Europe’s health systems in need of a disruptive rethink

Written by Brian Johnson on 7 October 2019 in Event Coverage
Event Coverage

Bad Hofgastein, Austria: change needed to keep health systems “fit-for-purpose”.

Martin Seychell | Photo credit: European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG)


Speaking at the recent European Health Forum in Gastein, Austria, Deputy Director General for health at the European Commission Martin Seychell said, .“Many now think the health systems in place need to change and adapt to be fit for the future.”

Seychell was addressing reporters at a news conference about one of the recurring themes of the Gastein Forum, the potential of “disruptive thinking” when it comes to health policy. 

He explained, “The first disruption about health systems is the amount of challenges that are disrupting the way systems have lived, developed and benefited the European population for decades.”


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The forum aimed, over its three-days, to explore what a “healthy dose of disruption” can offer for Europe’s health and well-being. 
“It must be noted that most member states are very aware of the challenges and many important transformative reforms are ongoing,” said Seychell.

He noted that populations are aging rapidly but are not “necessarily in good health”, while the burden of chronic diseases is also rising.

“New technologies give rise to the digital transformation of health and care sometimes with high transitional cost,” said Seychell adding, “All of these are also disruptive because they have serious repercussions for health budgets, which have already been under pressure for years now.”

He warned that, “A rethink is needed of the health systems in order to keep them fit-for-purpose. It will not be sufficient to focus on budget consolidation. It is necessary to transform systems more fundamentally.”

“A rethink is needed of the health systems in order to keep them fit-for-purpose. It will not be sufficient to focus on budget consolidation. It is necessary to transform systems more fundamentally” Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General for health at the European Commission

Reducing pressures on health systems also involves disease prevention and keeping people in good health “as long as possible,” he argued. “It must be noted that most member states are very aware of the challenges and the many important transformative reforms that are ongoing.”

“Disruptive thinking might also be needed to further push the instruments that allow us to measure and assess the cost effectiveness of treatments, devices and technologies in a way that truly serve health objectives not yet met.”

“Disruptive thinking”, he explained, can also “bring solutions - and not only promises- that are affordable for the patients and sustainable for the systems.”

Speaking at the same news briefing, Stephen Klasko, of Thomas Jefferson University, called for a “consumer revolution” in healthcare.
He said health systems, in some ways, lagged behind other industries which had undergone far-reaching changes.

“It means,” he said, “that patients are often not as demanding of their quality of care as customers in other industries are. Why, for example, should anyone accept that it may take up to two weeks for a GP appointment?”

Klasko, also CEO of Jefferson Health, also wants to see curbs imposed on pharmaceutical companies’ direct selling to the public.

“Patients are often not as demanding of their quality of care as customers in other industries are. Why, for example, should anyone accept that it may take up to two weeks for a GP appointment?” Stephen Klasko, Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health

Another speaker, Christopher Fearne, the Maltese deputy Prime Minister, also supports the concept of disruptive thinking, saying he also wants to see the cost of new medicines reduced.

He said, “They are incredibly high and there is not much transparency about medicine pricing. This web of secrecy has to change. These are some of the ‘disruptive’ things we should strive for.”

Speaking separately at the forum, Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said, “We have made significant strikes in improving health in Europe and we have seen some major accomplishments over the last few years.”

Addressing a breakout session at the annual event, he said, “At the same time, we continue to face health challenges that require EU-level leadership. I have no doubt that the next mandate of the European Commission will demonstrate continued commitment to health promotion, prevention and protection.”

The commissioner told the packed audience, “Especially important in this regard is to be disruptive in our thinking, by breaking silos and addressing health challenges holistically making ‘health in all policies’ work not only on paper but also on the ground. 

“The increasingly visible effects of climate change on public health illustrate that we should go forward being more courageous, knocking at doors that hide behind them the solutions for environmental, commercial, economic, behavioural, as well as the social determinants of health.”

 

About the author

Brian Johnson is the Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

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