December 6, 2006
Last week, European Union Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou declared his intention to find "a clear legal framework within which patients and health-care professionals have the chance to move freely in Europe" to receive and provide medical services. Such a market would help repair some of the weaknesses of European health care, says Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP), a think tank in Stockholm and Brussels.
However, when HCP analyzed the realities of health care among EU members for its 2006 Euro Health Consumer Index, it made some remarkable, even shocking, discoveries, says Hjertqvist:
- One in two health-care systems denies patients access to their medical records or to a second opinion.
- Only one EU country has created a list and ranking of health service providers.
- Waiting times are common; in three out of four countries, cancer patients likely face waits of more than three weeks to begin treatment.
- In just a handful of countries can patients find a consumer-friendly, comprehensive catalog of available pharmaceuticals that includes information about medication options and side effects.
- In two out of three countries, government delays the introduction of new medicines into the reimbursement system.
A legally regulated internal market will help patients by helping them to cross borders to access better or more timely care than at home, and by encouraging new providers to enter their national market. To entrepreneurs ready to export their services, an integrated market will be of significance. For far too long, political bias and misguided cost-control ideas have prevented new treatments and management concepts from being established around Europe, says Hjertqvist.
Source: Johan Hjertqvist, "Market Medicine," Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2006.
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