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The Current Costs of Healthcare are Unsustainable

By Pöllö (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The financial foundations of the healthcare system are deteriorating in particular in European countries. The challenges are well known: an ageing population, the growth in chronic diseases and costly technological advances. The population aged 65 and over in Europe is projected to rise to 224 million by 2050, with people aged 85 and over expected to rise to 40 million (Fig.WHO). In the EU the health sector represents 10% of GDP and 15% of public expenditure. And the cost of healthcare is expected to double by 2050 if basic reforms are not undertaken (Fig. Bruegel). It must also be stressed that health spending has risen faster than economic growth in all OECD countries over the past 20 years. In these countries public expenditure on health is projected to increase from 6% of GDP today to 9% of GDP in 2030 and to 14% by 2060 if governments are unable to contain costs. However, there are some trends discernable now that will almost certainly help maintain the public healthcare system and above all the principle of universal healthcare coverage which is supported by a large majority of populations. First of all -and this will need to be strictly controlled- the collection and exploitation of health data will grow significantly to better target the specific investments which are needed in medical research and public health. It will then be necessary to streamline the patient's care especially by expanding ambulatory care which will considerably reduce the costs. And the development of the generic drug market and the use of "natural" therapies and alternative medicine are all areas which should be fully exploited. Lastly, and of course, preventive medicine and e-health will have a prominent role in the future sustainability of our healthcare systems.

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