Evaluating the current European healthcare system scenario marks a first step towards aspiring to improve it. Thus, before looking ahead and proposing ways for a more effective functioning of health systems, we must first identify the challenges and barriers to delivering equitable and sustainable high quality care services to all European citizens.

In light of ageing demographics, the economic climate, dwindling resources, increasing demand and rising costs, it is important to explore ways of doing more and better with less, and proposing smart and feasible solutions for better healthcare, whilst safeguarding common EU health values.

Improving healthcare across the EU calls for political will and enhanced co-operation between and within EU countries, and pulling resources together, especially in cases of specialised care and rare diseases. This co-operation is not about reinventing the wheel, but more about sustaining and maximising what we have achieved over recent decades and re-thinking the way we do things.

Delivering healthcare must also become patient-centred. A one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare must make way for a more personalised, inclusive and integrated care approach that empowers patients to play a more active role in their own health. The use of ehealth and telemedicine, tailored to patients’ needs, has role here. But balance is needed between innovation and the use of new medical technologies and equity, ensuring that all patients have equal affordable access to the latest, high quality and safe medical treatments.

The paper opens with an exploration of the healthcare challenges Europe is facing particularly in light of the recent economic crisis, which triggered enhanced EU intervention in healthcare and the call for more efficient yet sustainable care. Against this background, it then brings forward concrete recommendations on how to design and manage European healthcare systems in such a manner that we are able to do MORE and BETTER with LESS. We demonstrate how European governments can reap simultaneous economic and health benefits if they begin to see health as an investment rather than a cost and account for cost-effectiveness and sustainability of their health services across the healthcare life course; be it through preventive and diagnostic provisions of care, curative or more complex interventions and palliative care. Consequently, the paper illustrates solutions for better and cost-effective healthcare system practices at different stages of healthcare delivery – in primary, secondary and tertiary cross-border care settings.

The economic dimension of healthcare

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