Visions for European healthcare - CHES Annual Lecture

18 October 2010

John Dalli, European Commissioner for Heath and Consumer Policy, outlined his vision for a healthy Europe. He said he wanted a Europe where all citizens have equal access to high-quality health care, wherever they live. “This isn’t science fiction” as doctors in Germany are using telemedicine to give citizens remote access to medical advice.

Mr Dalli said he also wanted Europe to make optimum use of innovation, for example by enabling health professionals in one country to remotely access electronic health records that are comparable and usable across borders.

He also wanted health systems that could make intelligent choices about treating citizens, with the correct medicines and medical devices accessible and affordable. Companies need to be both innovative and productive, and the Commission is drawing up proposals on pharmaceutical legislation. He welcomed proposals on falsified medicines, which represent 10% of the world medicines’ market, and said the EU is working to ensure patients are properly informed about the medicines they take.

“Personalised medicine is now on the horizon”, said the Commissioner, as scientists can use a patient’s genetic information to determine the correct drug and dose. One way to keep down the cost of pharmacogenomics and other health interventions is to apply Health Technology Assessments (HTA) more systematically, and the Commission wants to create a platform where HTA are applied to all medicine and procedures.

We have to ensure that these developments are not just for the wealthy, he said, while the poor still live in substandard conditions that breed ill-health. This means investing in preventing illness, and advising citizens how to improve their lifestyles, for example by giving up smoking. To this end many EU governments are already committed to making their countries "smoke-free" by 2012.  

Mr Dalli’s final wish is to have future European health systems that are not threatened by ever-rising costs. We need to make services more cost-effective, but also to change perspective, viewing healthcare as an engine of economic growth and productive employment, not a drain on funds, he said.

The Commission has launched its Active and Healthy Ageing Partnership to address societal change and the demographic challenge. This brings together public and private stakeholders, as well as those from all levels of government, and wants to speed up innovation in order to increase the Europeans’ ‘healthy life years’.