Health Ministers at the OECD Want Indicators To Measure Pain
On 17 January 2017 the Health Ministers and Representatives of OECD Members and Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Peru and South Africa met in Paris. The purpose of the meeting was to share views and options on how to design and implement the Next Generation of Health Reforms. In the concluding statement pain was mentioned.
Members discussed the achievements of the healthcare systems over the past years, which include progress towards effective Universal Health Coverage; the rise in life expectancy; progress in delivering safe and effective care and positive outcomes from the promotion of healthier lifestyles.
Despite these successes, OECD health systems are facing important challenges. Rising inequalities in access to health systems, prevalence of chronic diseases and multiple co-morbidities, the opportunity and cost of new technologies, effective measurement of health system performance and better use of health data.
OECD Ministers confirmed their support to addressing these challenges and expressed their commitment in four areas: (1) Promoting high-value health systems for all; (2) Adapting health systems to new technologies and innovation; (3) Reorienting health systems to become more people-centred and (4) Encouraging dialogue and international cooperation.
Why is this important for SIP?
The highlight of the meeting was presented during the discussion on patient centricity. OECD Health Ministers welcomed the advice from the OECD High-level Reflection Group on Health Statistics to invest in better cross-country comparative measures of patients’ own experience of medical care and health care outcomes. In this line, they called on the OECD to further engage in the analysis and development of such comparative measures which ideally will help assess whether care is delivering comfort and quality of life, whether it enables people to be free of pain or to improve their ability to function and live independently.
The OECD secretary-general José Ángel Gurría expressed that the process “will involve the actual rolling out of a set of commonly accepted indicators to track quality, access and value for money of health policies and inputs […] we will no longer just measure health inputs, but also whether medical care leads to people being in less pain, more mobile and in better health.” Additionally, Francesca Colombo, head of health at the OECD said in her own words “we want to hear patients’ experiences […] What is their pain like? How is their functionality? Can they live a normal life now? These kinds of questions.” Above all, the intended purpose is to invest in measures that will help assess whether health systems deliver what matters most to people.
Relevance: whether or not this outcome was caused by the meetings of SIP delegations with high ranked EU authorities is unknown. However, have the OECD ministers asking the OECD to further engage in the analysis and development of comparative measures brings us one giant step closer to realising pain as an indicator for health care systems.