If we are to create efficient healthcare systems, fit not only for the present, but the future too, we need to learn lessons. The lessons of success as much as failure and how solutions can be replicated to help patients, healthcare professionals and decision-makers, no matter where they live and work.
At the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO), which brings together 24 different oncology related societies across Europe, we are focused on our mission of improving outcomes for cancer patients through multi-disciplinarity and seeing the delivery of our vision of Quality Cancer Care in all European countries. To achieve that we know paying attention to metrics matters. That is why we were able to find an alliance of interest with the aims of the FutureProofing Healthcare Index and were pleased to offer inputs to its development.
No system of measurement can ever be perfect, and though perfection is always a goal worth seeking, we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Even imperfect systems of measurement can shine important new light on why some health systems can apparently achieve better outcomes than others, and how learning from this can be applied for overall pan-European improvements.
This is especially true in cancer care. Many advances have been made in terms of prevention, treatment and care, yet there are still huge discrepancies across the continent. So it’s essential that we understand the performances of different healthcare systems by intelligently analysing the data. Indeed the data amassed by the Index is hugely detailed – the quality of cancer care, timelines for treatment, outcomes according to tumour types and geographies, as well as the influence of technology and culture.
The picture is complicated and the conclusions are not easy to draw. There are after all so many different points of view and mitigating factors. But what has emerged from the Index is that some countries – the Netherlands and Denmark, for example - have developed systems of care that, for very particular reasons, work better than others. It’s hoped that some of these learnings can be taken into countries that don’t perform so well in the Index, so that they can maximise the care and treatment of oncology patients.
It’s not about pinpointing errors but helping each other to improve by finding the information that is out there, talking to each other and sharing learnings with policymakers. That’s what the Index encourages. It is not about highlighting negatives but pushing healthcare forward, making it more sustainable, workable and efficient and allowing the raw data to help decision-makers identify and analyse the positives at play and, through that, improve standards of care.
It can sometimes feel quite shallow seeing who comes top and bottom in league tables but the methodology for the Index is more robust. It will hopefully inspire more interesting discussions about performance and provide more workable conclusions about structural, cultural, behavioural and financial solutions, across the entire continent.
By measuring cancer healthcare quality in this way, the FutureProofing Healthcare Index can help to create a set of shared principles that other European countries can feel inspired to follow and spark improvements in their own performance. Rather than compete against each other, we can help each other, asking the right questions, having more informed conversations and coming to greater understandings.
There is controversy in any system of measurement but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Anything that helps people live better lives, free of cancer, is a step in the right direction.