Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Healthcare tourism

On October 25th the new Directive on cross-border healthcare of 2011 had to be implemented in all Member States. This means that currently consumers should be able to at their convenience go abroad in search of medical treatments and medical care. The new rules will make reimbursement claims less formalistic, provide better information to consumers on their patients rights and complaint procedures abroad. Additionally, consumers should be able to easier determine whether a given healthcare specialist is fit for practice and if they are issued prescriptions in another Member State they should be honored by the pharmacists in their country of residence, too. For more information, see Q&A of the European Commission.

The rules mentioned above harmonize situation of consumers who want to seek medical care abroad and of those who receive prescriptions from another Member State. However, it cannot be said that these rules guarantee patients' safety in Europe. If there are no strict, harmonized rules on authorization of medical devices, consumers could be severely harmed in the process. Imagine buying a pregnancy test during your holidays in another Member State, it being faulty due to more relaxed supervision measures and you ending up believing you are not pregnant and partying weeks long to your health's detriment. To prevent such black scenarios on 22 October the European Parliament looked into another subject related to improving healthcare in Europe - the safety of medical devices. The review of currently binding rules is to bring about more disclosure towards consumers on medical devices and involve them in the monitoring of such devices. A great idea is the facilitation of reporting defects. BEUC still argues for more changes in the newly drafted law, however, asking the European institutions to put a stop to producers using consumers as guinea pigs of their products and instead putting stricter rules on when products may enter the European market. (Parliament opens the door to safer medical devices)

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