On the EU healthcare indicator front – nothing new, sadly enough

As the 2017 Euro Health Consumer Index takes form and will be published in January, the EU ambition to create a joint assessment system makes zero progress. In spite of promises made by the health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis four years ago, there is still no sign of an operational platform. Not even a strategy, as revealed by the October 11 hearing of the EU Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health.

Statements by top DG Health officials such as “(health indicators) is a practical tool for member states to close gaps. It can only be done via benchmarks and self assessment tools” reminds us of the discussion in the Health Consumer Powerhouse fifteen years ago. Our conclusion was to start a pan-European system to index the performance of member state healthcare. It is rather bizarre to find that the EU hasn´t moved further.

Then reform agendas can be geared to address challenges. Access to healthcare differs a lot across MSs and inside MSs. It needs a good diagnosis to be addressed. Benchmarking can facilitate mutual learning and inspire decisive steps regarding access to healthcare.” These are other banal words from the very top. As accessibility to healthcare is totally uncorrelated with financial resources, it seems what is needed is leadership, not “good diagnosis”!

Since 2005 the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) serves all these purposes, offering the real-life tool for measuring systems progress, pointing to further improvement needs. Governments around Europe use the Index as their annual systems quality check. Brussels could save tons of money and time tapping into this already existing toolbox, as indicated by the EU top health honcho:

We know the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) is today the leading public measurement of how national healthcare systems perform …We have recently learned that the European Commission after assessing various benchmarks has found the EHCI to be the most accurate and reliable comparison”.

Statement by Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, former Minister of Health of Lithuania, since November 2014 the EU Commissioner of Health and Consumer Protection.

Huge EU resources (manpower, funding) don´t seem to help. Brussels has over the years piled up a big set of indicators but seems to have no idea how to use it. Still the excuse is: “We would be delighted if there were more data that is comparable but there are not. Examples are differences in waiting times and inequalities within MSs.”

Since 2005, the EHCI measures waiting and inequalities by user-friendly indicators. Evidently it can be done. But myriads of EU civil servants, working parties and networks are still thinking about what to do – and how to do it…

They probably need a nice Christmas vacation to recover, why we send them and all of you our Best Seasons’ Greetings. Soon the HCP web site will present more information of the EHCI 2017, providing the latest assessment of public healthcare in 35 countries.