When we are sick, we prefer to be treated as close to home as possible. But sometimes the treatment we are looking for can be better provided in another EU country. This can be the case if, for instance, patients live close to the border, or if they need specialised or different kinds of treatment.
A legislative framework
The Directive on patients' rights in cross-border healthcare
Up to now, rules on treatment and reimbursement for healthcare across borders have not been entirely clear.
The European Court of Justice issued a number of rulings for over a decade confirming the right for patients to be treated across Europe's borders and be reimbursed under certain conditions.
Clarifying the right to be treated elsewhere in the EU is the underlying principle behind the EU Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare (Directive n°2011/24/EU).
Before seeking healthcare in another EU country, it is important to be adequately informed about the quality and safety of the treatment offered elsewhere. It is also important to know how to make a complaint and find appropriate solutions in case something goes wrong. For these reasons, the Directive creates a network of "national contact points" tasked with giving clear and accurate information on cross-border healthcare.
Health systems in all EU countries face the same challenges, such as those posed by patients and health professionals' mobility and rapidly developing new health technologies.
To respond to these challenges, this Directive offers a good basis for EU-wide cooperation in areas where results would be mutually beneficial. EU countries can, for example, share experiences on providing patients with the best possible care, such as through the use of new health technologies.