NEWS: Health First Europe attends EP Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases Meeting

Health First Europe attended the 6th meeting of the European Parliament Interest Group on Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs) which was held on 22 June 2011 at the Parliament. This EP Interest Group, in line with the 7th Flagship of 2020 Strategy ‘Innovation Union’ and the Pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, aims to shape the European Parliament input for future legislation on RMDs, to support continuous awareness-raising in society and to bring the EU closer to citizens and patients. The Chair of the Interest Group, Edite Estrela (S&D, Portugal) and the Vice-Chair, Jim Higgins (EPP, Ireland), brought together representatives from the European Commission, experts, academics and associations to discuss  how concretely RMDs can contribute to Active and Health Ageing targets.

The European Commission stressed that the European headline target by 2020 should increase the number of healthy life years by two in the European Union on average. From this perspective, Ms. Marianne van den Berg, Policy Analyst Unit Innovation for Health and Consumers at DG SANCO, described the running process on European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (AHAIP) and reminded participants that it aims to create a triple win for Europe: enabling EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while ageing; improving the sustainability and efficiency of health systems; creating innovative solutions and new opportunities for businesses. For this purpose, the three AHAIP related Working Groups, have already met to update projects and the timeline. The Commission will assist in the selection of some highlighted projects from each Working Group to organise ideas and produce effective teams.

In the context of the AHAIP, Chairperson of the Standing Committee of PARE, Jacqueline Mäder, remarked that ageing and RMDs have quite significant consequences on labour markets and health care systems creating significant costs for the society. In particular, RMDs can lead to long term sickness and early retirement. Concerning social security and healthcare systems, RMDs are the second most common reason for consulting a doctor and have a high impact on the costs of hospitalization in general. She expressed that to face barriers such as funding opportunities, lack of evidence and data, need for regulation and framework conditions, key areas for change and innovation have to be determined. Diverse recommendations have been proposed by participants: early diagnosis and treatment, lifestyle interventions, access to quality care, education, patients’ involvement, evidence-based etc.

Overall, the event focused on the fact that the number of people with RMDs is expected to increase significantly with the ageing demographics in coming years. To cope with these important social and technological challenges, effective measures need to be taken by European policy-makers and civil society for defining a common vision on the necessity to extend healthy life span for people with RMDs. To close the session, MEP Higgins insisted on the necessity to pass a clear message from the European Parliament Interest Group on RMDs objectives and activities to stakeholders’ and continue their involvement and contribution in this issue area.

Edite Estrela’s website:

Jim Higgins’ website: 

NEWS: Health First Europe attends a Seminar at the European Parliament on: “Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare Delivery”

On 21 June, a seminar brought together companies, non-governmental organizations and policy makers to discuss ways in which to create wealth and value among people living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) in emerging countries and the possible investment of the private sector in Research and Innovation in an inclusive and sustainable way. Participants discussed the fact that there are 4 billion people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP) in developing countries. These people represent a €3.7 trillion global consumer market and are increasingly being seen as the customers of the future. They thus represent new markets and a growing innovation capacity in the healthcare, food and housing sectors.

MEP Nirj Deva (ECR, UK) stressed that the meeting should act as a Call to Action for the private sector and donors. He highlighted that the problems facing them are often similar: improving health care delivery, decreasing the cost of new technologies, developing key improvements in infrastructure, increasing the awareness of disease, providing information and education for patients to access medicines and healthcare

Additionally, panelists discussed programmes launched last year in order to strengthen health systems and produce economic results. Anuj Pasrija from Novartis, explained how his company’s social business approach could be effectively deployed to deliver financial returns for investors and social returns for the poor in India. This new business model involves one medical educator and one sales supervisor in the process. The BoP is seen both as a growing market and as an innovative capacity. BoP outreaches vary: Awareness, Adaptability, Accessibility and Affordability. The mission of the project is to improve healthcare access for the poorest people in developing countries by providing better information, creating alliances and partnerships with local doctors, working with local governments and regulatory authorities, viewing people from underprivileged backgrounds as consumers and, finally, prioritizing social investments over business growth.

Vodafone also highlighted some of its ongoing work in Tanzania where it created a very simple technological solution called ‘SMS for life’. A district officer sends a very simple SMS to a centralized system and then, he learns immediately where there is a lack of drugs and where an epidemic is growing. This system is very beneficial for eliminating all medical stocks and avoiding the retention of expired medicines. Launched in 26 countries and regions, the project has been deemed commercially sustainable, open, and looks to represent a transferable solution in developing countries because it does not require further investments.

Overall, panelists agreed that these new ‘Disruptive Innovations’, including cross-sector and multi-stakeholder partnership approaches, and new technologies, have to be pursued as new European guidelines. In order to ensure an access to innovative medicines and healthcare systems for everyone, even for the BoP in Europe, it was advised that the European Commission should follow these innovative practices. However, it was also noted that stakeholders must take certain key steps to support and develop these innovations.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends European Connected Health Week 2011

The European Connected Health (ECH) Campus together with the European MHealth Alliance (EuMHA) organised ECHWeek2011 to discuss the evolving landscape of mobile health (or mHealth) technologies and the role of, and future possibilities for, this segment of eHealth innovations.  The conference brought together patients, professionals and European Commission officials, but mainly offered an avenue for industry to develop partnerships to drive mHealth and further the uptake of current technologies for the benefit of patients.

The three-day event focused on the transformative capabilities of mHealth solutions for all health stakeholders particularly with regards to the patient-centric nature of mHealth technologies. Chris Taylor, Director of the Manchester mHealth Innovation Centre, suggested that mHealth is not an incremental extension of eHealth, but instead is a “personalised, commoditised solution that can be used in real-time, anywhere.”  He believes that the future for mHealth will include the integration of home and environment where solutions are personalised, standardised and persistent – “aware of me, my story and my need for key interventions” – providing not just cost-effectiveness, but better care for individuals.

Jaakko Aarnio, Policy Officer, DG INFSO – ICT for health, gave greater details about how the European Commission is engaging in mHealth to support research, deployment and regulation of a sector that is beyond the reach of medical device legislation.  He asserted that the Commission is in the process of negotiating a Roadmap for mHealth in order to tackle issues of sustainability.  Head of Unit in DG -ICT for health, Ilias Iakovidis, further discussed the need for more data regarding the mHealth market so as to take the many pilot initiatives that exist and scale them up for real data collection and access for patients.  He offered that industry must work with professionals for mHealth  to be successful.

Overall, the conference highlighted the many innovative solutions in development which will allow for greater patient empowerment and personalised health management. Though many barriers still exist for these solutions to become a reality for the everyday citizen, there is great potential for tackling the existing challenges faced by health systems throughout Europe to provide quality health care to all individuals.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends EPC/CHES Policy Dialogue: “Only what can be measured, can be achieved: the case of active, healthy ageing”

On 14 June, the European Policy Centre (EPC) together with the Coalition for Health, Ethics and Society (CHES) organised a conference bringing together various health stakeholders to discuss how to increase healthy living by 2020 as prescribed by the Pilot Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. The event focused on the upcoming year for Active Ageing (2012) and the role of the Innovation Partnership in ensuring that people not only live longer, but that by 2020 people can expect to have two more active and healthy years.

Principle Advisor for Public Health at Directorate SANCO- Health and Consumers, Ms Isabel de la Mata, began the conference by describing the enormous differentiation between Member States in terms of life expectancy.  She expressed that there is a need to research further why it is that people in Malta live longer than people in Romania and suggested that there could be a correlation between life expectancy and the age of retirement.  Retirement, in some cases, is correlated with illness.  Additionally, she pointed out that countries with a higher life expectancy are not necessarily the healthiest of countries and these figures need to be further understood to assist people in living disease-free for longer.  Manfred Buber from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) division of  Health Indicators, Health and Ageing, Social Policy Divisionexpressed that further research in this area would be taken on through an upcoming 10 year action plan to increase healthy ageing which will be finalised during 2012.  This action plan will likely focus on disease prevention and health promotion and will necessitate to the commitment of public health authorities for success.

MEP Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria) was the final speaker at the event and expressed her satisfaction that the European Commission is taking the initiative on the issue of active and healthy ageing.  She stated that the global epidemic of unhealthy living throughout Europe must be tackled particularly in the areas of obesity and smoking. Discussing retirement and its impact on illness, MEP Parvanova also declared that the retirement age could be raised to increase mental dexterity of older individuals.  She also highlighted her belief that Central Europe should be the main focus for healthy living due to its low life expectancy and this should be done by making healthy foods cheaper to increase access for economically disadvantaged groups.  Particularly striking, was also MEP Parvanova’s suggestion that health become a full competency of the EU by amending the Lisbon Treaty.

Though there are many actions yet to taken to facilitate more active and healthy living for all segments of the European population, the event considered the work currently being done by both the EU institutions and health stakeholders to combat the demographic changes which will inevitably impact all health systems through Europe. The panelists believed that further research and EU level commitments in this issue area would not doubt provide better means to promote better healthy and active living.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends CHES Policy Dialogue on Health Council Briefing and the next steps towards active healthy ageing

Health First Europe attended the European Policy Centre’s CHES Policy Dialogue on 7 June 2011 which brought together representatives from the Hungarian and Polish Presidencies to discuss health, employment and social policy issues related to active and health ageing. Hungarian Health Attaché Mr Lazlo Bencze and Polish Minister Counsellor Mr Janusz Galeziak discussed how their countries are tackling the demographic changes affecting Europe under the EU’s 2020 Strategy. The Hungarian Presidency also highlighted many of the outcomes of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council meeting on 6 June which saw the adoption of Council Conclusions on four policy issues – namely mental health and well-being, innovation in the medical device sector, childhood immunization and sustainable healthcare systems.

Explaining the main action of the Council Conclusions entitled “Towards modern, responsive and sustainable health systems,” Mr Bencze underlined the intention of the Hungarian Presidency is to produce and sustain a reflection process whereby Member States will continue to exchange best practices related to investment in healthcare systems. He declared that the focus or the process will be on regarding health as an investment rather than an expenditure and conceded that the content of this reflection process has not been fixed in order to develop it based on Member State needs and expectations over the coming year. A report on the reflection process will be released by the end of 2012 with hopes for continued cooperation through the Senior High Level Working Group extending beyond this deadline.

Additionally, Mr Galeziak provided further information regarding the aims of the Polish Presidency in terms of employment and social policy which will focus on the demographic future of Europe, an active EU and a citizen partnership. Mr Galeziak asserted that the Polish Presidency will look to take a more holistic approach to employment, education, health and other sectors through the principle of “solidarity.” The Polish Presidency’s overall goal is to utilise changing demographics in society as an opportunity to innovate in the organisation of society leading to greater job creation.

Though both the Hungarian and Polish Permanent Representations to the EU are sitting on the Steering Committee of the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, neither representative could speak to any developments regarding the initiative. The European Commission briefed the EPSCO Council on its progress with the pilot partnership, but both speakers felt it too soon to consider possible outcomes of the Strategic Implementation Plan which is due to be completed by the Steering Committee before the end of 2011.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends the 7th Annual World Health Care Congress

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.

NEWS: 7th Annual World Health Care Congress-Europe

On the 13th and 14th of April 2011, the 7th Annual World Health Care Congress-Europe will take place in Brussels featuring officials from the health industry and decision makers from public and private insurance funds, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, health care industry suppliers, health ministers, and leading government officials to discuss and develop actionable items to provide the highest quality of care while working under budgetary constraints.

Key attendants and speakers will include Health First Members such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), European Health Telematics Association (EHTEL) and the European Union of Private Hospitals (UEHP). The UEHP will attend two panels and deliver a keynote speech.

Themes which are of particular interest to Health First Europe will include: Health and IT Innovations; National eHealth Initiatives to Improve the Sustainability and Quality of Health Systems; Privatization of Health Care In Europe: Strategies For Delivering Patient-Centered Care; Building Strategic Public-Private Partnerships Towards Sustainable Health Care; Aligning Incentives for All Health Care Stakeholders: Developing Models for Shared Goals, Improved Quality, and Cost Effective Care; and Models to Manage Major and Chronic Diseases.

NEWS: HFE attends 5th Annual Patients’ Rights Day: Putting citizens at the centre of EU policy

On the occasion of the 5th Annual European Patients’ Rights Day, the European Economic and Social Committee together with the Active Citizenship Network organised a conference to discuss “Putting Citizens at the Centre of EU Health Policy.” Attended by a broad array of patients’ organisations, the conference aimed to emphasise the outcomes of a project undertaken by Active Citizenship Network members to determine how the rights of patients within the European Union are respected. The report suggests that the rights of patients – as outlined by the European Charter of Patients’ Rights – are not being fully respected and that much work still needs to be done to ensure patient empowerment so that all citizens understand how to take full advantage of their rights as patients.

The conference began with an outline of the project and the methodology utilised to determine how patients’ rights are respected throughout the Member States. Mr Alessandro Lamanna of Rosapaola Meastasio in Italy presented the report and outlined some particularities within the project that showed the right of patients to access (care), the right to free choice and the right to the respect of patients’ time, have not been respected. “Not respected” is the terminology for the lowest determination on the project’s scale. However, the rights to personalized treatment, preventative measures, privacy and confidentiality and physical access were found to be “almost respected” which was the highest term on the scale of the study.

The highlight of the conference included the keynote speech delivered by Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli in which he emphasized that the financial difficulties health systems now face should not cause Member States to lose sight of the values and principles on which EU health is based. He clearly cited the need to improve patient safety and argued that investment in e-Health systems will serve as the basis for sustainable and equitable European health systems. He declared that we must, “Build a Europe that puts patients first.”

Additionally, the European Citizen Network awarded some of its members for good practices for work engaging citizens and patients in health policy. One of Health First Europe’s individual members, Ms. Judy Birch of the Pelvic Pain Support Network, was awarded for the work achieved with regards to its “Patient Involvement in HTA and Clinical Guidelines.” Health First Europe congratulates the Pelvic Pain Support Network on this great achievement.

Overall, the conference provided a snap-shot of the aspects in which health systems must improve in order to respect the rights of patients. It also delineated the responsibility of patients in understanding and utilizing their rights to assist health stakeholders in better comprehending which needs are not being met to facilitate better patient experiences.

NEWS: Conference Innovation in Healthcare: from Research to Market

The European Commission’s Directorate Generals (DGs) for Research and Innovation, Enterprise and Industry and Health and Consumers, jointly organised the second conference on Innovation in Healthcare: from Research to Market, in Brussels on the 30-31 March 2011. This conference brought together key health stakeholders including policy makers, universities, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), industry associations, researchers, patients associations and Member States to highlight and discuss the policy developments needed for research and innovation in healthcare at both European and national level under the framework of the Innovation Union. Participants discussed the major challenges facing the various governments, organisations and stakeholders in relation to improving patient-centered care through innovation and research.

Director General Robert-Jan Smits of DG Research and Innovation explained that Europe faces a lack of venture capital and fragmented regulatory practices. As a means to combat these difficulties, the European Union’s Innovation Flagship and the pilot Partnership on Healthy and Active Aging will serve as the basis for the next generation of support schemes. Additionally, a green paper was issued on 9 February 2011 to discuss major changes to EU research with stakeholders including addressing the societal challenges involved. Stakeholders are invited to submit comments until summer 2011. DG Research and Innovation wants to make sure that innovation and research will remain a key part of the European Union budget after 2013.

Also contributing to the discussion on innovation in healthcare, Hungarian Minister for Health, Dr. Miklós Szócska, described the overarching theme of the Hungarian Presidency which is patient and professional pathways. Under its’ Presidency, Hungary aims to emphasise the need to focus policy on both individuals and processes because “Healthcare systems need to be more efficient and sustainable in light of the extending lifespan.” He further expressed that an important issue for Hungary is its current investment in information technology and remarked that Hungary will build on payment and reimbursement mechanisms for patients to further ensure the sustainability of healthcare.

Representing the European Parliament, MEP Maria de Graca Carvalho (EPP, Portugal), and Rapporteur for the simplification of the Research Framework Programmes Implementation, expressed the emphasis should be placed on research on prevention in healthcare, cancer, heart diseases and neurodegenerative disease, the immune system and poverty diseases. Whereas, Guy Lebeau, Chairman of Eucomed, provided an industry perspective and offered that industry can bring improved productivity to healthcare systems with shortened hospital stays decreases in Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs).

As one of the keynote speakers at the conference, European Health Commissioner John Dalli, discussed how the European Commission’s innovation and research platform can help to reduce overall costs to EU healthcare systems. He stated, “The innovation and research platform will inspire projects such as the Olive Branch Initiative in the UK, which brings together healthcare and key services such as the fire department.” He suggested that when new technologies are introduced, clear evidence of the costs and benefits need to be established and that Health Technology Assessments (HTA) are important in the evaluation of these new treatments.

Overall, the consensus of the conference was that flexible legislation for research and technological innovation through industry is key to facilitating cost-effective and patient centered healthcare. A full report on the outcomes of the conference will be published by DG Research in the coming weeks.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends conference on “Innovation in health and new technologies: tools for the sustainable management of public health systems”

Health First Europe attended the conference entitled “Innovation in health and new technologies: tools for the sustainable management of public health systems” organised by Fundación Comunidad Valenciana to stimulate awareness of the integration of innovation and technology with health. The event was attended by a variety of stakeholders including Anne Starkie-Alves of the European Commission Health Directorate General for Information Society and Media ICT for health (DG INFSO), Jenny-Lee Spencer, Senior Policy Manager for the National Health Service (NHS) European Office and Richard Tuffs, Director of European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) all of whom discussed various avenues through which innovation can help to achieve more sustainable health care systems.

In her role as Policy Officer for the European Commission, Ms. Starkie-Alves, explained the current importance of, and focus on, e-Health at DG INFSO. She emphasised that technology is at the heart of policy and that we are moving into an age of closer links between technology and healthcare. She asserted that innovation plays a key role in this and that “with the ‘partnership concept’ the new focus of the EU is to work together with enterprises and industry to improve healthcare, which is key to success”. Currently, the European Commission is undertaking this partnership concept through the Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. The Partnership is composed of a steering group of 50 stakeholders that will hold its first meeting in May 2011. Furthermore, a new e-Health Action Plan is being formulated by the Commission for 2011 to 2020 which is expected to be adopted by the executive body by the end of this year. The Action Plan will address issues to achieve interoperability, innovation and a competitive market and will include a public consultancy with stakeholders.

As Senior Policy Manager for the National Health Service, Ms. Spencer illustrated that the NHS is facing similar problems as those throughout Europe with regards to an aging population and outlined new ideas which the NHS is pursuing to ensure sustainability. One of these ideas is the Quality Innovation Productivity and Prevention strategy (QIPP). With QIPP, the NHS wants to develop more sustainable and effective pathways to healthcare systems, share best practices regarding resources and learning, and improve efficiency and quality of the NHS services to ensure better value for money.

To conclude the conference, Richard Tuffs, Director of the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN), expressed how its’ dynamic network of more than 90 EU regions and its’ Brussels-based offices, facilitates knowledge exchange, joint action and project partnerships with the aim to strengthen its member region’s research and innovation capacities. ERRIN serves as a Brussels platform for research and innovation and assists regions to get their voice heard in Brussels – which can be a real asset when moving to influence political policy making. He suggested that health care systems must find ways to participate in the policy making process in order to maintain their point of view in the uptake of new technologies within European health systems.

NEWS: HFE attends ‘E-Health – A New Holistic Healthcare Plan for Europe’

The International Centre for Parliamentary Studies together with the European Centre for Public Policy organised the E-Health: A New Holistic Healthcare Plan for Europe event which brought together various health stakeholders to determine how eHealth and can be better integrated into the health care systems of today. Panelists from all health sectors agreed that in order to take advantage of the technologies that currently exist and to further encourage innovation, a major shift in thinking needs to occur with regards to how patients, professionals and governments view the delivery of health care. Participants discussed many of the challenges to the uptake of eHealth, but solutions were not as numerous. As John Wilkinson, C.E.O. of EUCOMED proclaimed in his closing statements as Chairman of the conference, “We have digital technologies operating in analog systems.”

The two-day conference began by discussing how Europe’s infrastructure can be transformed to support the eHealth technologies that already exist. All panelists acknowledged that one of the main barriers to a supportive infrastructure for eHealth remains the funding and reimbursement systems established throughout the Member States. Jennifer Bremner, Director of the European Health Management Association, highlighted the need to invest in the whole health care system rather than just pilots and projects which includes creating financial incentives for hospitals to integrate eHealth solutions. Ms. Bremner cited the fact that technologies which reduce hospital visits are rejected by hospitals because the overall outcome of less patient visits inevitably equals less revenue for the hospitals. However, she also cited the potential of eHealth to increase patient safety and quality of care and to change the dynamic between patients and health care professionals.

Providing a medical professional perspective on eHealth, Dr. Vicenzo Costigliola of the European Medical Association, followed Ms. Bremner and suggested that doctors see eHealth as a way to provide better service to patients, who today are more informed, more motivated and demand more in terms of medical performance. He declared patients are now of the notion, “Nothing about me, without me” which empowers people not only in their roles as patients, but also as consumers. From the point of view of a consumer, the over-arching problem with eHealth is that it “remains a disruptive technology” as Mr. Michael Wilks of the eHealth Users’ Stakeholders Group pointed out.

Speaking on the final day of the conference, Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Mr. John Dalli clearly emphasized the intention of the European Commission to facilitate the uptake of eHealth technologies so that health systems can deliver better care to more people. He maintained that the European Innovation Pilot on Healthy and Active Ageing will be run with an “entrepreneurial spirit – not bureaucratic” with the goal of bringing together stakeholders who will determine how best to roll out the technologies already generated and broaden the acceptance of those technologies.

The panelists following Commissioner Dalli presented many of the ways in which eHealth technologies have the potential to improve the patient experience. Mr. Herbert Riband, Medtronic Vice-President of External Affairs, shared with participants the “Carelink” remote cardiac device made by Medtronic which allows for remote follow-ups with cardiac patients rather than face-to-face visits. The technology is currently being used by 600,000 people in 31 countries and can reduce office visits by 38%, reduce the time from medical event to clinical decision by 79% and reduce cost by 40%. However, in most health care systems, face-to-face visits are paid for, whereas remote follow-ups are not, preventing many people from utilising a technology which would allow for increased active and healthy living.

Also in the business of providing eHealth technologies, Ms. Petra Wilson, Secretary General of the Continua Health Alliance, focused her remarks on the overall theme of the conference – change in the way health care is perceived. She argued that we can no longer derive health policy from the perspective that we are “accidentally well” and the idea that we do not have to do anything special to be well. Instead, she demanded that rather than collecting data only on the ill, we must begin collecting data on those who are “pre-ill” or “well” in order to begin establishing policy from a preventative perspective. Ms. Wilson considered that eHealth and remote devices are the mechanism through which further data can be collected about the population and better policy can be achieved.

Though the opportunities afforded by eHealth were sometimes overshadowed by the many challenges posed by eHealth during the event, the conference closed by reminding participants of the promise eHealth still has for all of us. John Wilkinson closed by offering that all stakeholders have a chance to gain through eHealth – patients through quality of care; clinicians through more effective and efficient treatment; research through collection of data by remote devices; and health systems through the better management of health.

NEWS: HFE attends “Health Care Reforms in an Ageing European Society with a focus on the Netherlands”

Health First Europe attended the launch of “Health Care Reforms in an Ageing European Society” which looked specifically at the burden of cost on European healthcare systems as the population ages. The study was undertaken by the Centre for European Studies – the official think tank of the European People’s Party (EPP) – in order to determine a health system of best practice which could potentially be utilised for benchmarking. As one of the few systems which has successfully transitioned from a publicly financed system to one of competitive services, the publication and the participants in the conference focused on the reforms undertaken by the Netherlands.

Deputy Director of the Research Institute for the CDA, Dr. Evert Jan van Asselt, explained that the Netherlands was used as the focal point of the study due to its estimated long-term health care expenditures which in 2010 are 3.5 percent of GDP – almost double that of any other Member State (expect Sweden). By 2060, it is estimated that the Netherlands will spend more than 4.5 percent of GDP on health care whereas other European countries will average just 1.3 percent.

In 2006, the Netherlands began implementing curative health care reforms which included changing to a private insurance system with public guarantees. The insurance companies compete for the insured on cost, service and quality of care and are free to negotiate with hospitals on price and diagnosis treatment combinations. This system has allowed for greater efficiency, however, reimbursements are still made based on quantity of care rather than quality – an issue that continues to hamper the effectiveness of the current reforms.

Following the presentation on the report, Dr. Reinhard Busse, professor for Management in Health Care at the Technical University of Berlin and Associate Head of Research policy of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, asked the question, “Do we live longer because we are healthier? Or are our extra years plagued by disease and co-morbidity?” He clarified that there is no clear correlation between health expenditure and ageing but argued that systems must disentangle disease from costs as many of the costs incurred for older persons are tied to health maintenance rather than disease (i.e. hip replacements). He further challenged policymakers to see health care as more than financing and to address challenges through the use of health technology assessment (HTA), attention on prevention, integrated care across providers/diseases and through the use of e-Health.

As the final presenter, former Dutch Minister of Health Care and Sport Dr. Ab Klink offered his opinion on how other Member States can learn from the Dutch experience with regards to health care reforms. He suggested that rather than looking to lessen costs through cost containment or rationing of care, the ultimate goal should be for reimbursement systems to change from paying for quantity of care to paying for quality of care. He declared that efficiency in care can also reduce cost and cited the study conducted by John Hopkins University as showing that by reducing health care associated infections (HAIs), its hospital was able to save $50 million. Dr. Klink continuously emphasized that value-based health care is the only means to ensuring sustainable European health care systems as the population ages.

NEWS: HFE attends DG INFSO’s Information Day on ICT Policy Support Programmes for health

The ICT Policy Support Programme (PSP) is an aspect of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) which is used as an instrument of the European Commission to support ICT innovations by funding pilot projects in designated work areas. The Information Day held in Brussels on 28 February 2011, announced the work programmes for 2011 which included funding initiatives pertaining to ICT in health – specifically ICT solutions for fall prevention and detection, e-inclusion and e-Health.

The CIP looks to support EU policy by driving the uptake of innovation and best use of ICTs. However, these projects do not involve research but rather the testing/piloting of projects in real settings to develop a single information space, to support innovation and to enable an inclusive information society. By disseminating the results, building on Member State initiatives and preparing for wider actions, this year the CIP helps to increase the uptake of ICT solutions pertaining to energy efficiency, digital content, health, innovative governance and open innovation for internet-enabled services in smart cities.

Regarding health, the European Commission determined the themes for 2011 funding would include fall prevention and detection, e-inclusion and e-Health. The fall prevention and detection theme aims to fund several pilots focused on safety and independent living through integrated solutions with an increased specificity on home settings. E-inclusion funding will be disseminated to projects developing guidelines for deployment of innovation in ICT for ageing well and sharing of best practices. There is also funding for digital competences and social inclusionary projects which focus on domiciliary care workers and education.

In 2011, funding for e-Health projects also exists though projects receiving funds must meet the objectives of empowering patients and supporting the widespread deployment of telemedicine services. Programmes that empower patients should focus on providing secure online access to medical records and have a sound business model for long-term sustainability. In order to achieve the second objective of expanding tele-medicine services, the Commission is looking for projects which provide guidelines for increasing the deployment of such services.<:p>

All programme participation for stakeholders is determined by whether the call for proposals is of Type A, B or C. Depending on the instrument, potential participants may need to collaborate with 3-6 other organisations in differing Member States in order to receive funding for pilot projects. Further details on how to submit proposals can be found at

Read more here.

NEWS: Health First Europe attends 4th Annual Symposium on “Rare Diseases Day”

Health First Europe attended the 4th Annual Symposium on Rare Diseases organised by EURORDIS under the heading of “Rare but Equal” to create awareness and bring attention to rare diseases and the millions of people across the globe debilitated by them. The event was attended by a wide variety of stakeholders and interest groups from more than 40 countries worldwide, which included representatives of the European Patients’ Forum, EPPOSI, Bayer Healthcare, various officials of DG Sanco, as well as Antonyia Parvanova, MEP and shadow rapporteur on the recently adopted EU Directive on Cross-Border Healthcare and Patient Mobility.

The symposium highlighted how rare diseases affect patients and the healthcare community since these diseases are typically life threatening or of severely handicapping quality – often due to the low prevalence of each disease as medical experts are rare and knowledge is scarce. Very few cures exist due in part to a lack of investment in research as profitability remains low in this medical field. Without research, many rare diseases continue to be misunderstood causing a shortage of effective treatment options for these diseases. In order to examine Europeans’ awareness and knowledge of rare diseases and their support for policy initiatives and actions taken at national and EU level, a survey was conducted in all 27 Member States showing that 17% of those surveyed knew someone suffering from a rare disease, but a larger proportion (40%) have never heard of anyone affected.

During the symposium, many panelists discussed the issue of health inequalities of rare disease patients and presented ways to tackle these issues, in addition to informing stakeholders of new developments in e-Health for rare disease patients. Numerous participants cited various aspects of the Cross-border Healthcare Directive as a mechanism for easing the burden on rare disease patients. The directive, adopted on the same day by the Council of the European Union, will allow patients with rare diseases to seek healthcare in another Member State helping to alleviate difficulties for patients who cannot find treatment within their own Member State.

The European Commission made it clear that reducing inequalities in health, specifically for rare disease patients, is key to health strategy. Stefan Schreck, DG SANCO, Head of Unit for Health Information, announced that the Commission created a committee of experts on rare diseases in December last year. It includes 50 members encompassing patient organizations, other stakeholders and the Commission, with the aim of determining further development of policy on rare diseases. Its goal is to facilitate better healthcare on the basis of principles of equity and solidarity.

Nathalie Chaze, Head of Unit for Health Strategies and Health Systems, further discussed cooperation between Member States in light of the new directive. Focus will be made on increasing quality and safety of healthcare, recognition of prescriptions across Member States (eHealth) and further collaboration between Member States to make the right decisions on health investments and spending.

NEWS: The Council adopts new rules in combating late payment in commercial transactions

Yesterday, Monday 24 January 2011, the Council adopted new rules in combating late payment in commercial transactions.

The new directive introduces for the first time penalties against local authorities that pay their bills late (beyond 30 days of the date of invoice), with a few exemptions for health care. Due to the important role healthcare play in the social infrastructure, the Directive establishes that Member States should be able to grant public entities providing healthcare a certain amount of flexibility in meeting their commitments. For that purpose, Member States should be allowed to extend the payment period up to a maximum of 60 calendar days. However, the Directive states that Member States should make every effort to ensure that payments in the healthcare sector are made within the statutory payment periods.

For more information about the Directive please see:

NEWS: HFE attends ETNO 3rd Innovation Day “eHealth: an answer to EU healthcare and demographic change”

The 3rd Innovation Day conference organized by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) brought together various telecoms to present new applications for e-health innovation in addition to highlighting the work the European Commission is undertaking in this field with the attendance of Neelie Kroes, the European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda. Focusing on the changing demographics of Europe and the obstacles presented by the increasing expenditures of Member States to healthcare budgets as a result, the telecoms looked to emphasize how their innovations could reduce costs and provide new business models for innovative care.

The highlight of the conference included the presentation of Ms. Kroes as she looked to encourage businesses to innovate in healthcare by clearly pronouncing the commitment of the European Commission to assist in creating the right business conditions for companies to further invest in e-health. She invited businesses to share their ideas with the Commission on how the EU institution can help to remove obstacles to innovation – either through the current consultation on the Partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing or through more informal channels. Overall, she maintained that the demand for technology services for all aspects of independent living will continue to grow and the Commission aims to make sure that policy meets those demands.

Much of the conference itself was devoted to the telecoms newest examples of e-health innovation including KPN’s diabeticStation for patients to monitor glucose levels, blood pressure and weight in numerous languages without doctor assistance; Telefonica’s SARA solution for distance monitoring; Telecom Italia’s MyDoctor@home tele-monitoring service; Orange’s medication reminder solution enabling applications for prescriptions; DeutscheTelekom’s tenant portal service for people with disabilities which allows immobile patients to use their eyes to communicate; Belgacom’s Heart Failure project; and Portugal Telecom’s Girassol mobile broadband project for disabled people allowing diagnoses from a distance.

The conference closed with a brief question and answer session with panelists from all the telecom companies in attendance moderated by Constantijn van Oranje of Ms. Kroes cabinet. Though the debate was to be focused on how to ensure a better integration of ICT-enabled solutions by the medical community and users, the telecoms expressed that interoperability between telecom providers will continue to be an obstacle due to the amount of tenders offered by Member States -generally only one provider exists which hinders telecoms working across borders for operability. Additionally, very few telecoms were willing to further describe in detail their business models in the e-health domain.

Download here the event summary.