Dr. Cees Smit attending the EPF first conference on Cross-Border Healthcare

A patient journey through Europe

The right of patients in Europe to seek healthcare in another EU Member State, and be reimbursed for it, is now clearly established thanks to the EU Directive on Patients’ Rights in Cross-Border Healthcare (CBH). EPF
organised a first conference on this Directive on 9-11 December 2013 in Brussels and Cees Smit, policy adviser at the Patients Network for Medical Research and Health (EGAN) offers his insight on how he understood the event and the Cross-Border Healthcare in practice.

Personally, I came rather uninformed to this meeting and already the first evening I was impressed by the knowledge some of the participants had on this new EU directive on Crossborder Healtcare. At the same time, my own lack of knowledge was the main driver to attend this meeting. The beginning of the next day, I was rather overwhelmed by the great number of problems, of roadblocks that could be associated with this CBH directive.

Thanks to the excellent choice of EPF of speakers who introduced us in the ins and outs of this CBH directive, the possibilities as well as the impossibilities were clearly highlighted. I have to mention here especially Isabelle Riquier, who told about her own experiences as a French patient diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and living in Germany. She hopes that the implementation of this Directive by October 25 of last year will make an end to her now highly complicated way of receiving treatment. She now has to travel once a month to France to get her treatment, because France so far doesn’t want to reimburse her treatment in Germany although treatment there is even cheaper.

Another speaker was Nathalie Chaze from DG Sanco, who explained the important role the different National Contact Points (NCPs) had to play to explain this new directive to their citizens. To test how the national NCPs function at this moment, several participants asked during the conference by internet questions to their respective NCP and sometimes with disappointing results. From these n = 1 queries it became clear that not every country is on track with the implementation of the directive.

Later during the conference, when I became more familiar with the problems, I also saw more and more solutions rising by thinking of some solutions that were already developed with the international patient community.

For my own disease haemophilia, we developed already decades ago travel guides and medical passports to pass customs and visit foreign hospitals. These paper guides have now evolved to more sophisticated app’s that can be obtained from the App store (Look for ‘Haemophilia Travel Guide’, developed by the World Federation of Haemophilia).

There is also an App for patients with Crohn and Colitis, called ‘Bellybuddy’ (Buikbuddy) developed by the Dutch Crohn and Colitis Patient Group. This app contains translations of medical issues in a number of languages and also emergency alerts when patients with this disease are in desperate need for a quick visit to a toilet

Looking in more detail to these apps after the conference, I still see the chances to develop more apps for patient communities but the apps require also proper updates of the information. An app from two years old can already be rather inadequate today.

Also for EPF, the development of a more general App on this directive could help EU-patients tremendously.

With regard to the participants of this first conference, there will follow more, they belong to a special group of patient representatives who these days already got the privilege to learn a lot more about the recently implemented CBH directive. These privileges create also some obligations in two ways.

First of all, they act as a key person from the patient community in their own home-country in the further communication and cooperation with other stakeholders in this directive. And second, that they cooperate with EPF in the future in the further evaluation process of how the directive works in practice.

Cees Smit

Cees Smit

Policy Advisor for EGAN, Member of EPF

More Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
5 − 3 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.