Q: What does it mean to “future-proof” healthcare systems?
EP: Countries need robust healthcare systems in order to thrive, because healthy populations are productive populations. The research is clear: Europe’s populations are ageing and chronic disease rates are rising. That alone is worrisome, and in addition you have things like the 2008 crisis, which hit healthcare systems hard. Future-proofing healthcare systems means looking ahead and building solutions today that will pay off in the medium or long-term. Such as: investing in health literacy and prevention campaigns like the “Don’t Delay, Connect Today” from EULAR, which foster early diagnosis and prevent disease progression; rethinking care delivery—because healthcare based on acute diseases is inefficient, expensive and produces suboptimal results when dealing with chronic diseases; and finally, encouraging people to become stewards of their own health. The ultimate goal is to keep people healthy longer, which reduces the burden on healthcare systems, lowers expenditures, and, above all, improves patients’ quality of life.
Q: Healthcare sustainability seems like such a vast problem. What’s the first step towards tackling it?
EP: There is no single magic bullet that will solve the issues healthcare systems face. First of all, each system is different and has evolved in a different way. Secondly, there are so many different stakeholders, it is impossible for countries to address the problems in the same way. But I do believe there is one essential step every country must take: opening dialogue across sectors and building partnerships. Everyone with a stake in healthcare needs to be participating in the discussion in order to share ideas, best practices and case studies. So I’d say that active partnerships based on conversation between actors in healthcare are a critical first step towards improving healthcare sustainability. In practice, that will look different in every country.