Beca: share data and improve cross border-care to fight cancer
Roma, 26 apr. (askanews) – On April 15, the European Parliament BECA Committee held a public hearing entitled ‘Cooperation is strength: sharing knowledge and data, improving cross-border care to beat cancer. During the hearing, a key theme that emerged was the importance of raising awareness among both healthcare professionals and the public at large as to patients’ rights under the cross-border healthcare directive when it came to accessing to treatment abroad. Several speakers pointed out that reimbursement issues remained a hindrance for many seeking cross-border treatments and that this needed to be tackled as all European citizens should have an equal right to access quality healthcare. Moreover, participants and MEPs also highlighted the critical need for the sharing of data cross-border, also noting that current restrictions meant this was often very difficult or impossible to carry out in practice. In this context, calls were heard for the legislation on data protection to be reviewed.
Beca Chair Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP, PL) opened the public hearing and noted that the epidemic was continuing to affect cancer patients. The pandemic had also shown that collaboration was key in tackling diseases and sharing knowledge and pooling expertise in the area of cancer treatment and training should be a priority. In 2017, in line with the cross-border health directive, the EU reference networks (ERNs) were launched. Cross border cancer care and research was also dependent on rich sources of relevant data. There must be secure health data access and sharing and the legal aspects of this would have to be considered. GDPR (data protection) was also being interpreted differently across Member States and such fragmentation had to be addressed
Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (RE, FR), Rapporteur for the dossier, underlined the importance of exchanges of information at all levels. She welcomed the Commission’s proposal on a new knowledge centre for cancers. The ERNs should be quickly reinforced and complimented by these new centers. Participation of all Member States in the European network was essential and there should be at least one network located in each Member State so that patients could easily plan their treatment. Movement by patients cross-border for treatment could be facilitated by improving the cross-border directive. The evaluation of the functioning of the European networks could also be improved by regular supply of data on performance
Also appropriate long-term financing at the EU and national levels, must be discussed. The centre of knowledge must also work in tandem with the ERNs and Trillet-Lenoir welcomed the setting up of adequate cancer registries that also included data on factors such as lifestyle and socio-economic data. Interoperability would also be key
BECA Chair Bartosz Arłukowicz (EPP, PL) agrees that information must be shared as it is beneficial for patients and for research. All patients should have equal access to professional care. Good intentions were not enough and concrete action must be undertaken so that all patients across Europe could have equal access to quality treatment. Oncological centers must continue to run efficiently, even during the current COVID crisis, he concluded.