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MEP Rübig: ‘We Need a Framework Enabling Member States to Provide the Best Healthcare’

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MEP Paul Rübig (EPP, Austria) is one of the 5 champion MEPs of the EPF Campaign on Access to Healthcare. A member of the Committee on Budgets at the European Parliament, Mr Rübig is supporting our work on quality of care across the EU. We take this opportunity to ask him a few questions on his priorities for this particular area of the campaign.

Why have you decided to become a champion of the quality of care objective of our campaign? 

In my work in the European Parliament, the newest developments in science, research and technology have always been a main focus. So it only makes sense that I get involved in campaigns for research and science in the field of healthcare. The Europeans deserve the best medical healthcare. 

Are you aware of specific gaps or barriers that Austrian patients are facing in accessing healthcare?

Austria has a high standard of health care and the quality of treatment is very good. My goal as a European lawmaker is to support the connection of the various national systems so that we can find out together where best practise examples are. In Austria, there is currently a debate on how much digitalized the patients’ documents should be. We should be more open to new technologies that are helping patients in their everyday lives.

Almost half of the respondents to the EPF survey on access to healthcare said they ‘sometimes’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ received quality care, according to standards available for their condition. What is your view on these findings, that show a great inequity in the quality of treatments across the EU? Do you see a possibility for the development of common European guidelines or standards on quality of care? 

It is clear that due to the different levels of economical and social development in European countries there are also inequities in the field of healthcare. We should not blame countries that face challenges in their health care system and instead, as mentioned above, get them involved in a European network where they can learn from systems that are more developed and more equal.

I don’t want centralisation of healthcare. We should create a framework that enables all EU member states to develop a health care system that fits the needs of their citizens best. 

Ensuring that treatment is effective and appropriate – i.e., that it addresses the identified needs of patients – is an important aspect of quality. But clinical guidelines often do not include the perspective of patients. How can we change that? What role can patient organisations play in improving the quality of care? 

Just as for the business sector, where the client is king; in healthcare patients’ needs are most important - combined with best work conditions for healthcare professionals.

There needs to be much more interaction between healthcare providers (hospitals, insurances,…) and users of the healthcare system (patients). Health is such a sensitive issue that no one can afford to get mistrusted by the patients.

What are your views with regards to empowering patients through technology and digital healthcare?  

Technology is no threat – it is a chance! I think that people are very open to new technologies but there is always bit scepticism. Which is fine, because we have to remain open-minded and critical. But we always need to keep in mind that also by now, it is standard practice for instance that nano-robots are used in surgeries. Without digitalisation and technology, fighting serious diseases would not be possible.

According to the most recent Eurobarometer survey, 70% of Europeans want the EU to do more for health. How can we make sure that the European Commission delivers on a next Multiannual Financial Framework that responds to these expectations, given the fact that EU health collaboration is not a current priority for the Juncker Commission. 

We need budget, empowerment and a clear signal from the EU Member States that research, science and technology are the fundament of Europe’s wealth. The best researchers should know: the EU stands behind them and supports them. Cutting funds in the field of research would be wrong way

Any final message for our readers? 

Stay healthy - that is the best protection. Be open towards new technology in the field of medicines and healthcare. Europe has a very good system and we lawmakers, doctors, citizens, researchers,… should all work on improving it continuously.