Across Europe, healthcare is barely managing to cover its costs. Not only are the methods for raising funds to cover its costs inadequate, but, of even greater concern, the costs themselves are set to soar. According to World Bank figures, public expenditure on healthcare in the EU could jump from 8% of GDP in 2000 to 14% in 2030 and continue to grow beyond that date. The overriding concern of Europe’s healthcare sector is to find ways to balance budgets and restrain spending. Unless that is done, the funds to pay for healthcare will soon fall short of demand.
The financial meltdown is being caused by two interconnected trends: the ageing of the population and the parallel rise in chronic disease. Those financial burdens are being exacerbated by the rising cost base of medical technologies. On the positive side, the prospects for vanquishing many diseases are improving rapidly with the mapping of the genetic make-up of people who develop cancer, diabetes and heart disease. This prospect makes it all the more imperative to agree on a survival strategy for Europe's healthcare systems.
Policymakers have known about the forthcoming challenges to European healthcare for some time. Several countries have attempted to combat the effects of the global financial slowdown through extensive reform of their respective healthcare sectors. None of these efforts has yet proved successful, despite the involvement of the best and brightest thinkers on healthcare.
To unscramble the various perspectives on the ways to solve the healthcare financing conundrum, the Economist Intelligence Unit has undertaken this research, which looks at the challenges facing healthcare today and the likely shape of healthcare by 2030. The five contrasting scenarios that emerge from this research largely reflect prevailing attitudes and beliefs today. The hope is that, by examining healthcare in this way, some consensus might emerge about how to save Europe's healthcare systems.
To research this report, the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed the literature and data available on Europe's healthcare systems. We also conducted 28 in-depth interviews with leading experts in the different professional roles that make up the healthcare sector: academics; clinicians; healthcare providers; payers; policymakers; medical suppliers; think tanks and representatives of patients. The data and interview comments were then analysed to define trends likely to impact the direction of healthcare in the next two decades. Finally, bearing in mind these trends, we developed five scenarios, each a distillation of a school of thought on healthcare reform. The intention is to use these scenarios as a policy-neutral set of platforms upon which some degree of agreement can be reached about the future direction of healthcare. Alexandra Wyke was the author of the report, and Aviva Freudmann and Delia Meth-Cohn were the editors.