One of the greatest concerns of patients is to seek treatment in the quickest, most efficient and safest way possible. To achieve this, many European citizens need to seek health care in other member states than their own either because health care is better provided, or because they live in border regions where the nearest appropriate facility is situated in another country, or even because the treatment they seek is not provided in their own country due to lack of expertise (a common phenomenon for patients with rare diseases) or due to ethical reasons. The mobility of patients raises several questions such as…
- Who should pay for cross-border care and when?
- How can patients be informed about where the best treatment is available?
- Should they get approval by their own health system prior to receiving the treatment abroad?
- What happens when patients seek for an organ transplant? Who gets priority in the waiting lists?
- What about travel expenses for patient, relatives, post treatment and medicines needed?
The European Commission recently proposed a directive for cross border health care trying to clarify some of these issues. The directive addresses both the need to support cross-border care, especially for rare diseases and treatments for which there is no other choice and strengthen telemedicine through networks of centres of expertise and harmonized e-health tools. Making a law for all patients, in all medical situations, in all Member States is difficult. The question remains – how will Europe manage to ensure an equal access and quality of treatment for all its citizens?