IRE expert conference ”Health for all”, 24th February 2016:
With rising healthcare costs and the necessary austerity measures of the public sector, cross-border cooperation in health care gains importance in Europe. Possible cost savings due to synergy potentials in neighbouring regions and cooperation between health care institutions are reasonable. The EU has already recognized this issue and adopted a directive in 2011 to facilitate patient mobility within the EU, which also non-EU countries, such as Switzerland, have implemented.
The directive on patient mobility includes rights of patients to receive treatment in another Member State and the financial reimbursement in their home country. However, patients make barely use of it, due to inadequate implementation of the directive by Member States. Experts estimate that only one percent of all patients in Europe take advantage of cross-border health treatments. The lack of agreements and the difficult reimbursement system are the main reasons.
The IRE conference “Health for all” has dealt with the challenges of cross-border regional cooperation on health promotion and health care, which took place on 24th February 2016 in Hallwang near Salzburg.
The possibilities for cross-border cooperation range from cross-border health planning and the sharing of health and care institutions by all citizens of the region regardless of the member state, up to the joint purchase and prioritization of clinical services or the use of large equipment as well as in educational field. Thus, the already diminishing financial resources can be used more efficiently and economically without causing a decline in quality.
For IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger cross-border cooperation in the health sector has not yet developed satisfactorily: “In order to eliminate regional disparities and advance the equality of opportunities already existing and well-functioning examples can be applied to other regions. It is also important to bear in mind the particular features of urban and rural regions and consciously call attention to the regional differences.” This requires a constructive cross-border cooperation of all relevant regional and national institutions.
The conference focused on the exchange of best-practice examples with the aim to subsequently initiate concrete projects on regional and local level.
Elke Ledl, head of the EU Division of the Lower Austrian Health and Social Fund (NÖGUS) presented the project “Healthacross in Practice” in Lower Austria, which allows Czech patients to get outpatient medical treatment in Gmünd, Austria. “EuPrevent” is a cross-border health promotion program of health facilities within the Maas-Rhein area (region in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium) which was introduced by Brigitte Van der Zanden, Managing Director of the Foundation euPrevent | EMR. The hospital in Cerdanya, a region in Catalonia at the Spanish-French border, was opened in 2014. Mireia Canals Botines, Secretary General of Euro Region Pyrenean-Mediterranean in Barcelona reported on the success and the difficulties during the commissioning phase of the hospital.
In general, experts call for more information and transparency on medical services in the EU member states. Matthias Wismar, Health Policy Analyst of the World Health Organization (WHO), noted that the bigger picture is still missing: “However, only the efficiency of the already existing systems is examined e.g. what region offers a particularly good service for certain diseases.” Wismar agrees that the promotion and implementation of cross-border cooperation would bring better and more efficient health facilities. Therefore, the system needs more political support and less bureaucracy.
Other experts on the podium were Herbert Resch, Rector of the Paracelsus University (PMU) in Salzburg, Hanjo Allinger, Managing Director of the Institute for Empirical Economic and Social Research in Munich, Alexander Meindl from the health insurance AOK Bavaria, Anna Krappinger,Health Officer at ” Fund for a Healthy Austria”, Elisabeth Gampert-Zeisberger from the Salzburg health insurance, Heinrich Gmeiner coordinator at ” Healthy Upper Austria “and Iris Grimm from the Bavarian Centre for prevention and health promotion.
Around 100 international guests from Germany, Spain, Holland, Slovenia, Austria and Brussels attended the conference and discussed the best practice examples.