Priorities for a European policy on multimorbidity

Multi-morbidity – the co-occurrence of at least two chronic conditions in one person – is affecting an increasing number of European citizens. As it is becoming a major public health threat, the European Union enhanced a reflexion aimed at developing a framework to address the related challenges and improve patient’s quality of life, while ensuring the sustainability of healthcare systems. On the 27th of October, health professionals, patients groups and relevant stakeholders met with EU policy-makers to define policy priorities to address multi-morbid patients. The objective of the EU-organised conference, ‘Which priorities for a European policy on multimorbidity?, was to define the elements to set a common framework on multimorbidity from a perspective including research, healthcare organization, cost-effectiveness & financing and patient engagement.

Through the discussions, the following policy priorities were outlined:

  • change of paradigm from a medical-problem solving to a patient-centered approach, tailored to each individual’s needs.
  • increase coordination between health and social care
  • reorganize health systems to develop better integrated services
  • increase research on diseases interaction and on the cost-effectiveness of interventions addressing multimorbidity
  • develop evidence-based good practices and create a platform allowing health professionals to share them
  • improve patients’ health literacy and promote higher involvement of patients and families in disease management
  • develop better standardisation of health care models
  • form multidisciplinary teams and improve the training of healthcare professional

Participants stressed the important role that can play innovative ICT solutions in implementing these priorities. Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health Xavier Prats-Monné especially highlighted the need to address multimorbidity through an holistic approach, the need to switch to a patient-oriented model of healthcare and to increase cross border exchange of best practices between EU Member States.

“Multimorbidity means not treating patients one discipline at a time. A paradigm shift from a disease-oriented approach to a patient-oriented approach is necessary” (Xavier Prats-Monné, Director General for Health, European Commission)

Concluding the conference, Deputy Director General DG SANTE Martin Seychell re-asserted the need for cooperation between stakeholders to establish a common framework on multimorbidity, and for an integrated approach, which would also have a positive impact on health systems’ performance and cost-effectiveness.

Note: To address the issue, the Selfie project, funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 EU programme for research & innovation, has been set to identify possible ways of joining up care for patients with a combination of chronic diseases. Launched in September 2015, this three-year project will run until September 2019 to look into ways to provide a more patient-centered and integrated care relying on adequate payment systems.