On 24th October 2016, the European Union of General Practitioners (UEMO) participated in the conference “Towards amplified awareness of EU rights to cross border care”, which took place at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. UEMO was represented by Dr. Tiago Villanueva.
The EU Health Programme provides the basis for the organization of a conference of National Contact Points (NCP) aiming to improve their functioning and raise awareness about the Directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
The conference focused on the discussions that took place at the Informal Meeting of Ministers of Health held in Luxembourg in September 2015. It further focused on the findings of the 2015 Commission report on the operation of the cross-border healthcare Directive and the Eurobarometer on Patient Rights published in May 2015. These published reports and ongoing discussions showed that concerns around patient information and NCP performances persist and continue to be identified as critical issues still to be addressed.
The aim of this conference was to provide a discussion on:
- Improving information provision to enable patients have access to cross-border healthcare;
- Fostering better coordination between NCPs;
- Enhancing NCP cooperation with patient organisations, healthcare providers and healthcare insurers for the benefit of patients.
The conference included presentations by many stakeholders. Ms Anne Calteux, from the Ministry of Health of Luxembourg, described the longstanding cross-border cooperation situation between the Benelux countries. She informed that it is necessary to fill the directive with life. In addition she mentioned that it is necessary to provide visibility on the cross-border collaboration and include the directive in the political agenda on an EU level. Lastly she emphasised the need to enhance the cooperation of Benelux countries.
Dr Gabriella Berki, from the University of Szeged, provided a presentation mentioned that the regulation is more beneficial to patients due to the financial provisions, but the directive might be a better option if no prior authorisation is required.
She concluded that access to information is necessary in order to empower patients. This information should be comprehensive (eg. various tools like smartphone application or e-learning courses). The needs of patients should be taken into account and the patients should choose the most favourable option for them.
The afternoon panel was moderated by Mr Willy Palm, from the Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.
Ms Kaisa Immonen, from the European Patients Forum, mentioned that there is a position paper on the implementation of the legislation (2016), and during 2017 there will be an ongoing request for information. She claimed that there is not much practical experience among patient organizations yet and there is little involvement of patients. Her concerns included the lack of information, the barriers to access in cross-border healthcare, as well as the lack of awareness of the Directive. She concluded that the patient community identifies key barriers. There is a perception that some NCP are not working in the patients’ interests. Furthermore governments are reluctant to provide information to patients. Moreover, there is a lack of awareness by medical professionals who should at least have general awareness on cross-border healthcare.
Ms Sarada Das, CPME Senior Policy Advisor emphasised the need for special attention to ensuring access to information for all patient groups including vulnerable patients. Lastly, Corinna Hartrampf, Senior Project Manager at AIM, gave the perspective of health mutual and insurance funds.