December 19, 2018

At a glance

Health at a Glance: Europe 2018

Every two years OECD publishes this report for the European Union on the state of health. The new one has an interesting thematic chapter on mental health. It says:
According to the latest IHME estimates, more than one in six people across EU countries (17.3%) had a mental health problem in 2016  – that is, nearly 84 million people.
The most common mental disorder across EU countries is anxiety disorder, with an estimated 25 million people (or 5.4% of the population) living with anxiety disorders, followed by depressive disorders, which affect over 21 million people (or 4.5% of the
population).An estimated 11 million people across EU countries (2.4%) have drug and alcohol use disorders. Severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorders affect almost 5 million people (1.0% of the population), while schizophrenic disorders affect another estimated 1.5 million people (0.3%).
And the second thematic chapter is about health expenditure: Strategies to reduce wasteful spending: Turning the lens to hospitals and pharmaceuticals. It says:
For hospitals, reducing or eliminating unnecessary investigations and procedures, many of which expose patients to unnecessary risks without the prospect of clinical benefit, is an obvious target for direct intervention. Expanding the use of day surgery can also be instigated at hospital level. However minimising avoidable admissions, particularly for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions, reducing unnecessary length of stay, and improving discharge processes require broader perspectives. Enhanced primary care services, expanded postacute care facilities, post-discharge care coordination, and in home care services all require health system reforms that cannot be initiated by hospitals  alone.
For pharmaceuticals, creating and supporting competitive markets and promoting the uptake of generics and biosimilars can generate substantial savings. That said, reducing waste does not necessarily mean spending less; it may equally be achieved by gaining better value for money from existing expenditure. Both supply and demand side levers offer scope for better value. Using health technology assessment to inform selection, pricing and procurement of new medicines facilitates an understanding of the true opportunity costs of therapies and helps avoid the displacement of high value interventions with ones of lesser value.
This is not new. We have already heard the same for years. Therefore, current inertia is supported by strong incentives that prevent change (either in policy or management). This is the key challenge.