Newsletter 244 - Expert Panel

Health-EU newsletter 244 - Focus

Six years of success: the Expert Panel on Effective Ways of Investing in Health

Professor Jan De Maeseneer, Chair of the Expert Panel, reflects on the Panel's role, work and impact after its 6 years of existence. To mark the end of the current Expert Panel’s mandate, the Commission and the Panel are organising a conference on the interaction between science/expertise and policy-making on 8 November in Brussels.

What is the Expert Panel’s role?

The Expert Panel is an interdisciplinary and independent group set up by the Commission to provide non-binding advice on matters related to health systems.

The Commission calls on the Panel to discuss policy concepts, to identify challenges and knowledge gaps and to suggest possible solutions. The Panel helps the Commission to make sound policy by providing the very latest scientifically sound evidence.

Since 2013, the Expert Panel has produced 19 Opinions. Recent Opinions include those on obstacles to vaccination uptake, the impact of the digitalization of healthcare, defining ‘value-based healthcare’, task shifting and health system design, and health promotion. Our Opinions have been shared with the Member States authorities and more generally the community of health stakeholders, helping to raise public awareness about the transformation of health systems.

What do you think is required for successful evidence-based policy making at EU level?

First, it is important to have a clear EU-relevant definition of the terms of reference and concepts used in an Opinion. Then we need an update of relevant challenges, supported by EU-wide data. The Panel can then summarise existing evidence on changes and processes that could help make health systems more effective, accessible and sustainable.

Where evidence is lacking or incomplete, we fill the gaps based on our own expert knowledge and sometimes call on external experts like patient representatives. The Panel also explores new perspectives, like when it recommended extending the definition of “value in value-based healthcare” to “societal value”. All of this leads to policy-recommendations and suggestions, which can then be considered through EU-level cooperation but, primarily, also for national policy-making.

What are the lessons of the past and the vision for the future?

On a personal note, it has been a privilege and a very enriching experience to be the Chair of such a wonderful group of experts and scientists. Over these past six years, we collaborated closely and worked hard to produce quality Opinions, increasingly taking a transdisciplinary approach. I am very grateful to them, and to the Commission for facilitating our work and guaranteeing our independence.

As we reach the end of our mandate, we reflected on some crucial proposals that could impact future EU policy such as

  • achieving the health-related sustainable development goals and principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights;
  • creating a positive attitude and pride towards health systems; helping Member States adopt and adjust to new models of care, paying special attention to transition-costs;
  • creating learning communities, bringing together the best expertise, experiences and practices in EU;
  • strengthening financial protection for health care spending;
  • including the reduction of health inequities in the design of policy interventions;
  • investing in effective health promotion and prevention;
  • addressing climate change, migration (and refugee-crisis) and capacity building in an integrated, more comprehensive way by engaging EU in a new dialogue with African countries.