A new project funded by the EU will compare the health system organisations of the 27 Member States, and will examine the robustness of health outcomes that are currently being used by health technology assessment officials. With around EUR 1 million in support from the EU, the ECHOUTCOME ('European consortium in health care outcomes and cost-benefit research') project kicks off in March under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
'Most European decision-makers require health technology assessment (HTA) studies to evaluate costs and performance of health interventions,' explained Dr Béresniak, chief executive of Data Mining International in Switzerland, a partner in the ECHOUTCOME project and leader of one of the Work Packages. 'Some health authorities suggest using synthetic indicators such as QALY.'
The ECHOUTCOME team anticipates that their evaluation will find parallels in the health system organisations across the EU-27 bloc. 'The ECHOUTCOME project expects to find potential similarities of some European health systems, and it will propose health system categories and assess key properties by categories,' Dr Béresniak told RTD Headlines.
'Some similarities are expected between European health systems, and main differences concern social insurances and health services organisations,' added Dr Béresniak, who is project manager of ECHOUTCOME.
The ECHOUTCOME partners will also consider the properties and consequences of using a reference case in order to support the EU's drive for providing better health care in Europe. 'Using validated and robust health outcomes will allow improvement in the quality of health assessment studies,' Dr Béresniak said.
The Data Mining International official noted that ECHOUTCOME will use multi-criteria modelling to compare the 27 European health system organisations.
The project partners will evaluate the scientific validity of synthetic indicators to help European decision-makers in meeting the health care needs of Europeans, including the Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY), the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) or Healthy Years Equivalent (HYE), and will make recommendations to Member States once the project ends in 2013.
'Using health indicators like QALY [is] suggested by some health authorities such as the National Institute of Clinical Excellence in the UK,' Dr Béresniak pointed out. 'The scientific literature has reported inconsistent and divergent results of QALY studies. The ECHOUTCOME project will test the theoretical assumptions of such indictors,' he told RTD Headlines.
Advances in health outcomes and cost-benefit approaches will impact European decision-makers by helping them make relevant decisions, according to Dr Béresniak.
Coordinated by Professor Michel Lamure of Université Claude Bernard Lyon in France, the ECHOUTCOME project brings together experts from the University of Bocconi in Italy and the Free University in Brussels (ULB) in Belgium, as well as the French Society of Health Economics (SFES) and three small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) specialising in advance modelling techniques and in international project management, namely Data Mining International, and the French-based Cyklad Group and Lyon Ingenierie Projects (LIP). The biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb Europe is a consortium participant but has received no EU contribution.
Dr Béresniak underlined the crucial role for health care that industry plays, calling it a 'major actor for providing innovative health products'.
The main challenges currently affecting the European health care system are access to innovation, equity and financing. The ECHOUTCOME partners expect to continue their work on validating and developing new evaluation approaches. Despite the project being limited to the European region, Dr Béresniak noted that 'further developments could involve non-European countries in the frame of a new project'.
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