Marco Greco was elected president of the European Patient’s Forum (EPF) in March 2016, and has been an active Board Member since 2011, representing the European Federation of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA). He is the patient representative in the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and a member of the EMA Patients and Consumers Working Party (PCWP). Mr Greco is currently working as attorney in his law firm, focusing on litigation, commerce and consumers’ protection legislation.
Access to healthcare is a basic human right and one of the fundamental principles of European health systems. Treatment should be timely and accessible to every patient who needs it, not only to those who can pay for it. Regrettably, this is not a reality for all.
Patient access is a key priority for the European Patients’ Forum (EPF), and one of our strategic goals for 2014 - 2020. In our vision, health systems should enable equitable access to sustainable and high-quality healthcare for all patients.
A Definition of Access from the Patients’ Perspective
Access is on everyone’s lips in Brussels. We believe it is time to agree on a comprehensive definition of access, taking into account the patient’s experience. Thanks to the input of its members and its Access Working Group, EPF has recently published a paper outlining its vision of access: A definition from the patient’s perspective. Because, at the end of the day, it is the patients who will bear the cost of health inequalities and face barriers to access.
The definition we propose relies on 5 A’s:
- Availability – healthcare should be available to all patients
- Affordable – accessible without causing financial hardship
- Accessible – treatment should be accessible throughout all stages of care when needed
- Adequacy – care should be adapted to the needs of patients
- Appropriate – service should be relevant to the health needs of different populations.
This new definition of access was also elaborated in cooperation with the Patient Access Partnership, a patient-led network bringing together patients, the health community, industry and policy makers to develop innovative solutions to reduce inequities in access. EPF Honorary President Anders Olauson is currently chairing the Steering Committee of the Partnership, with MedTech Europe representing industry on a rotating basis.
Whilst the debate on access to healthcare can sometimes be overshadowed by the question of access to medicines, EPF sees access as a holistic approach englobing the whole continuum of care for patients with chronic diseases, encompassing prevention (primary, secondary, and tertiary), diagnosis, disease management, and palliative care. Medical devices are of crucial, and often vital, importance for patients with chronic diseases: they can provide a major contribution to life expectancy and quality- of-life of patients. Thus, access to medical devices is equally important as access to medicines.
A Patient-led Campaign on Access
One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls for universal health coverage by 2030. From our experience and feedback from members, there is a long way to go to achieve this target. Patients are still facing important barriers to access and huge disparities continue to exist between EU countries.
Building on the solid work of its Access Working Group, EPF will run an awareness-raising campaign in 2017 on the road to universal access in the EU by 2030. This patient-led campaign will aim to define concrete steps towards this ambitious objective, and to shift the current focus on short-term cuts to a long-term vision where equity of access is a prerequisite.
In concert with the health community, the EPF Campaign on Access will hopefully contribute to make universal access a reality for EU patients by 2030.