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Cross-Border Healthcare: Still a Long Way to Go

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On 24 October 2016, EPF was invited to speak at the European Commission’s multi-stakeholder conference titled “Towards amplified awareness of EU rights to cross-border care”.

The EU Health Programme called for the organisation of a conference of National Contact Points (NCP) in order to improve their functioning and raise awareness about Directive 2011/24/EU on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare. EPF has addressed of the importance of the NCPs in our reports stemming from our series of regional conferences held between 2013 and 2015 and involved representatives at our last conference dedicated to the implementation of the Directive from the patients’ perspective 

The Commission’s conference built on discussions from an informal meeting of health ministers in Luxembourg in September 2015, as well as the findings of the 2015 Commission report on the operation of the cross-border healthcare Directive and the Eurobarometer of May 2015. These show that concerns around patient information and NCP performance persist and continue to be identified as critical issues still to be addressed. The conclusions are fully in line with the feedback received by EPF.

Kaisa Immonen, EPF Director of Policy, participated in a session on stakeholders’ perspectives concerning information on cross-border care, along with representatives of doctors and health insurers. She presented EPF’s extensive work on this topic, including the framework for the “patient journey” developed by EPF with the regional conference participants and the “ideal NCP” checklist.

The Directive has not yet fulfilled its original objective: to clarify patients’ legal rights.

The patient community identifies several barriers:

  • a perception that some NCPs are not working in patients’ interests;
  • a perception that some governments are reluctant to inform patients;
  • persisting difficulties for patients to find the right information especially regarding their entitlements and treatment/reimbursement options;
  • lack of awareness by medical professionals of the option of cross-border healthcare;
  • and lack of awareness by many patient organisations, despite those who had attended EPF seminars say it helped them spread the knowledge locally.

More needs to be done to ensure patients are well informed about their rights and how to exercise them; and to ensure that patient organisations are meaningfully involved at national level in the implementation of the directive. They could provide information and peer support to their communities, thus potentially reducing the workload on NCPS and supporting their effectiveness –provided that appropriate and sustainable resourcing is available for them to fulfil such a role.

For more information, policy@eu-patient.eu