06 Nov 2018

How Spain is reinventing healthcare around patients

Spain is widely regarded as having one of the world’s best healthcare systems. Can a series of experiments in ‘value-based’ care help to make it even better? A new Science|Business report finds out

The doctor is a patient’s first and often most personal connection to the rest of the health care system, and the question of how the role should be defined, and how it should be valued, has perhaps never been more urgent.

The idea of value-based healthcare implies a time-consuming and meaningful process of cultivating a relationship with a patient. It is becoming vital to the craft of being a doctor.

This idea is credited to Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and, when boiled down, says that patient satisfaction needs to become an explicit goal for hospitals. While other industries have reinvented themselves around the consumer, in healthcare there is still a huge gap between patients’ expectations and a service delivery stuck in the past. The traditional focus has been on measuring activity in hospitals, rather than the outcomes that matter to patients.

Born in the US, can the concept succeed in Europe?

Spain offers lessons. At a conference in Barcelona on 19 September 2018, patient advocates, doctors, scientists and industry representatives heard about the many experiments underway right now in the country to measure outcomes, analyse data, and reorganise payment systems to benefit from all this.

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Primary care facilities in Spain involved in these experiments are finding the health of patients is improving while the cost of treating them is falling.

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