Single, Unified European Healthcare System Unlikely, But Common Initiatives in Prevention and Innovative Partnerships Will Pay Future Dividends

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Health of nations is tied to the wealth of nations

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The ageing population, coupled to an uncertain economic future and an ever-expanding health technology horizon is placing huge strain on every nation-state.

Although a central, unified healthcare system across Europe is not likely to happen "in our lifetime, if at all" due to the size and complexity of the issue, common frameworks and more collective focus on prevention initiatives are vital to the long-term sustainability of health systems, according to a pan-European think tank of policymakers, academics and industry stakeholders at a European healthcare summit in Geneva today.

The consensus at the Healthcare in Europe summit highlighted that a single healthcare system across Europe might not be plausible and is unlikely to be realised in the future. However, progress has been made with the European Union Directive on cross-border healthcare aimed at promoting cooperation across member states.

Given Europe’s ageing population and the upsurge in chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer, it is important that prevention strategies are at the heart of healthcare reforms to ensure sustainability of health systems. Cutting public spending in prevention initiatives will not address sustainable healthcare reforms for future generations. The discussion on prevention is supported by the Economist Intelligence Unit report, launched at the conference, on the importance of healthy practices which begin early in life to ensure adults are healthy when reaching old age. The report, Never too early: Tackling chronic disease to extend healthy life years*, sponsored by Abbott, a global healthcare company, identifies measures that can be taken to prevent and manage chronic disease.

Importantly, healthcare reforms need to ensure the care they provide is of the best possible quality and offers the best value for money for the patient, agreed a panel of European expert policy-makers, including NICE CEO Sir Andrew Dillon and Turkish Minister for Health, Recep Akdağ.

“The ageing population, coupled to an uncertain economic future and an ever-expanding health technology horizon is placing huge strain on every nation-state,” explained Professor Richard Sullivan from King’s Health Partners Integrated Cancer Centre. “Never has there been a more pressing time for creative solutions to delivering affordable excellence in keeping healthy and treating disease.”

Healthcare in Europe 2012 organised by Economist Conferences, is a forum for influential European stakeholders to join forces in tackling the big issues currently facing healthcare systems, from reform and innovation to the role of technology and personalised medicine.

Stakeholders representing healthcare providers, payers, suppliers and patients challenged the panel on their ideas on healthcare reforms, “European healthcare systems must necessarily reform to face challenges including sustainability and demographic change,” said Nicola Bedlington, Executive Director, European Patients Forum. “But all too often questions on health economics and efficacy take precedent. If we are to realise our vision of sustainable healthcare systems, in which there is greater personal accountability for health and disease prevention, then patients’ needs and equitable access should be at the heart of healthcare policy-making. “

The panel also highlighted the importance of integrated healthcare where Health Technology Appraisal committees should assess drug treatments alongside the care provided by health systems as being an essential components leading towards the path to sustainable healthcare reform.

Pharma’s role in adapting to changing healthcare demands was also one of the key debates at today’s summit. The feasibility of a number of proposed initiatives around R&D, pricing and reimbursement engaged senior representatives from industry in lively discussion. Patrick Flochel, Partner and EMEIA Life Sciences Leader at Ernst and Young said, “The chronic disease epidemic is causing a strain on European healthcare systems. The move towards patient self-management and the implication for how the life sciences industry can cooperate with other partners in the future should be an important part of healthcare reforms. A combination of medical and behavioural science must be embraced by the industry to ensure better health outcomes for the patient.”

During the discussion, it was highlighted that improvements in the population’s health can lead to higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The long-term impact of a healthy population can directly contribute to the productivity of the country. In the time for austerity, continued investments must be made to ensure people are healthy, thus enabling them to contribute to the country’s economic growth.

Summit discussions have also highlighted the lessons Europe could learn from innovative healthcare provision in countries such as India where wide-scale public health issues must be tackled with limited resources. Furthermore, new technologies as well as personalised and predictive medicine are likely to force the pace of healthcare reform, leading to more patients being treated with better and predictable outcomes. According to a panel of technology leaders, partnerships between healthcare systems and industry are essential in order to harness and maximise these innovations.

Among the government leaders, academics, policy makers and expert industry stakeholders participating in Healthcare in Europe 2012 are: Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive Officer, National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE); Despina Spanou, Principal Adviser, Directorate-General for Health and Consumers, European Commission; Recep Akdağ, Minister for Health, Turkey; Professor Richard Sullivan, King's Health Partners Integrated Cancer Centre; Nicola Bedlington, Executive Director, European Patients' Forum; Else Smith, Director General, National Board of Health, Denmark; Antonyia Parvanova, Member of European Parliament; Patrick Flochel, Partner and EMEIA Life Sciences Leader, Ernst & Young.

Janssen and Sanofi are the lead sponsors of Healthcare in Europe 2012, with Abbott and Ernst & Young as supporting sponsors.

For a full overview of the latest programme and confirmed speakers please visit: http://www.economistconferences.com/europehealth

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About Economist Conferences
Economist Conferences is a leading provider of highly interactive meetings – including industry conferences, management events and government roundtables – for senior executives seeking new insights into important strategic issues. Participants exchange views and compare experiences with other decision-makers, and with specialists from relevant fields at high-level Economist Conferences events. As part of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist newspaper, we share its commitment to informed, impartial and authoritative debate. Our unrivalled reputation for excellence is reflected both in the quality of speakers at our events, and that of the delegates.

Healthcare in Europe is part of a wider Healthcare series of events taking place in March 2012 around the globe. For further details on the Africa, Asia and Gulf summit visit http://www.economistconferences.com/health

*Never too early: Tackling chronic disease to extend healthy life years

The report is available free of charge at:
http://digitalresearch.eiu.com/extending-healthy-life-years/
For further press information or interviews please contact:

Benjamyn Tan - Tonic Life Communications
Tel: +44 (0)774 7111 217
Email: Benjamyn.tan(at)toniclc(dot)com
Jo.husson(at)toniclc(dot)com

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