Putting patients first: the commitment of health management to uphold patients’ rights

18 April 2023

Health and access to healthcare are fundamental rights. One of the twenty principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights is  “timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality”. Nevertheless, persistent challenges to healthcare access persist in the EU. For these reasons, EHMA is delighted to join the XVII Edition of the European Patients’ Rights Day, promoted by Active Citizenship Network (ACN).  The European Charter of Patients’ Rights includes the following rights: access to health services; privacy and confidentiality; observance of quality standards; safety; and avoidance of unnecessary suffering and pain. These rights, based on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights are crucial for European citizens and healthcare services.

Given the central role health professionals and leaders play in designing, implementing and evaluating health policies, programs, and services, cooperation and engagement with other actors in health systems is essential to ensure the respect of patients’ rights.

Healthcare professionals should empower patients by providing them with the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to take control of their health and treatment. Patient participation is about fostering a collaborative relationship between patients and health providers, where patients are actively involved in their care decisions. This can include giving patients access to their medical records, involving them in care planning, and providing them with information about their condition, treatment options, and potential outcomes. Patients should be involved in decision-making, planning, development, monitoring and evaluation of their care and health services via satisfaction surveys, patient focus groups, and patient advisory committees. By involving patients in such activities, health professionals and managers can gain valuable insights into patient needs and preferences, which will help to improve the quality of care.

Patient safety, a core right in the European Charter of Patients’ Rights,  is a critical aspect of healthcare; patients have the right to access health services and treatments that meet high safety standards. This includes measures such as reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infections, preventing medication errors, and minimising adverse events. As many as one-in-ten hospitalisations in OECD countries may be caused by a medication-related event, and as many one-in-five inpatients experience medication-related harms during hospitalisation. Costs from avoidable admissions due to medication-related events and added length of stay due to preventable hospital-acquired medication-related harms total over USD 54 billion in OECD countries. Health professionals and managers have a responsibility to ensure that patient safety is a top priority in their healthcare facility. In addition, Investments in    healthcare digitalisation is needed to ensure patient safety during all episodes of care and treatment.

Additionally, patients have the right to access health services and treatments equally, regardless of their financial or social status. This includes access to primary care, specialist services, diagnostic tests, and treatments. Health professionals and managers must work to ensure that health services are accessible to all patients, regardless of their cultural, social or financial background and geographic location.

Lastly, as health data become more digitised and portable, we must remember the right to privacy and confidentiality of health data. This means protecting patients’ personal and medical information from unauthorised access or disclosure. Health professionals and managers should ensure that appropriate measures are in place to safeguard patient privacy, such as confidentiality agreements and secure data storage.

European Patients’ Rights Day serves as a reminder for healthcare professionals and leaders of the need to work towards providing health systems that truly put patients first by ensuring access, empowerment, participation, privacy and safety.


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I have been active in EHMA since the first years of the '90s and I have seen its evolution from a small association of members interested in sharing knowledge on health management practices to the current status of reference and advisory key player for EU, health systems and organisations, stakeholders associations, industry and universities. EHMA is now a unique knowledge hub, policy advisor, community of practice and network of best in class organisations involved in health policy and management. A place where health managers can build their competences, policy-makers and stakeholder associations envision how to implement and sustain change through health management, industry leaders understand how to engage more effectively with health organisations and systems. The right place to nurture and grow health management capabilities and capacity for every stakeholder of health systems.

Prof. Federico Lega, University of Milan, Italy

Health management has a crucial function in shaping public health and health system challenges. The Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria had success in collaborating with EHMA on EU-funded projects that has resourced us to create new health management competencies for the future workforce. In addition to all classical definitions, health management is a science dealing with individuals, groups, and society at large. It is an art contributing to the beauty of our lives and an interactive communication process at all levels of institutions and human energy. I have also had the pleasure to chair the South Eastern European Special Interest Group which gives members a space to discuss and tools to address how health systems are managed in our regions.

Prof. Todorka Kostadinova, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria

I enjoy the high level of interaction and engagement in EHMA’s activities, in particular during the annual conference where the panel discussions are rich and well prepared. As a hospital manager and professor of health management, EHMA motivates and inspires me to be creative. You go back home feeling energised from seeing old friends and making new connections, as well as being convinced of serving as EHMA’s ambassador. It’s a strong feeling of interdisciplinary engagement, but it also feels like being part of family-like community.

Prof. Sandra C. Buttigieg, University of Malta, Malta

EHMA is a pre-eminent organisation for everyone working in planning, managing and delivering health services across Europe. As a long standing member of EHMA I have always been impressed by the vibrant community of managers, researchers and academics it has created and by the many opportunities for sharing knowledge and funding opportunities it has brought to its members. Its international scope is impressive and its impact is often felt in management and research across European and national health systems.

Prof. Axel Kaehne, Edge Hill University, UK

Health workforce has become more essential in operating, managing and maintaining health systems lately, particularly in crisis and emergency situations. European healthcare professions and the workforce need to be high on the agenda of managers and decision makers. The Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University in Hungary is a longstanding EHMA member, because it connects us with collaborators and experts, with whom we can have complex debates, from whom we can learn and at the end find solutions in various challenging fields of healthcare management.

Dr Eszter Kovács, Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University, Hungary

As a hospital administrator and health management professor, I see on a daily basis that the healthcare challenges require talented and skilled managers to transform it. the EHMA membership has been beneficial to bring healthcare management research and education to the demanding healthcare services world, promoting healthcare management competencies and knowledge creation.

Dr Alexandre Lourenco, APAH - Association of Portuguese Hospital Managers, Portugal

Many healthcare systems in Europe and beyond are facing similar challenges which require innovative and creative solutions. EHMA’s annual conference, webinars, Programme Directors’ group and other activities and resources provide incredible opportunities for networking, connecting and sharing experiences. A distinct feature of EHMA is the diversity of members with representation from many countries, sectors and different communities of practice – academic, policy-makers, practitioners, managers, leaders and students. The annual conference is a highlight in the calendar year, offering a friendly, fun and learningful environment for emerging and established members to engage, collaborate and meet up with old and new friends. I am proud to be a member of the EHMA Board.

Prof. Ann Mahon, University of Manchester, UK

Society evolution, pandemics and ageing modify health needs. So, health policies and services are to change dramatically. EHMA, through webinars, workshops and annual conference provides an excellent insight to a professional changing world, favouring closeness to management innovation and the protagonists of these changes. As a primary care services’ manager, participating in EHMA activities is really worth it and allows to involve oneself in the innovation processes.

Dr Antoni Peris Grao, Consorci Castelldefels Agents de Salut (CASAP), Spain