EPF Congress 2019: Interview with Susanna Palkonen

We asked Susanna Palkonen, patient representative and EPF Board Member to detail some initial thoughts on the Congress by answering a few questions. Here is what she said.

What made you agree to become an Ambassador to our Congress?

I was very enthusiastic when asked to be patient representative in the Advisory Committee of the first EPF Congress. I have seen many commercial actors promoting conferences and training on patient engagement and involvement, but I believe that they cannot fill the gap between the will for involving patients and actually doing it. I think it’s not only timely but essential that EPF collects those that want and need to involve patients for whatever reason, bringing patient advocates and patients together, and sets the bar, standards and agreement on how to move forward. I am delighted if I can with my experience as advocate and patient contribute to a truly meaningful congress.

Health systems struggle with long-term sustainability while needing to provide equitable and high-quality care. How do you think increasing patient involvement can help make the system work better/more effectively/efficiently?

It’s really a no brainer. Health systems that serve and promote care and prevention based on the real needs of patients is the only sustainable way forward. It’s like setting in motion a virtuous circle of benefits to patients, and the health of the population, and workers who feel that they can truly change lives for the common good and governments, with healthier and more productive people. But that’s not all. When patients are involved in designing healthcare, research related to care and treatment, reimbursement decisions and the evaluation of all of the difficult decisions balancing the needs of patients and the pressure on finances, will be decisions involving patients. There can be savings on wasted resources in healthcare and on the other hand taking advantage of the use of new technologies such as eHealth.

Are there any unanswered questions in the field of health and patient-care that that the Congress can help provide answers or progress on?

Patient centred care has been defined, but there are barriers to implement it. There are very good practices happening but where are they shared and taught in a way that helps everyone to move forward, I do not know. We have great projects such as the EPF EUPATI who is changing patient involvement in pharmaceutical RND. This conference is an opportunity for a forum and spotlight on patient involvement innovation and can help us answer the big question on barriers to involvement in order to overcome it.

Which session are you most looking forward to?

To be honest, none but all! That’s because they all bring the needed perspective. The session on best value on healthcare with patient involvement is promising because that’s where we are currently a bit stuck when we think Europe as a whole. We need to get over the ‘it should be done’ or partial involvement in certain part of the system and beyond the political talk.

Who do you think should attend the Congress and why?

This congress is for anyone whose work can or is planned to impact patients’ health and wellbeing, and they want to involve patients and patient organisations seriously to make that work. It’s not a quick win. We need governments, researchers, healthcare planners, businesses to come and share (best) practices that don’t work and challenge themselves, so why not the patient community as well? I also think that those not directly currently working in this field, for instance foundations, would be a very welcome participants because they can help advancing patient involvement and health and change the future.