Thursday 11 February 2010

All these events - so little impact

There is a lot of talk in Brussels about patients: patient empowerment, patient safety, patient information and patients’ rights. I think the one liner of the day is: we have to put patients at the center of things. This may be just talk, but there is a lot of it, as there is a bottom-up pressure for change. So on 23 February the think tank Stockholm Network will hold a conference under the headline Are Your Medicines Se? Its aim is to address “the serious problem: ensuring their safety for patients”. This is a smart move, as most agree on the importance of patient safety. Then next on 24 February the European Voice Health Check Debate on “The right to know? Should information to patients be restricted?” take place.

Now its starting to become controversial, but as long as the information is objective and preferably given by physicians or the EU, most people will say that patients should indeed be allowed more information. Well it would be surprising if they did not agree that patients who are more health-literate will manage their health better.

So safe and informed that seems to be ok with all. But on March 2nd when then approximate same (Brussels isn’t that big) crowd gather again– I don’t think it will be so cosy..

The topic of German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis Life Circle meeting is “Patient Empowerment – a New Paradigm in Disease Management”. This suggests the pressure is on. Discussion at the Life Circle event should be lively, at least if Member States’ representatives from the Member States show up and participate. Not necessarily always the case – when the EU Commission last year arranged a Patients’ Rights day the room where remarkably free from health attaches.

Patient empowerment was accepted without discussion as something positive until recently, but it seems that in the new financial situation governments have gotten cold feets since they assume it would mean higher costs. This questioning of if patient empowerment is really desirable seems to have begun at the Czech presidency conference on the financial sustainability of healthcare in 2009. During the panel debate on “Defining Sustainability in Health Systems, Josep Figueras, Director, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies as well as Melinda Medgyaszai, Secretary of State for Health Policy, Ministry of Health, Hungary. Maria de Belem Roseira Pina, Chair of the Parliamentary Health Committee, Asseimbleia da República, Portugal all questioned if all demands from patients should really be met.

After this at various conferences fears have been raised that patients may increasingly seek healthcare cross-border, thereby undermining the finances as well as the principle of the European equal (meaning everyone should have the same thing) and solidaric healthcare systems have been raised until finally the Spanjards managed to ensure a blocking minority for the Directive of Patients Rights on cross-border care. There are even fears that patients may demand treatments that are not good for them.

This might all be due to the financial crisis but I don’t think so. I think that its also because they really do not like to let go of the power they currently enjoy of being able to tell patients where and when and whether they should receive care. In Europe healthcare is still provided only to the extent that governments think it will benefit society as a whole. Think-tanks, a few politicians and the media might think differently, but they still have a long way to go to convince the Member States.

No comments:

Post a Comment