European hospitals: patient-orientation is key

Interview with Dr. Sara Pupato Ferrari, Madame President HOPE (European Hospital and Healthcare Federation)

Photo: Dr Sara Pupato Ferrari at EHC 2015

Dr Sara Pupato Ferrari at EHC 2015; © beta-web/Stöter

Putting the patient at the center stage, meaning to give him an active role and really interacting with him - this sounds like the obvious thing to do in healthcare. But to what extent does this actually happen in hospitals and how can it become common practice everywhere in Europe? The EUROPEAN HOSPITAL CONFERENCE, taking place at MEDICA every two years, addresses these questions in 2015. asked Dr. Sara Pupato Ferrari how patient-orientation is able to improve care in European hospitals and how EU policies support this.

Dr. Pupato Ferrari, the key topic of the 3rd EHC at MEDICA 2015 is "Patient-oriented hospital care". What exactly does this mean, should not all care be "patient-oriented"?

Dr. Sara Pupato Ferrari: Indeed all care should be patient-oriented. This is clearly why we named the 3rd EHC that way, and not just to reiterate the obvious but to emphasize this as a goal as well as a way of working.

Why is it important to put patients at the centre?

Pupato Ferrari: Well, because this is a right! You can refer to what is stated in the World Health Organisation Alma Ata Declaration - Principle IV from 1978: "People have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their healthcare." Or you can refer to the more recent Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding since the treaty of Lisbon, with its Article 3 on the Right to the integrity of the person.

What are currently the most pressing issues or problems that hospitals face in care? How does patient orientation address these issues?

Pupato Ferrari: Apart from the pressure on the financial side, hospitals are facing the need to better coordinate with the other components of the health and social care system. Ageing and chronic diseases are dictating our new way of working. There is a need to face those present and future challenges with the patients and their carers.

This is for the benefit of hospital and healthcare services. They can learn from the unique experience of patients who are often in contact with healthcare services. It is a way to make sure that services and products respond to the real needs of patients and finally to help a better and sustainable functioning of healthcare systems.

How do current EU policies support improvements in care?

Pupato Ferrari: As for all components of the European healthcare systems, there is a huge diversity of situations on the legal and practical levels, as well as a huge diversity in terms of patient organisations in countries. EU policies improve care by bringing together expertise from various fields.

We have a lot to learn from our diversity. HOPE has worked for example in several EU-co-financed projects related to patient orientation. To name a few of the most recent ones: Ageing Well aims at creating a Community of Actors interested in improving the life of older persons by promoting the market uptake of ICT solutions for ageing well.

Two projects on patient safety followed one another. They have put the patient at the centre: the European network on patient safety and then the joint action on patient safety and quality. Both focused on improving patient safety and quality of care through sharing of information, experience, and the implementation of good practices.

There is one more project specifically on cross-border care: HonCab is related to payment of care for cross-border patients with a main objective to obtain a better understanding of the financial and organizational requirements that may arise as a result of a patient receiving healthcare outside the Member State of affiliation.

Are there hospitals in Europe that could serve as "lighthouses" or best-practice examples as regards patient orientation?

Pupato Ferrari: Certainly, HOPE has always been keen in getting those good practices and show case them through different methods: exchange programme, study tours, publications as well as the projects mentioned earlier.

What significance do MEDICA and the EHC have as a political platform?

Pupato Ferrari: The EHC is a good way for the three organizations (HOPE; EAHM, the European Association of Hospital Managers; AEMH, European Association of Senior Hospital Physicians) to meet and exchange.

Photo: Timo Roth

© Barbara From-

The interview was conducted by Timo Roth.