Roberto Bertollini, the Honorary President of Health First Europe, discusses what measures need to be implemented to enhance European healthcare systems.
Health First Europe is a non-profit, non-commercial alliance of patients, healthcare workers, academics, healthcare experts and the medical technology industry. We are joining forces to transform European healthcare through innovative solutions that improve the safety of both patients and healthcare workers and enhance the sustainability and resilience of Europe’s healthcare system as a whole. We believe that every European citizen should benefit from the best medical treatments available and aim to ensure that equitable access to modern, innovative, and reliable healthcare solutions is seen as a vital investment in the future of Europe.
For Health First Europe and its members, patient safety and prevention have always been at the heart of our core activities. For more than 15 years we have promoted the public health benefits of screening and other secondary prevention tools as key enablers for saving and improving lives while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our European healthcare systems.
Our recent Insight Report showcases concrete examples and solutions for implementing national screening programmes which have been successful in improving outcomes for patients and society in five representative disease areas: breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, healthcare-associated infections, heart failure, and new-born and severe combined immune deficiency (SCID). It is potentially game-changing as it shows how much screening and secondary prevention can help to improve and make our European healthcare systems more effective and efficient. Screening and early diagnosis play a critical role in detecting a disease in its earliest stages, even before any symptoms are apparent – but too often the potential of routine screening is neglected, with high costs in individual and public health as a result.
Screening tools allow for the identification of cases before the onset of symptoms and an ensuing early referral to a cancer specialist, for instance, thus improving prognosis and treatment. Screening also allows for a reduction of the economic costs associated with diagnosis and treatment, a phenomenon which has already been observed in several EU Member States.
In the fight against antimicrobial resistance, appropriate antimicrobial stewardship of existing antibiotics, encouraging more responsible behaviour and promoting the optimal prescription and sustainable use of antibiotics as well as regular diagnostic testing, remain highly important. The combined implementation of these approaches will result in stronger preparedness of our healthcare systems towards contemporary public health challenges.
Collaboration is also of the utmost importance to ensure effective results and the best use of available technologies. Not only do we need to promote public awareness programmes to help people recognise signs and symptoms and understand the importance of seeking early diagnosis and care, but also there should be a strong information system to ensure information sharing between providers and across levels of care.
I am confident we are heading in a good direction. The case studies enshrined in our Insight Report are intended to encourage key health stakeholders and policymakers to better plan and invest in early diagnosis and screening and other secondary prevention programmes as critical financial investments in patient safety and public health. The European Commission’s President Ms Ursula von der Leyen recently pointed out that there will be a proposal to update the Council Recommendation on cancer screening and this is highly encouraging. In line with Health First Europe’s experience and previous policy recommendations, we hope policy changes will be implemented in other disease areas in the future. This will help to better implement and harmonise screening and early diagnosis programmes across Europe as key investments to saving and improving citizens’ lives while ensuring the sustainability of our European healthcare systems in the face of growing public health threats.
This article is from issue 19 of Health Europa Quarterly. Click here to get your free subscription today.