The Patient Journey: improving the life of patients living with chronic diseases

10/07/2017 News Europe , News UEMO , Press 2171 Views

On 28 June, POLITICO organised the ‘The Patient Journey: improving the life of patients living with chronic diseases’ event which included an interview of the EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, followed by two panel sessions. It has been stressed, that health care systems encounter major challenges today: from Brexit impact on the fate of the NHS (National Health Service) to national election candidates’ plans to reform public health insurance.

Another front-and-centre issue is the increasing ageing population and the growing burden of major chronic diseases against constrained public resources for health. These diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, mental health problems, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease, account for 87{cabf78295431282ca1bec49ffbe2c87b89a1285ae102b2d0687184fc21af24ba} of deaths in the EU – about 4m a year and 115bn euros (0,8{cabf78295431282ca1bec49ffbe2c87b89a1285ae102b2d0687184fc21af24ba} of GDP annually).

The outcome is:

  1. The EU Health Commissioner expressed his disappointment with national governments and the lack of political will to put health high on their agenda in order to better manage chronic diseases. Prevention in better than cure therefore member states need to increase their spending.  In addition, aggressive marketing significantly contributes to the development of many diseases, including products high in added sugar, trans-fats and alcohol. He praised Nordic countries for their actions to tackle the issues through developing protective measures including specific marketing instruments and taxation. He also assured that DG SANTE will continue with its presence within the EC (European Commission) as the Lisbon Treaty clearly states the EU’s responsibility to ensure a high level protection of human health in the definition and implementation of all EU policies and activities. He stated he sees a possibility to keep the UK on board post-Brexit and he highlighted that 20{cabf78295431282ca1bec49ffbe2c87b89a1285ae102b2d0687184fc21af24ba} of all the work on ERNs (European Reference Networks) is done in the UK capacity. He concluded that there still a lot to be done and he unveiled a plan to create public health research cluster.
  2. Multiple Sclerosis – growing number of issues – increasing number of female patients; difficult to detect; access and price of innovative medicines; data collection, registries and better sharing with the existing data between members states as it is currently very poor; more research, innovation and collaboration between academia and policy makers needed. A guide for health care professionals to have conversations on work with people with multiple sclerosis was briefly presented.
  3. Reducing disparities in treating chronic diseases: strong political will; more financing for healthcare systems; better education; improving prevention and health promotion –still 1 in 5 is smoking and 1 in 5 is excessively drinking; early intervention, collaboration between patient organisations, civil society, policy makes and medical organisations; better access to treatment; good public health policies and good care management. There is no need for new legislation at the moment but the EU needs to be more innovative. There is also the ongoing work on chronic pain to be recognised as a disease.
  4. More needs to be done for better implementation of the EU Cross-border Healthcare Directive as people with low-income cannot afford to pay upfront to get a treatment abroad.
  5. Better integration of people with chronic diseases into the workplace is needed and making employers to better understand how to help employees with chronic conditions as it is cost-efficient to retain workers with such conditions than to employ and train new staff. Currently, 3 out of 10 are diagnosed with chronic condition.
  6. To focus on better patient-physician communication as patient involvement has a significant impact on healthcare outcome. Carers need better recognition and equal treatment as healthcare staff.
  7. The EC presented the following:
  • Health is a competence of member states, however the EC has soft power to provide support for people to live better with chronic conditions
  • 28 different healthcare systems but member states can learn from each other exchanging best practice in order to reduce disparities in treating patients with chronic conditions
  • Mid-term evaluation of the EU Health Programme – main findings show that there is an implementation gap of good practice. Next call under the Health Programme in 2018 will provide financial support for implementation of selected best practice.
  • Cancon project – a very productive project and valuable findings but now the EC will be working on how to successfully disseminate and implement its results.
  • New ‘no push approach’ – the EC will not be imposing on member states which best practice to implement. A new group of member states has been recently set up to discuss and provide the EC with their interests/priorities based on the horizontal health policy perspective. The EC has already pre-selected list of best practice for member states and asked which of them they would wish to implement.
  • The EC will also be working on how to improve assessing the economic consequences of implementing certain approaches for better justification. Prevention is very beneficial economically, but the evidence needed to present finance ministers about specific measures and their specific outcomes/benefits.

About author

Related articles