1. It’s no secret healthcare systems across Europe are buckling under the increased pressure of higher non-communicable disease prevalence and lower budgets, what are the top three steps that national governments should be taking now to avoid an even more critical situation in 10 years?
At the European Health Parliament, our synergistic work between all 5 committees outlines a ‘blueprint’ to reignite action for efficient delivery of healthcare to EU citizens, utilizing the enormous potential of emerging health innovation.
Addressing the fundamental problem of fragmentation in our disintegrating healthcare systems and embracing prevention as an overarching umbrella to reduce health inequalities is a critical step forward.
Moreover, we need to address the lack of interoperability between electronic health records and medical technologies by fostering EU-wide standards, as well as addressing gaps in quality protocols that would merge traditional therapeutic pathways with digital health and life-saving stem cell therapies. These reforms are co-dependent on the efficient use of resources with cost transparency across the entire healthcare continuum.
Finally, I believe that in order to improve sustainability in healthcare, investment in health literacy as well as medical innovation and research can open a realm of new opportunities.
2. Considering the clearly defined division of competence for health between the EU and member states, how does the role of European policymakers and healthcare stakeholders actually matter?
EU and national-level authorities need to be in tune with the changing needs of the diverse populations in Europe and constantly analyze whether existing systems and hospital management lines are efficient and necessary. Strategic cooperation across the EU to align on quality standards and agree on fair and transparent pricing structures are key factors for the improvement of health in Europe. Achieving this at a faster pace can only happen through synergistic efforts of European policymakers and healthcare stakeholders.
3. The questions surrounding access – for whom, for how much, for how long – abound, but with budgets unlikely to expand in the near future, what role do you see for the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries in the healthcare systems of the future?
The nested hierarchy of healthcare in Europe doesn’t promote social inclusion policies and fails to address the healthcare needs amongst disadvantaged groups (older people, those with mental health issues, asylum seekers, people from ethnic minorities, etc.).
It becomes obvious that any authority alone cannot resolve all these complex issues, and thus the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries are instrumental in providing innovative solutions in the healthcare and policy interface that encompass the health needs of the population, under a fair, regulated and transparent pricing scheme.
If we are serious about making healthcare more accessible and affordable while increasing quality standards, we will need to rein in implementing policies that encourage the drug discovery pipeline as well as engineering of novel medical technology, while the regulatory bodies can evaluate the appropriate pricing and incremental values and inform the patients accordingly.
4. The working groups for the EHPs 2016 session include five focus areas – digital skills, antimicrobial resistance, climate change, migration, prevention & self-care. These topics seem to anticipate the imminent threats to healthcare systems, as well as our health and well-being, but what in your view is the next biggest concern that you can envisage unsettling Europe’s healthcare systems?
Underlying the current healthcare failings that are addressed by the EHP committees in critical areas, we need to focus on a crucial underappreciated problem: fragmentation. The invisibility of this problem over the past century has resulted in unintentionally disincentivizing Europe from strategizing on how to provide optimal care for the whole population. Instead, we have narrowly-focused services with staggering unjustness in costs that led to worsening inequalities.
5. Within the current Brussels lobbying environment, but also in light of the healthcare threats that are only beginning to receive attention (e.g. the relationship between our health and our environment), how does the EHP provide a disruptor effect among already established healthcare stakeholders?
The European Health Parliament has a unique identity since it is comprised of a diverse group of young and successful health professionals from the clinical, academic, industrial and entrepreneurial world, that hail from different countries with different cultures and mentalities but with one common goal: to make healthcare safer, affordable and accessible-to-all. Established healthcare stakeholders are often ushered into silos and can fail to work in a synergistic way. The EHP provides a plurality of perspectives, clearly setting out the issues requiring alignment, and accelerating policy changes by focusing on innovative healthcare tools for an integrated EU healthcare system.
Hailing from Thessaloniki, Greece, Eleni Antoniadou is serving as President of the European Health Parliament for 2016. A scientist and co-founder of Transplants without Donors – a medical firm popularising artificial organ research, she specialises in the research and advancement of regenerative medicine, biotech, and artificial organ transplantations.
About European Health Parliament:
With the firm belief that new challenges require new thinking, the European Health Parliament brings together 55 young professionals in Brussels to address the healthcare challenges of today by providing novel ideas that will ultimately manifest in a gradual paradigm shift for a safer, affordable and accessible-to-all healthcare. The ambition of this grassroots movement is to reinvent European healthcare by enabling young professionals from different backgrounds to debate and formulate innovative ideas about the major European healthcare challenges and bring them forward to healthcare stakeholders from policymakers to activities to industry.
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