On 10 June, the European Renal Care Providers Association organised its launch event in Brussels. The focus of this event was better management of chronic diseases in the EU. The keynote speaker, Mr Alan Milburn, the former UK Minister for Health, said that European health systems will be overwhelmed by the “tsunami of chronic diseases” unless there is a fundamental shift toward patient-led prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Dr Andrea Stopper, ERCPA Chairman, explained that corporate renal care providers can provide valuable answers on how to better manage chronic diseases, thanks to their experience of treating multimorbid patients. Dr Albrecht Werner from the Disease Management Unit of DG SANTE, announced that the European Commission is currently working on how to address chronic diseases and multimorbidity.

Caring for unwell and chronic patients is what ERCPA members do on a daily basis in a majority of the EU Member States, underlined Dr Andrea Stopper. CKD is often secondary to two other major chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease with persistent hypertension, and chronic diabetes. That is why ERCPA was created last year in Brussels with a long-term commitment to share its chronic disease management experience at EU level.

“The renal industry is on the frontline of a profound set of changes that are reshaping what health does and how it does it,” said Alan Milburn. New models of care are needed which will better integrate care around individual patients and focus on prevention instead of treatment. The current model of care, which focuses on treating patients with short-term illnesses, is rapidly becoming obsolete, claimed Milburn.

Furthermore, according to Milburn, reforms are needed around how providers are paid, as there has been little focus on outputs or outcomes so far. The increasing trend of paying service providers for their outcomes is promising. Also, European healthcare systems have traditionally been resistant to increased market competition, but in the new financial climate which policymakers face, there is a better chance that politics will lose and economics will win. Therefore, Milburn called for the renal care industry to focus on forging innovative partnerships that would help Member States’ governments develop outcome-based and patient-focused services.

Dr Albrecht Werner underlined in his remarks that chronic diseases are one of the Commission’s top health priorities, along with a focus on primary and secondary prevention. Dr Werner mentioned that EU initiatives, like the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing or the Joint Action CHRODIS, are facing challenges regarding how to implement best practices that have been gathered in different EU health systems. The healthcare settings vary not only from one Member State to another, but sometimes even between regions. Referring to the Commission’s upcoming document on chronic diseases and multimorbidity, Dr Werner mentioned that it should be open to consultation with stakeholders by the end of the year.

Milburn concluded the launch event by saying that “change in healthcare will have to happen not just because the cash is running out, but because time is running out for a system that was designed to deal with yesterday’s challenges, not tomorrow’s.” The keynote speaker called on the EU not to wait for tomorrow, and to start working together today for better European sustainable healthcare systems.