New Report: EU health systems post-pandemic

A whole-of-society, whole-of-economy approach to reforming European health systems is critical to ensure that patients receive the right care – at the right place and at the right time. A new Friends of Europe report, published in cooperation with Baxter, on the future of healthcare in Europe says the reorganisation and delivery of care must be patient-centred, underpinned by new integrated care models and supported by digitalisation.

The last 18 months have been catastrophic, both for our populations and our health systems, which have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 crisis, meaning that a significant amount of care normally delivered on a day-to-day basis for chronic care disappeared. It’s time to review and update our health systems so they are fit for purpose – today and in the future.

The report, “EU health systems post-pandemic: delivering care to patients at the right place and time,) draws on the outcomes of two working group sessions organised by Friends of Europe in 2021 and identifies three overarching recommendations:

  1. make the patient the point of care;
  2. promote integrated care pathways through community and home-based care; and
  3. make the architecture of healthcare digital by default to support integrated care.

Shifting the point of care to patients themselves means that care can be increasingly delivered in community and local settings, or even in the home, paving the way to integrated care, where health systems and social systems come together, prevention and promotion link up with care and rehabilitation, and physical health meets mental health. An integrated model of care offers patients greater involvement and choice in their treatment options, while simultaneously protecting vulnerable patients and ensuring continuity of care.

The report acknowledges that such a model would require a full digital ecosystem and calls for health systems to be digital by default. In addition to full interoperability, health data needs to be well-governed with ethical frameworks and used both for greater understanding of disease and epidemiology, as well as management and forecasting of the system, to ensure that health systems are agile and prepared for future challenges.

“The pandemic forced health systems to respond, adjust and adapt immediately, and while the current rate of change is unsustainable in the long term, the pandemic has left us in a unique position to use this momentum to build back better,” writes Tamsin Rose, Senior Fellow for Health at Friends of Europe. 

This patient-centred vision for the future of healthcare cannot be imposed top-down from Brussels, but must be shared at all levels of governance. Recognising that all elements must work together but with each assuming ownership of different parts of the puzzle, the report breaks down the three key recommendations into executable actions at the EU, national and local levels to support the transformation and modernisation of EU healthcare.

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