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Innovative Health Systems Reform: How can we translate innovation into policy recommendations?

7 June 2016

It is possible to use a myriad of different technologies to improve patient safety and healthcare. We can do more by making sure that Member States are committed in incorporating these technologies into their health systems and that they are supported by policies that guarantee that patients receive the best care possible.

Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT)

On June 1, the EP’s Interest Group on Innovation and Health and Social Care met to finalise 5 policy recommendations to be addressed to the European Commission and EU Member States on how to translate innovation into national healthcare systems. To achieve this aim, the work of the Interest Group was supported by the participation of Mr. Sylvain Giraud, Head of Unit for Performance of National Health Systems at DG-Santé, and Prof. Walter Ricciardi, Member of the Expert Panel on effective ways of investing in health.

The interest Group with the support of its Co-chairs has been working to define and showcase the role of innovation to improve patient lives since its launch in November 2014. As stated by MEP Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT) “We have seen how technological innovations have added value to the health system across countries with wearable devices that can help physicians give more specific diagnosis, and patients in helping them in creating a thorough medical history, thus giving them tailor-made treatment”. She insisted that it was necessary to work together between European institutions and EU Member States to guarantee the strengthening and sustainability of national healthcare systems.

Mr John Bowis, Health First Europe Honorary President, highlighted how any national reform should put the patient at the center and focus on better use of resources. In his opinion We need to work more and together to provide European citizens with the best quality healthcare, taking full advantage of the new technological innovations in the sector without compromising the healthcare national budgets.

To make patients beneficiary of innovative healthcare solutions “It is essential to have innovative reforms” Mr Sylvain Giraud stated. His contribution emphasised the tension between innovation and budgetary restraints. Nevertheless, patients expect cost-effective innovation as Mr Giraud said “It is not only about new technologies and new products, but it is also about new structures, new delivery model, new processes, new services, new financial mechanisms, new pricing mechanisms, and also workforce skills. What we need is a mix of all these innovative elements”. Bearing in mind the European Union competencies in the health policy, the European Commission is currently supporting Member States to look for new ways to deliver new treatments and technologies or other types of innovative solutions to meet patient expectations.

To provide new tools to Member States to reform healthcare systems, Prof. Walter Ricciardi introduced the concept of disruptive innovation, which is “an innovation that creates a new market or expands an existing market by applying a different set of values, which ultimately (and unexpectedly) overtakes an existing market”. There is no one-size model which can fit for European healthcare, Member States need to look to their own health systems and structures and see which areas can be innovated. As he said “Innovation is telling our decision makers that more of the same is not enough”.

To answer our initial question: How can we translate innovation into policy recommendations? Some suggestions included access to proper insurance for all citizens, enhancing patient role in the healthcare reforms, sharing best practices, investing in training on the healthcare workforce. Bearing in mind the critic role of innovation in improving patient lives, it is necessary to work together to motivate Member States to invest in cost-effective innovation.

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