to a special report released by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) in June
2019, patients in the EU have difficulty taking advantage of the measures
provided for in the EU Directive on
cross-border healthcare. Only a small percentage
of patients are aware of their right to receive healthcare abroad. The auditors
also identified problems and delays in the electronic exchange of patient data
between Member States. In addition, measures to facilitate access to healthcare
for rare disease patients need to be improved.
What was it about?
2011 Directive aims to ensure safe, high-quality cross-border healthcare in the
EU and the right to reimbursement of costs abroad under the same conditions as
at home. Patients in the EU who receive healthcare in another Member State,
such as planned hospital treatment or the purchase of medicines, are entitled
to relevant information on treatment standards, reimbursement rules and the
best legal pathway to use.
audit examined whether the European Commission had monitored the implementation
of the EU Directive on cross-border healthcare and assisted Member States in
informing patients of their rights. The report also looked at the results of
the cross-border exchange of health data and the key EU actions initiated for
ECA noted that the Commission had closely monitored the transposition of the
Directive into national law and its transposition by the Member States. Support for Member States in improving
information on patients’ rights to cross-border healthcare was also satisfactory,
but there was also some room for improvement.
example, the Commission underestimated the difficulties in setting up an
EU-wide eHealth infrastructure. At the time of the audit (November 2018),
Member States were only just about to implement the electronic exchange of
patient data; therefore, it was not possible to determine any benefits for
cross-border patients. In addition, the Commission has not adequately assessed
the potential use or cost-effectiveness of the exchange of cross-border health
the European Reference Networks for rare diseases, an ambitious innovation
widely supported by doctors, healthcare providers and patients, face major
challenges to ensure that they are financially sustainable and able to operate
effectively in national health systems.
What still needs to be done?
auditors recommend the Commission to do the following:
- improve support for National
Contact Points with providing information on patients’ rights to cross-border
- improve support for the
implementation of the cross-border exchange of health data;
- improve support and management
of the European Reference Networks to facilitate access to healthcare for rare
special report is available here.