitate knowledge-sharing and cooperation among Member States. However, it is imperative that the network consider stakeholder views on HTA decisions and allow stakeholders to be part of the decision-making process (particularly patients). HFE will continue to advance these ideals in 2013 through an ongoing dialogue with the Commission and the Council as they formulate the network and prepare for formal launch in September 2013.
Empowering patients: health literacy
Though the European Year of Active Ageing has come to an end, it is important to keep the momentum going and to continue empowering citizens (both young and old) to manage their care so that they can remain independent regardless of their health condition.
Health First Europe is convinced that patient-focused solutions are the future of healthcare and we are determined to ensure that initiatives for empowering patients gain even more ground at the European level. We believe that for patients to be empowered, they first need to have the tools to better understand health information. With this goal in mind, in 2013 Health First Europe shall engage in a project dedicated to health literacy and personalised healthcare plans.
Additionally, in order for patients to be empowered, they must also understand the options available to them to prevent and treat conditions and the Medical Devices Directive will play a significant role in determining information about devices for treatment as well as access for treatment. As a multi-stakeholder organisation, it is important to have a clear position on the new regulation for medical devices, particularly in terms of how the regulation could impact patients and healthcare professionals.
Caring for patients in the community
Finally, Health First Europe considers that community care is a very important aspect of healthcare which has not yet been fully realised. Community care can support independent living for patients with chronic diseases as well as encourage self-management of conditions. Caring for patients in the community can also ease the burden on health systems, re-focus drivers of healthcare towards prevention rather than treatment, and provide patients with greater quality of life. In 2013, Health First Europe will look to develop a horizontal model for community care which could be used by Member States to treat patients with chronic conditions.
This year as every year, Health First Europe will continue to raise awareness about the issues most important to patients and together with policymakers and stakeholders, look to provide solutions that can facilitate the improvement of healthy living for all European citizens.