A Coherent Approach Essential to Make Empowerment A Reality


The closing event of the EPF campaign on empowerment took place on 22 June 2016, at the European Parliament in Brussels and delivered some strong political messages. It is now time for all stakeholders to work together towards a coherent EU strategy on Patient Empowerment.

Co-hosted by MEPs Karin Kadenbach (S&D, Austria), Andrey Kovatchev (EPP, Bulgaria) and Roberta Metsola (EPP, Malta), the high-level policy roundtable gathered around 70 participants representing various stakeholders. Following a very productive discussion, participants and panellists agreed on the need to move forward towards a more concerted approach to make patient empowerment a reality at the EU and national level.

Kicking off the political meeting with a video-message, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis pledged to “continue to promote the necessary shift from organisation-centred to patient-centred health systems, where self-management, community, general practitioners and specialists on medical and social care are integrated and adapted to the needs of patients”.

In her welcome speech, co-host MEP Karin Kadenbach stressed on the importance of health literacy and patient education to empower patients and called for both concepts to be included in a much-needed coherent EU approach. This statement was echoed by co-hosting MEP Andrey Kovatchev who reflected on the importance of guaranteeing access to quality healthcare for all. He shared some of the current initiatives in that regard - such as the Interest Group on Access at the European Parliament (under the auspices of PACT, of which EPF is a founder) -  and called on the audience for feedback from health stakeholders to create effective and realistic policy solutions.

Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Martin Seychell, DG SANTE deputy Director-General, stated that “patients are not passive recipients of healthcare”, and highlighted that empowered patients must be at the centre of healthcare systems. Mr Seychell did not however go into detail on how to move from a fragmented to more connected and unified modus operandi.

Sharing her personal perspective as President of the EPF Youth Group and patient with diabetes, Aneela Ahmed asked for a change of mindset and stressed that “patients are persons and not diseases”.  Sharing good practices, Ove Gaardboe, from the Danish association for Patient Safety, presented the “Hello Healthcare” initiative. Launched in 2014, the project aims to increase patient’s impact on their own care and treatment by removing barriers for patient and family involvement. This initiative demonstrates that a coherent and silo-breaking approach involving patients can reduce inequalities and improve care and treatment.

Regarding the campaign outcomes, Laurent Louette, EPF Communications Officer put forward the main achievements, outreach results, and promotion in events and media. Focussing on the next steps to ensure political follow-up, Kaisa Immonen, EPF Director of Policy introduced the two campaign policy instruments: the Charter on Patient Empowerment (defining the 10 fundamental principles of patient empowerment from the patients' perspective) and the Roadmap for Actions (8 priority action areas to be taken at different levels to apply the principles in policy and practice).

The panel debate gave the opportunity to guest speakers and participants to share their views on how patient empowerment can be promoted in their environments. Co-host MEP Roberta Metsola took the floor to publicly embrace the Charter and gave prominence to a better understanding of the needs and preferences of patients. Urging her counterparts to put patient empowerment higher on the agenda, Mrs Metsola committed to support any actions in that regard.  

Sevala Malkic, Policy Officer at DG SANTE, explained how the European Commission is promoting patient empowerment mainly through European reference networks, cross-border healthcare or electronic health records. Representing European doctors, Annabel Seebohm, CPME Secretary General, drew attention to some of the problems faced by her member organisations especially the time restraints affecting doctors, which prevent them to spend sufficient time with patients. She called for a change in this regard, pleading for patients’ preferences to be taken into account. Speaking on behalf of European community pharmacists, Jurate Svarcaite, PGEU Secretary General argued that communication between all parties involved in the patient care is crucial. She ended with a clear and bold statement: “patient empowerment means healthcare professionals’ empowerment”.

Ranging from the role of quality, state of the art information and big data, to the vulnerability of patients facing eHealth, the Q&A session highlighted the imperative for a collaborative approach to create the enabling environment needed for patient empowerment to become a reality.

This final event really embodied the feeling that has transpired throughout the campaign: Patient empowerment makes sense, from a rights perspective, from a quality perspective and from an economic perspective. If empowered patients play the central role in healthcare team they deserve, the campaign illustrated that political will coupled with innovative initiatives do bear fruits and bring benefits both for the patients and for the sustainability of the healthcare system. Summing up the political messages of the meeting, EPF Secretary General Nicola Bedlington concluded that “we need a joint strategy on Patient Empowerment, led by the EU Commission, which involves stakeholders and Members States.”

Reaping on all the encouraging commitments from political stakeholders, EPF will now work with its members and allies to ensure proper follow up aiming at an EU strategy on Patient Empowerment. The Campaign has been a great success and we were proud to see so many supporters along the road. It is now time to take these signs of good faith to the next level through our Patient Empowerment Roadmap and roll out of the Charter!

You can have a look at the pictures of the event here!

Speakers' Presentations:

Patient' Perspective - Aneela Ahmed

Hello Healthcare - Ove Gaardboe

EPF Campaign on Patient Empowerment - Laurent Louette

Contact persons:

Sara Gayarre, Communications Intern.

Laurent Louette, Communications Officer.