Health and Social Care

Health and Social Care (WP9)

Background

Europe is facing a crisis in health and social care provision. The ageing population, surging public demand for new drugs and access to services, as well as a dramatic rise in long-term chronic conditions and non-communicable diseases are placing unsustainable pressures on the traditional health and social care systems. Managing the health and care needs of the future will require radical changes to the existing systems and to the way that individual citizens engage with health and care professionals and institutions. Social innovation has a key role to play in the development of the health and care systems of the future.

Existing models
After the worst of the 19th century’s public health problems were addressed with new water and sanitation systems and public housing building, the priority in healthcare in Europe became the universal access to medical services to treat infectious and acute diseases. Across the continent two broad types of national healthcare developed. One was the so-called ‘Beveridge model’ which was funded largely by direct taxation and adopted in varying forms in countries such as the UK, Sweden and Spain. The second was the ‘Bismarck model’, paid for mainly through compulsory social insurance, which is present in countries including Germany, Austria and France (see Jakubowski 1998).

In addition to these innovations in how healthcare was provided, the 20th century saw unprecedented technological advances in drug treatments and medical techniques. Nearly all of the infectious diseases that terrorised Europe in the past were brought under control through new treatments and the systems through which to deliver them. However, Europe’s health needs are changing. Acute and infectious diseases are no longer the main challenges. Chronic conditions and non-communicable disease that need to be managed, rather than treated, are on the rise. The traditional healthcare systems were not set up to provide for these. At the same time, the costs of ever more complicated drug treatments are increasing and the public expectation of health services continue to rise. The
current systems are becoming increasingly ineffective and unaffordable.

Social innovation
The healthcare systems of the future will have to focus much more on prevention and the management of
conditions, than simply the treatment of diseases. This change will involve radical social innovation, placing the citizen at the heart of the system and requiring the development of new types of partnerships and alliances between public, private, charitable and community-based stakeholders. A holistic approach is required, which puts a greater emphasis on wellbeing and personal empowerment.

The massive developments in ICT are driving innovation in the field of health and social care, and have the potential to radically change the sector. New technologies are transforming the way that health data is managed and used, are allowing for far greater levels of personalised care and are changing the relationships between patients and professions. It is likely that ICT will continue to be an engine of innovation in health and social care in the future.

There is increasing awareness of the need for innovation in this field. In this work package we will analyse the types of innovation under way in seven different realms of healthcare, spanning several issues confronting countries across Europe, as well as in other parts of the world. In this context, we will make observations and present recommendations on measures to be taken to pave the way for further favourable initiatives in these fields.

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