A greying Europe needs to take advantage of new technology and to empower patients in order to make healthcare more effective and less costly, panellists told a Friends of Europe Policy Insight on 7 November 2018.
They were speaking at the launch of a report, Smart (Dis)Investment Choices In Healthcare, that resulted from a series of working groups and other contributions ahead of next year’s European elections. It focusses in particular on smarter investment for better health and disinvestment from health interventions that are ineffective, inefficient and outdated. The report came up with recommendations for innovation that is citizen-centred, data-fuelled and outcome-focussed.
“We are at a tipping point. The scale of cheaper technology is huge,” said Loubna Bouarfa, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of OKRA Technologies, an artificial intelligence data analytics company for healthcare. “We only see an increase in health services consumption and at the same time in computer storage. We need to use that storage to allow for this huge consumption.” She called on the European Commission to develop means to make it easier for entrepreneurs to scale up solutions based on data. “In America you can scale, but in Europe we are regulated. That is great for citizens but a barrier for innovation.”
Europe has a good record in innovation, but not in the large-scale, commercial application of those advances. “Are we looking at one common goal: if I have an innovation, how can European patients enjoy it faster?” asked Andrea Rappagliosi, Vice President, Market Access and Public Affairs & Communication EMEA, Canada and LATAM at Edwards Lifesciences. “We obviously need security, safety and norms. The issue is how we can move from a risk-adverse culture to a really pro-innovation culture where new technology is adopted faster.” He added that healthcare facilities built in the 50s are not fit for purpose for implementing the latest technology-based treatments.
The report put forward five recommendations for the future of healthcare in Europe: empowerment of citizens, through health literacy efforts; an outcome-based approach to health; a health-data zone to better understand healthcare needs; making innovation the norm in health to maximise the opportunity of digitalisation; and redesigning health so that it has a model fit for purpose in the 21st century.
“At the centre is empowering citizens,” said Dharmendra Kanani, Director of insights at Friends of Europe, who presented the report’s outcomes. “People can buy pharmaceuticals on Amazon and diagnose themselves via the Internet. To make this work in this century, we are going to have to make sure that patients are empowered to do the right things and are involved centrally in solutions-making and problem-solving. Patients have to cease being seen as passive recipients and instead become a dominant feature and seen as an asset in how we solve problems and create systems.”
Though it is up to national governments to organise and provide healthcare, the European Commission complements national policies by helping governments achieve shared objectives, generating economies of scale and helping EU countries tackle shared challenges such as pandemics, chronic diseases and the impact of increased life expectancy.
“People realise that a strong transformation of our healthcare systems is needed, and they are ready for that,” said Sylvain Giraud, Head of Unit for Performance of National Health Systems in the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety. “It is clearly sometimes about spending more. But in many cases, it is about spending better. Reducing waste is one of the most important elements in the transformations and reforms in all the EU member states. It is not only about the sustainability of public finances but also about effectiveness, accessibility and resilience.”
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