“While healthcare systems in Europe and the healthcare industry are still dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also facing new challenges. Among others, there are increasing demands from patients for improved quality of care, the need to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and digitization. All this creates pressure for structural and technological transformation of health systems. Although Croatia is happy to point out the examples of the use of technology where the healthcare for the future is being created, and it is not lagging behind other countries in terms of expertise and knowledge, it seems as if these examples are still exceptions and not the rule. While the focus of other countries is on implementing artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced technological solutions in healthcare, Croatia’s focus is still on financial recovery”, said Andrea Doko Jelušić, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce at today’s conference “Trends in healthcare – challenges and opportunities”.
The results of research of the dynamics of health systems in Central-Eastern Europe, conducted by the Economist Impact, point to the key role of the healthcare system financing reform, greater investment in primary health care, prevention and long-term care, strategic planning for the development of human resources, faster adoption of innovative technologies and the creation of preconditions for the digital transformation of the system in order to improve the quality of healthcare and ensure better health outcomes for the population.
The trends observed in 2023 are increasing production costs, increasing demand and a shortage of medicines, and regulation changes. 67% of medicines in Croatia are generic medicines, which at the same time represent only 4% of the cost of the healthcare system. Through this most regulated part of the system, HRK 200 million in savings have been achieved over the last two years, as the average price of a box of generic medicine is below EUR 5. The participants of the conference emphasized that it is necessary to stop the further decrease of medicine prices and to incorporate an indexation mechanism into the regulations because, without the prices being proportionally adjusted in relation to the increase in input costs, the supply of medicines will be threatened.
The global pharmaceutical market reached $1.25 trillion in 2022, and we can see that budget constraints and cost containment measures will shape the market in 2023. As we globally move towards the era of personalized medicine, the need to implement an outcome-based/personalized reimbursement system is growing, and a key missing element is the ability to properly track patient outcomes – this has to be achieved through the digitization of healthcare. With the right digital healthcare strategy, integrated systems and new competencies, we will unlock more effective healthcare solutions for the population.
At the conference, it was once again stated that the estimated frequency of cancer in Croatia is close to the EU average, but we record the second highest mortality from cancer among EU countries. At the same time, healthcare expenditure as a percentage of GDP in Croatia is lower than in other EU member states – 7.8% (compared to 10.9% in the EU). Improving cancer treatment through the implementation of a personalized approach for every metastatic patient in Croatia is one of the solutions. The establishment of the Croatian oncology database is one of the key areas that will enable meaningful insights into healthcare data designed to improve patient care as described in the Croatian National Cancer Control Plan and the EU Cancer Plan.
“Although healthcare is primarily the responsibility of the member states, the EU can and must make a big step forward in this area in the forthcoming period. There are currently big differences between the development of the healthcare systems of different countries, especially between those of the West and the East, and if something good happened during the pandemic, it is the change in the EU’s attitude towards a common approach to healthcare. Accordingly, in the European Parliament, I am particularly dedicated to issues of equal access to healthcare, public procurement of expensive and innovative medicines against cancer and rare diseases, availability of healthcare data, easier access to treatment abroad, and increased financing of healthcare infrastructure and additional investment in the healthcare workforce”, added Tomislav Sokol, member of the European Parliament.