Have you ever wondered how the health care services that you receive in your home country compare to those of other EU countries? Or contemplated how your country's healthcare system has fared in the economic crisis? Well on Thursday 28 November, the Health Consumer Powerhouse, launched the 7thannual edition of its Euro Health Consumer Index (ECHI) which looks at precisely these kinds of questions - and more - to shed light on the latest trends in healthcare provision. The results presented not just inform and help empower consumers; they also provide a consumer-perspective on the state of healthcare in 35 European countries for policymakers.
The 2013 index assesses national health care systems across six core areas: patients' rights and information, accessibility of treatment, medical outcomes, range and reach of services provided; prevention; and pharmaceuticals. The headline out of this year's EHCI is the clear, emerging evidence of a 'two-speed delivery of healthcare' across Europe as a result of the financial crisis. Even more worrying, the gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' is widening, with inequalities in healthcare affecting those in Europe's poorer countries most.
Specifically, the index highlights inequities in access to new treatments cause by cost-containment strategies, with increased delays in the approval of new medicines and their reimbursement by an extra 50 days on average - as stated by Dr Arne Bjornberg, Chairman of the Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP) and author of the report.
In October, we wrote about efforts in tackling the health location lottery and improving patient access to medicines through harmonisation of aspects of the health technology assessments systems. The development of a 'two-speed healthcare' in Europe underlines the need to address inequities in healthcare and the urgent reform of health systems to allow for improved quality of care amidst ever tighter budgets. We hope that the return of European growth will improve progress in providing Europe's population with a robust healthcare system. Afterall, a 'healthy Europe' is a necessary component in creating a 'wealthy Europe'.