EPF: “No reform of health systems without patients”

Nicola Bedlington, EPF Executive Director, and Robert Johnstone, EPF Board Member, took part in the 1st European Conference on Patient Empowerment, Copenhagen, 11-12 April 2012.
The conference was organized under the auspices of the Danish Committee for Health Education, Careum, WHO/Europe and ENOPE – the European Network for Patient Empowerment. The purpose was to explore the contribution and the empowerment of patients and citizens to the future of health and social care in Europe.

The participants laid the foundations of the definition of the concept of empowerment.
EPF used this occasion to highlight that patient empowerment should be integrated to any reform process as a critical strategy to address the challenges of increased demand for quality and the sustainability of health systems. Also Ms Bedlington highlighted the fact that “health literacy and empowerment are inextricably linked – patients cannot be empowered solely by accessing information, regardless of the quality of this info”. Patients need the health literacy skills to be able to use that information effectively, navigate their own healthcare environment and really participate in their own patient-centred care and chronic disease management.

EPF brought to the fore the fact that patients have different needs and challenges at different stages of their illness. Taking this into account with empowerment as a starting point, then this approach will help to raise the bar in terms of quality and safety of provision. Indeed patients will be using their expertise and experience and contributing to solutions that really work – be that a more rational use of medicines, more concordance, more confidence in technological solutions, more trust in electronic health records etc.- which will lead to significant savings.

The availability of new technologies and innovation in all its guises - pharmaceutical, technological, social - were also debated at this conference. “What we really hope to get out of this conference is some creative thinking and real debate about how to connect innovation with the empowerment agenda”, concluded Robert Johnstone.

All these issues are creating a new dynamic through which patients and citizens are redefining their role in relation to health and social care. EPF supports this as the critical shift towards building an approach to health and social care that is appropriate for the 21st century.


Martin Seychell, Deputy Director-General for Consumers and Health of the European Commission, underscored the immediate importance of addressing the issue at the political level. WHO website summarised the four steps that Ilona Kickbusch from ENOPE suggested to organizations working with patient empowerment in order to bring this issue to the attention of these policy-makers:
• bringing themselves into the political process and take advantage of the opportunities that are available – ensuring that this agenda is part of other political agendas that are underway;
• shaping systems and technology, in the direction of collaboration and co-production between patients and the health system;
• continuing to develop the notion of co-production, defining more clearly what is meant and how outcomes can be measured more clearly; and
• using technological and other means to increase knowledge generation and exchange from patient to patient.

For more information, please contact EPF Executive Director, Nicola Bedlington.