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Special report from EPF in Gastein 2013

On 2-4 October 2013, the health policy community gathered in Austria for the 16th annual Gastein European Health Policy Forum (EHFG).  The focus was on how Europe can build resilient and innovative healthcare systems with the dramatic mark left on health, healthcare systems and therefore patients by the crisis.

Vida Augustiniene and Stanimir Hasurdjiev, EPF board members represented EPF throughout the Conference. EPF Director Nicola Bedlington, EPF Senior Policy Adviser Kaisa Immonen-Charalambous and EPF Policy Officer Laurène Souchet were also involved in various workshops and sessions this year at the Gastein Forum. 

Workshop on “Healthcare-associated Infections (HAI)”

Laurène Souchet, EPF Policy Officer highlighted the importance of patient safety. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimates that more than 400 000 patients, i.e. one in three, are affected by Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) in European hospitals. These infections may seriously affect a patient’s health, increasing their stay in the hospital, requiring further surgical intervention or prolonged treatment.

“To tackle safety issues such as healthcare associated infections, we need to build a ‘patient safety culture’ where, rather than blaming individuals, all actors work together to enable healthcare environments to become learning organisations, that encourage openness and transparency around risks and adverse events, to better prevent them” she claimed. 

Workshop on “Patient Involvement”

Nicola Bedlington clarified that patient involvement; patient empowerment and patient-centred care are all concepts that are intrinsic to EPF work. They all contribute to the debate on investment in health, health systems reform, innovation and sustainability.

“Not surprisingly, EPF would like to see the degree to which patient empowerment is integrated as an indicator in health systems performance assessment throughout Europe” she added.

EPF is driving this agenda through our involvement in initiatives like the Joint Action on Patient Safety and Quality of Care, the Joint Action on Chronic Disease Management and our policy engagement with the EU Institutions.

She focused specifically on HTA to illustrate patient involvement.

“Our research in this domain revealed that although there is a willingness to involve patients in HTA processes, there is a lack of clear methodology on how to do that in practice. This is why we plan to develop, together with other HTA initiatives, a model on patient involvement in HTA based on the Value + model on meaningful patient involvement” she said. 

A final example she gave is our efforts to roll out information on Cross-Border Healthcare to patient communities throughout the EU. We want to ensure they understand their rights as enshrined in the Directive, but also the wider policy implications (see article on the implementation of the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive).

Workshop on “Men’s Health and Primary Care”

Nicola Bedlington suggested that key ‘transition’ points in men’s lives could be used to engage them, such as becoming a parent. The emotional ‘driver’ of their new family responsibilities could help to encourage better self-care.

For the workshop on “A Health Literate Europe”, please see the dedicated article on health literacy in this newsletter (Link).

“My key message is that patients can be part of the solution in our collective endeavour towards health systems that are resilient and innovative”, concluded Nicola.

For more information, please contact Nicola Bedlington, EPF Executive Director at nicola.bedlington@eu-patient.eu or Laurène Souchet, EPF Policy Officer, at laurene.souchet@eu-patient.eu.