Our Secretary General Nicola Bedlington attended on 3 March the Friends of Europe’s roundtable discussion ‘Adapting EU health policy to an evolving Europe’. We are a member of the Health Working Group that has generated 21 recommendations on what the EU should ‘Start’, ‘Stop’ or ‘Do differently’ during this new mandate to improve the health of Europe’s citizens.
We asked the Strategic Adviser Tamsin Rose to further explain on our blog the recommendations related to patient empowerment which are very much welcomed in the light of our upcoming conference on this topic.
The Health Working Group sought to empower policy-makers, health actors and patients through four clusters of recommendations. In one of them, on improving governance for health, the group recommended that the EU start making progress towards a comprehensive strategy for patient empowerment with a meaningful involvement in health at national and EU level.
Create space for patients
There is nothing revolutionary in championing the principle of patient empowerment as it is generally accepted as a key success criterion for improving health outcomes of treatment. However, the Working Group’s vision goes much further than having a say in personal treatment.
A comprehensive strategy means creating space for patients to offer input into the bigger aspects of systemic changes in health. Patients can play a role even in areas that are complex or technical such as health technology assessment.
Identify ineffective care
The health sector prides itself on being evidence-based, but is notoriously slow at implementing new guidelines or interventions. Estimates vary on what proportion of healthcare is ineffective, but very few countries spend money researching what works or ‘disinvesting’ in outdated practices or treatments.
The Health Working Group recommended that the EU help countries to stop ineffective health interventions. We further identified local, national and European patients’ associations as potential sources of valuable experience.
They could nominate health interventions for review based on the information provided from their membership and drawn from real life situations of living with different health conditions. This is a practical example of how patients could be offered meaningful involvement not just in their own care but in structural changes in healthcare systems.