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International Health News Brief

A roundup of selected health policy news stories from around the world.

Australia
“My Health Record” Improving Patient Outcomes in Australia

An electronic medical record used by providers and patients is now being rolled out across Australia. “My Health Record” is designed to increase connectivity across the system, reduce waste, and improve care quality and outcomes. Patients may select which providers are allowed access to their record.

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Canada
Team-Based Care Key to Primary Health Care Strategy in British Columbia

Last spring, British Columbia launched several initiatives to strengthen primary care. The province aims to recruit 200 graduating family physicians and 200 nurse practitioners into team-based practices within newly established primary care networks. Practices will be paid through alternative payment arrangements instead of traditional fee-for-service payments.

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Simple, Safe, Secure, and Free Access to Digital Health Records for Québec Patients

Last spring, Québec launched Carnet Santé Québec, a digital portal that allows patients in the province to access their own health records from their computers, tablets, or smart phones — all for free. Currently, patients can access a list of medications, imaging and lab results for the past five years, and medical bills. In the future, the portal will show all medical interventions received and a patient’s progress on wait lists.

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McGill First in North America to Use Augmented Reality Technology for Target-Guided Surgery

Target-guided surgery — which uses augmented reality to allow surgeons to conduct complicated surgeries with greater precision and accuracy — is being used in North America for the first time at the McGill University Health Center. The German technology creates a roadmap derived from the patient scans that are displayed on monitors during surgery to help surgeons navigate across delicate areas of the body, such as the sinuses.

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Europe
Health Spending in Industrialized Countries Is Slowly Picking Up After the Global Recession

A new report finds that health spending grew 3.4 percent in 2016 across 36 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the fastest rate since 2009. This rate remains lower than before the financial crisis, when health spending grew around 4 percent to 6 percent per year across countries.

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European Union Launches Three-Year Initiative on “Health Equity in Europe”

In June, the European Commission held its first meeting in Luxembourg on the Joint Action on Health Inequalities. The initiative aims to achieve greater equality in health outcomes for all social groups across 28 participating countries, with a focus on migrants and other vulnerable groups, socioeconomic determinants of health, and lifestyle-related health factors.

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France
Public Health Insurance Launches Local Units Targeting French Patients Giving Up on Health Care

Although France has one of the lowest out-of-pocket health expenditure rates among wealthy nations, it ranks poorly on rates of patients skipping needed care because of costs. Following a successful experiment in the Gard region of southern France, a network of units aimed at tackling patients who skip needed care has been rolled out in 101 local public health insurance offices. 

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Germany
German Innovation Fund Supports More Than 200 Projects During Its First Two Years

The German Joint Federal Committee launched the Innovation Fund in 2015 to improve quality of care and promote innovation in the statutory health care system. With a budget of EUR 1.2 billion (USD 1.37 billion), it was created to support new care models and health systems research over four years.

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Netherlands
Dutch Minister of Health Care Proposes Measures to Limit Drug Prices

Under Dutch law, drug prices may not exceed the mean price of that drug in four neighboring countries: Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Germany. The Dutch health care minister, Bruno Bruins, has suggested dropping Germany as a comparison country, in favor of Norway or Sweden, starting in 2020, because German prices are higher compared to the Nordic countries.

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New Zealand
New App Trains Educators in New Zealand as Digital Health Workers

To address shortages of health care professionals in New Zealand, a new micro-credentialing program offered through an app allows teachers to complete 200 hours of training as digital health care workers, for free. The digital credentials, called EduBits and developed with Otago Polytechnic, enable teachers at schools and day care centers to securely send student health information, about head lice or strep throat, for example, to a digital health team in Auckland.

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Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners Promotes Choosing Wisely Recommendations

The recommendations from the Choosing Wisely campaign that educates health professionals and patients on treatments, tests, and procedures that are potentially unnecessary or harmful have been endorsed by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. The college has been promoting these recommendations to general practitioners through their electronic weekly newsletter as a "tip of the week."

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Norway
Telecare Services for Norwegians with Chronic Conditions

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services has provided NOK 18.5 million (USD 2.2 million) for 2018 to 2021 for continued testing of telehealth services for individuals with chronic health conditions at risk of deterioration. Six Norwegian municipalities will participate in the project, which will include municipal health and care services and general practitioner offices. 

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Norwegian Government’s Quality Reform for the Elderly

A new Norwegian program, Live Your Whole Life (Å leve hele livet), has been launched to offer solutions for municipalities to help ensure safe and healthy aging for their residents. The main aim is to spread and implement innovative approaches to support aging at home, social inclusion and community integration of seniors, provision of meals and/or nutrition services, and continuous and coordinated health care services.

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Sweden
New Data on the Use of Digital Health Care Services in Sweden

The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has released a report highlighting the use of digital health care services. In Sweden, digital health consultations are offered by public and private providers including doctors, midwives, and physiotherapists for services ranging from diagnostic tests and examinations to nurse triage.

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First “Patient Billion” Paid to Swedish County Councils to Improve Primary Care Access

The Swedish Government has allocated approximately SEK 3 billion (USD 328.4 million) to be paid from 2018 through 2021 to strengthen primary care for patients. Last spring, the first “patient billion” was paid to Sweden’s 21 county councils; the amount per county was based on population size.

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Medical Community Criticizes Sweden’s Plan to Introduce Rehabilitation Coordinators Reduce Sick Leave

Sweden has passed a law that will shift the responsibility of managing high rates of absenteeism from employers to the primary care sector. Starting in 2019, primary care practices will be mandated by law to have rehabilitation coordinators, who will be responsible for creating reentry plans for individuals returning to work after a lengthy sick leave.

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Switzerland
Swiss Federal Council Proposes Relief for Workers Who Provide Care for Sick Family Members

The Swiss government wants to make it easier for employed people to provide care for family members. The Federal Council proposes a legal obligation for employers to continue salary payments during short work absences to provide necessary care for relatives, including seriously ill or injured children.

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United Kingdom
NHS England to Introduce a System for Monitoring Medication Errors

In an effort to reduce medication errors, the English National Health Service (NHS) is implementing a system that will link primary care prescribing data to hospital admissions. Minister of State for Social Care Caroline Dinenage says the estimated 237 million medication errors per year necessitate finding a consistent way to measure these errors in the NHS and provide data to improve care and reduce costs.

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England Offers Financial Support for Local Programs Serving People at Risk of a Mental Health Crisis

A new program in England will distribute GBP 15 million (USD 19.3 million) across 51 local projects supporting people at risk of a mental health crisis. The Beyond Places of Safety program seeks to reduce accident and emergency visits among people experiencing a mental health crisis by integrating health and care support with other services such as housing, improving partnerships with the voluntary and community sectors, and providing safe spaces for those in distress.

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Cross-Government Support in England for Unpaid Caregivers

The Department of Health and Social Care has released a two-year action plan to support people who provide unpaid care for a family member or friend in England. Ministers from the Government Equalities Office and various departments, including business, energy and industrial strategy, and work and pensions, contributed to and invested in the plan, which was informed by views from nearly 7,000 people.

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Lord Darzi Appointed Chair of Accelerated Access Collaborative in U.K.

Lord Ara Darzi, a former Minister in the Department of Health and Social Care, was appointed chair of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. Bringing together leaders from the NHS, industry, and government, the collaborative seeks to identify transformative medical innovations and accelerate their clinical development and NHS approval.

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