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How to buy more – and fairer – healthcare: ask the patients

Science|Business launches a new service to track the growing use of patient data in improving health systems

Here are a few disturbing facts about the state of healthcare around Europe.

  • Results of medical treatment vary greatly by country. In Sweden, 8.5% of acute myocardial infarctions result in death within 30 days. In Hungary, it’s 18.8%. After a stroke, 10% of patients die in the Netherlands. In Latvia, it’s 22%. (Source: OECD)
  • Results vary inside countries, even rich ones. Within Germany, the odds of needing a second operation after hip replacement vary 18-fold from region to region. Within Britain, odds of dying after bypass surgery vary 4-fold by region. (Source: ICHOM)

Why? That’s the question that a growing number of researchers, doctors, insurers and policy makers are now asking. The answer isn’t just in the size of the local health budget, or the socioeconomic status of the region. There’s also the training of the doctors, the care of the nurses and community services, how the local hospital and health system are managed, which technologies are used, and the way patients and doctors talk to each other (or don’t.)

The answers lie in the data – and we at Science|Business are launching a news and events service to help find those answers. 

Launch of a new service

Called Science|Business Healthy Measures, this initiative aims in coming years to report on the growing use of data – especially data from the patients themselves – to decide what works best in health systems. We will publish news of research, technologies, patient initiatives, healthcare policies and other aspects of this emerging field. We will organise a series of events across the EU to bring key actors in this community together: The first are 8 November in Paris and 16 December in London. In this endeavour, we are supported by a coalition of universities, companies and other organisations with an interest in better understanding and acting on the wide variations in healthcare around the EU.

This is, many agree, one of the most important new areas of healthcare research and policy; but the need for our initiative is demonstrated in the nomenclature alone. In some circles, this area is called ‘patient outcomes’, and it focuses on standardising and gathering data from patients themselves about the effectiveness, side-effects and general results of a particular treatment. Others refer to ‘value-based’ healthcare, with an emphasis on analysing clinical data to pick those treatments that deliver the most value for money. Often, these terms don’t translate; there is, for instance, no good French catchphrase for ‘patient outcomes’. (And even in English, only a health expert would understand it.)

Such a state of affairs reflects the enormous problems of communications that are impeding progress across the EU – and helps explain why we in Science|Business, with our 12-year history of bringing together researchers, companies and policy makers across all scientific and technical domains, have jumped into the fray. In healthcare more than many fields, people are splintered into many smaller communities: junior doctors and consultants, clinical researchers and health economists, nurses and social workers, entrepreneurs and multinationals, public health funds and private insurers, health ministries and expert advisory bodies. Then there are the regional, national, linguistic and cultural barriers of Europe. 

The mission: To end health inequality

What’s needed is a single market for ideas and information in the field – and that is what Science|Business Healthy Measures will provide. Follow our news online, in the newsletter, on Twitter and Facebook. Send us your own news – of relevant research results, policy analyses, company reports, position papers, conference presentations; this is an open access publication, with submission and readership free and mediated only by our editorial staff.

There is a policy reason for this, as well: We hope to get people angry – angry enough to start doing something about the current splintered state of healthcare in Europe. We take it for granted, today, that the results of any medical treatment are going to differ by where you live; that a hospital in a rich city is going to have better outcomes than in a poor region. It needn’t be that way.

Income inequality has, in the past few years, motivated voters across the developed world. We believe that inequality in healthcare will be the next big cause; we see, already, the emotional capital voters have invested in the NHS in Britain and Obamacare in the US. We welcome you to join us now, so that Europe can – as it has in the past – lead a global reform in health care.

 

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