Novel solutions? Yes, but only with patients

The World Health Summit 2012 took place in Berlin, Germany, on 21-25 October. ‘Research for Health and Sustainable Development’ was the theme, articulating the urgent need of finding novel solutions for non-communicable diseases and conditions of global concern. Our Board Member Tomasz Szelagowski took the opportunity to put patients at the centre of these novel solutions.

Innovation Technology (IT) has been a key driving force behind innovation in healthcare over the last two decades. Unfortunately, it is also an area where the patients have been only marginally involved, if not involved at all. In a Europe where the ratio of older and chronically ill people is rising and with an ever-increasing demand for healthcare, there is nevertheless no choice but to consider keeping on innovating healthcare systems and services but framed around the patient.

We are truly convinced that the only way to succeed in addressing all these challenges is to turn them into opportunities for radical improvements in the way we manage, deliver, and use healthcare services. Health and social care services need to be integrated to innovation technology. Too much innovation in the IT area has been taking place according to and as a result of technology-driven rather than demand-driven patterns and processes. This has often resulted in a mismatch between the final product and the needs of those who should be ultimately benefiting from it. A shift from technology-driven to more demand-driven user-centred innovation should be promoted at all levels. Besides the term Innovation Technology does not need to be expensive and should include “low-tech” or “simple” innovations in the design of health and social care systems and how care is delivered. It should be valued for its potential to improve quality and accessibility of services, quality of care, and the quality of life.

“It is true that involving patients in health innovation is sometimes a complex and costly process. Evidence shows, however, that the costs of not involving patients in these processes largely outweigh the “cost” of involving them”, highlighted our Board Member.

EPF believe that if designed properly designed and implemented, IT applications and tools can carry a huge potential for improving the quality of health services for patients while serving the needs of the health professionals groups. However this promise of improvement can only be delivered if patients are regarded as equal partners in this process and therefore empowered. Health Literacy is of particular importance here as health literate patients have better awareness and knowledge about medicines use, and take greater responsibility for their own health. Indeed, as patients we can only exercise control over our own data if it is both in an understandable language and format with user friendly interfaces. This is part of the paradigm shift whereby we the patients are no-longer passive receivers of services, but active users increasingly demanding a more equal partnership with healthcare professionals.