Building a healthier future together

In the ninth blog in our series looking at the story behind the EFPIA manifesto, Thomas Allvin, Executive Director Strategy and Healthcare Systems, looks at the case for launching a new strategic dialogue for the EU healthcare and life science sectors to implement an ambitious roadmap for the future of health in Europe.

“Multi-stakeholder collaboration” is a popular buzzword that you can probably hear in any number of Brussels meetings irrespective of topic. Within the healthcare sector specifically we often talk about working “across silos”. These calls are never questioned as such – I have never heard anyone calling for less collaboration or for more trenches and bunkers. Still, working with other actors that have partially or completely different viewpoints, interests and organizational rationale is easier said than done. And silos are usually backed up by a deep-rooted organizational, cultural and even legal legacy that is difficult to overcome. Which is why the problems usually persist, and the calls have to be repeated again and again.
Sometimes however, usually when external pressures will force change in one way or another, the rationale for finding joint solutions becomes stronger than reinforcing the silos. Now, collaboration doesn’t mean that everyone must share the exact same viewpoint on every possible topic, but stems from the identification of a core common ground, and the conviction that exploring this together is more powerful than going it alone. Such a common ground was laid out at the end of November, when 28 organisations from across the healthcare spectrum came together at the EU Health Summit in Brussels to give some clear guidance on what the EU needs to do in the area of health during the coming years.
Twenty specific recommendations where highlighted during the Summit, including for the EU to drive the standardization of health outcomes measurements, ensure a health perspective in all policies and step up the coordination of health research funding. One of the recommendations concerned the setting up of a High Level Forum for Better Access to Innovation between the European Commission, Member States and all stakeholders, including patients, industry and healthcare providers. There is a fantastic wave of innovation in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices and digital health, bringing new promise to patients by targeting unmet health needs and making healthcare more personalized, patient-centered and effective. However, innovation is of no value unless it actually reaches patients and citizens. The time between new products and services being theoretically available and their actual uptake and use in healthcare systems is sometimes way to long, and there are also considerable inequalities between the Member States, sometimes even within Member States.
The reasons are often multi-factorial, for instance concerning national and local priority setting, regulatory and value-assessment frameworks, healthcare organisation and budget allocation, business models and market dynamics, clinical guidelines and pathways, and issues around pricing and reimbursement models, local budget impact and affordability. A joint Forum could be a place where all stakeholders together can discuss how these and other factors impact the uptake of innovative technologies and solutions in healthcare systems and discuss how member states and EU institutions, healthcare providers, the industry, patients, pharmacies and everyone else can ensure a better functioning system for the benefit of patients and citizens.

Some of these discussions might be difficult, as discussions often are when they get concrete and deal with the reality of how things work or don’t work beyond comfortable buzzwords. But we believe that this is absolutely necessary in order to make true progress, and that these issues need to be understood and discussed in a holistic health systems context.
The EU Health Summit also called for a permanent multi-stakeholder health forum in Brussels to continuously discuss EU policymaking and the future of the European health sector with the EU institutions. This forum could take the 20 policy recommendations as a starting point, but also add new topics as they become relevant on the EU agenda or are brought up by stakeholders. The EFPIA manifesto contains many issues we think would merit a broad discussion, such as convening a coalition for vaccination, stepping up the fight against Anti-Microbial Resistance and making Europe a world leader in clinical research. Other organisations would bring their issues to the table.
In the European healthcare debate we usually talk about the problems. You know the talking points: an ageing population, increased prevalence of chronic conditions and multi-morbidities, rising demand but stagnating budgets. We less often talk about the great opportunities. Such as the European social model where healthcare is a right for all citizens. High and growing access to internet and mobile devices, and use of Electronic Health Records and e-prescriptions. A vibrant eco-system of teaching hospitals, research institutes, start-ups and big and small life science enterprises where world-class research and development is being performed, and a solid experience of positive public-private collaboration. A high general education level, which is an important condition for health literacy and digital tools. These are all important components for building a future where Europe is not only the healthiest region in the world, but also a leading center for life science research and innovation where the health sector is a powerful motor for economic growth and jobs.
This will not happen automatically - turning these opportunities into reality takes joint and strategic action on both European and national level, and the time to act is now. So let’s get started!

Thomas Allvin

Thomas Allvin is Executive Director for Strategy and Healthcare Systems at EFPIA. Before joining EFPIA, Thomas...
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