Experts advise on health-care sustainability

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A report presents government recommendations on how to invest taxpayers’ money more effectively to improve the quality of health care and to ensure the financial sustainability of health systems.

A report on Financing Sustainable Health Care in Europe is currently being drafted by a number of European stakeholders. The aim is to present specific recommendations for member states and the EU to boost healthcare productivity and efficiency. “Productivity…is going down. We don’t really know what we get with the money we spend on healthcare as the health systems are very un-transparent,” said Hannu Hanhijärvi, the executive director of the health-care programme at Sitra, the Finnish national fund for R&D. 

“It is difficult to get hold of the ‘deliverables’, the outcomes of the money put into the black box of health care systems,” agreed former European Parliament president Pat Cox who is on the report’s steering committee, adding that “the issue is not that much the rising cost of an older population than the need for governments to invest their available resources wisely”. 

The initial recommendations of the report were presented on 7 December 2006, and include: 

  • Increased competition in health care provision leading to results-oriented healthcare and increased accountability;
  • ‘incentivising’ consumers to consume wisely and suppliers to produce efficiently;
  • empowering patients through increased access to health information, and; 
  • rewarding innovation and reforming health-technology assessment (HTA) to improve the relative effectiveness of health care (balancing innovation, medical progress and productivity gains with health-care budgets).

The full report, detailing these four initial recommendations will be published in a conference on Sustainable healthcare financing: new approaches for new outcomes in Helsinki in February 2007. “The aim of the conference is to get more EU countries involved and to create a platform that will shift the gear from analysis to action,” added Cox.

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