IL: What has the ESG experience been like?
MH: Well, the ESG started in 2013 as a roundtable bringing together healthcare experts: policymakers, academics, patient groups, etc. There’s an enormous amount of work out there on healthcare policy that’s aspirational, “If only we could do this or that, healthcare systems would be fantastic”. That’s not our approach. Ours is based on successful pilot programmes—thirty in all—in different settings, different countries. We believe that changing the way things are done, and collaborating with different stakeholders, can deliver faster results, lower systems costs, achieve better outcomes and deliver quicker access to patients who become more engaged.
The ESG combines the experience of healthcare professionals, policymakers and patient advocates and following the publication of the White Paper we have been very pleased to welcome new talent on board. Participation is enthusiastic and vigorous and there is a strong focus on the patient point of view. More knowledgeable and engaged patients are essential to improving healthcare provision.
For the last year, we’ve been working on the Early Intervention toolkit, which is based on a pilot programme out of Spain, led by Dr. Juan Jover. The EI clinics are for people suffering from musculoskeletal conditions and the results of early intervention for these clinics has been very impressive. Permanent disability has dropped by 50%, temporary disability by almost 40%. Quite apart from the major improvement in quality of life for patients there are significant economic benefits. The return on investment is 11€ for each euro invested, within eighteen months cost savings are achieved. That’s significant because so many prevention and early intervention programmes take longer to show benefits. So the clinics are a great way to demonstrate to policymakers the importance of early intervention to policymakers. But it’s not just a benefit for health ministers. The Minister of Industry wants a large population of healthy workers. The Welfare minister wants to reduce welfare payments. The Health minister wants to reduce the chances of patients developing more complex and costly conditions. So this is a cross-ministerial project.
And that’s the key: if we are to succeed in transforming our healthcare systems and making them financially sustainable, we have to involve more than the health minister. We need a cross-ministerial engagement and cross-ministerial projects. Health is wealth. Broad ministerial engagement with health policy issues and driving innovation will help to foster a healthier population. And in Europe, where we pride ourselves on high-quality universal healthcare, the only way to continue providing it, given the emerging demographics, is to ensure we have a healthier population now and in the future.
IL: What’s the role of the ESG?
MH: We see ourselves as part of the debate. We don’t have all the answers, we want to advance new ideas—sometimes very simple ideas—to produce greater results.