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Health First Europe attends a Stockholm Network meeting on "A new vision for the future of healthcare"

29 March 2012

On 28 March, the Stockholm Network invited scientists, academics and professionals to share discussions about the current challenges and obstacles in the health sector and to bring ideas to the table to build together a new vision for the future of the healthcare systems in Europe. To widen the debate, the panelists presented the various points of view of different stakeholders: patients with new behaviours and expectations; health professionals with new skills and competencies; and finally, industry with new challenges and interests to move towards a more innovative, safe and efficient health care sector.

According to Professor Paul Corrigan CBE, the healthcare system has to cope with new sources of value where the patient is a key player (or co-producer) to involve. As regards the increased demand and expectations for healthcare, static resources mean there is significant need for innovation to provide better health outcomes and create new value in healthcare. In developed countries there is about a 4% increase in annual demand for healthcare. In addition, 66% of the expenditure is on patients with long-term conditions. Professor Corrigan suggested that the answer seems to be very simple in theory: in order to increase new sources of value, the system needs to increase the amount of creators of value including increasing the amount of nurses, doctors and/or promoting the substitution of medical products (e.g. generic medicines).

As regards the patient’s potentiality, the self-management of their own health allows financial opportunities such as a lower use of emergency hospital care. Moreover, better self-management could be developed if the health service input was aimed at improving the self-management itself. However, at the moment, the health service is not yet ready for this tranformation. Besides a further empowerment of patients, Professor Corrigan added that healthcare sector has to make progress in other fields at the same time: accessibility to information and treatments, competition and sustainability in healthcare services, more integrated systems and services.

From a health professional’s point of view, the panelist suggested that these changes are mostly located in three domains. First, the patient-doctor relationship is evolving in such way that we can observe a deeper knowledge gap. Dr. Alphonse Crespo, a Swiss orthopaedic surgeon, stated that the trend should go towards an equal-equal partnership to establish more confidence and collaboration between the doctor and his/her patient. Secondly, all healthcare workers have to adapt to, and work in, a new institutional environment which ask is for more and more precisions in treatments and surgery and which often sees treatments become obsolete quickly (i.e. new evidence-based medicines etc.).

To achieve all these changes in structures, panelists declared that innovation must be seen as a long-term investment rather than a cost. Training for health workers, more adapted and integrated services and innovation is necessary to support future healthcare delivery. In addition, the societal perception including policy-makers, industry and citizens must also be addressed in order to facilitate these changes and extend potentialities to become concrete outcomes for the healthcare sector.

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