The future of self-care

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Enabling people to manage their health and wellbeing: Policy approaches to self-care is a report written by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by RB.

The report considers the key elements and drivers for self-care, and examines the political and regulatory response across three global markets: the US, Europe and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)

Within this year's report, five drivers of self-care have been identified:

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Health literacy

Increase patient education and understanding of self-care

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HCP and patient groups

Both have a vital part to play in promoting and supporting self care

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Healthcare systems

Self-care must be integrated in healthcare policies and systems

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Medication

Need for international standards, standardisation of medicine classification and good partnerships between patients, HCPs and pharmacists to increase self-care options and ensure patient safety

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Technology

Focus on the role of apps and wearable technologies that both inform and track long-term benefits within a regulated framework

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Laxman Narasimhan

RB, CEO

Our healthcare systems are rapidly becoming unsustainable. In emerging economies – from Brazil to China – governments still struggle to provide universal healthcare. Health literacy is poor, the primary-care system patchy and hospitals overstretched.

In OECD countries, health spending already stands at 15 per cent of all government expenditure. As populations age and the incidence of chronic ailments rises – in rich and poor countries alike – demand for health services and pressure on budget will only increase.

Clearly, we need a new approach to healthcare that empowers people to look after their health, freeing resources for patients who really need medical care.

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Key findings

Within the US, Europe and the BRICS

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$3trn(USD)

annual healthcare spend

Pressure on healthcare systems are severe, so the need for chronic disease self-management is intense

69%

of annual spend based on poor diet and lifestyle

Country must embrace self-care as 50% of adults have at least one chronic condition

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Policy makers encouraging self-care

The US DHHSHS strategy is improve evidence-based self-care management programmes, enhance sustainability and improve cost-effectiveness

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E-pharmacies on the rise

They enable self-care, but must be regulated. In 2015 96% of e-pharmacies were illegal or not conforming to regulations (NABP sampling)

12%

of population have proficient health literacy

Lack of health literacy costing US approx. US$106-238bn annually

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National guidelines support increasing health literacy

National Action Plan released to improve health literacy in 2010 by providing people with accurate and actionable information

20countries

to undertake health literacy survey in 2019

In 2011 survey, 8 countries took part – 47.6% showed limited literacy, and 12.4% showed the lowest level of literacy

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Health literacy programmes

Often disease specific, e.g. there are 102 diabetes self-management education programmes across EU

527

different self-care practices for common cold

Research study of 2,724 patients now helping doctors to support patient’s self-care

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Pharmacists role in self-care

The Pharmaceutical Group of European Union advises that pharmacists can play a leading self-care policy creation role based on their unique professional insight

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Empowering patients

In Sweden, patients with chronic or end-stage renal disease receive equipment training, resulting in self-dialysis patients being less likely to be hospitalised

32%

GP visits

UK patients that could have found an OTC product to help them instead of GP visit

32%

Annual Self-care week

Many European healthcare organisations participate in Self-Care Week, a campaign to engage professionals, decision-makers, and citizens

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Growing OTC market

One of the fastest grown OTC medicine markets with regulatory systems being updated to improve patient safety and fast-track medications to market

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Funding shortfalls

Struggling to raise funds for universal healthcare coverage, especially in rural areas

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Healthcare training

Healthcare professionals not widely trained to empower patients to self-care

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Hygiene access

Large-scale initiatives boosting hygiene access and practices, e.g. China’s ‘toilet revolution’ and India’s ‘Clean India’ programme

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E-pharmacy expansion

Regulators overwhelmed by efforts to regulate/verify legitimacy of growing e-pharmacy market

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Limited health literacy

Due to gaps in education and access to health facilities

Report conclusions

Self-care has great potential to improve health outcomes for people and support savings for stretched healthcare budgets. And for policymakers, there is still a huge opportunity to recognise self-care as an important tool and make it a larger foundation of healthcare systems.

But there will not be progress unless policymakers take action. Self-care is not a magic bullet, nor is it self-sustaining. Stakeholders have to commit to building an environment where patients and HCPs alike are empowered and engaged.

Key findings

  1. From a modern public health perspective, a self-caring population is a necessity
  2. People are eager to self-care
  3. Health literacy is a critical enabler for self-care
  4. HCPs should be engaged in people’s self-management practices
  5. Self-care will increasingly be built into healthcare policies and play an integral role in healthcare systems
  6. The ability to self-medicate, specifically for self-limiting conditions, is an important component of self-care
  7. Medical devices, apps and e-pharmacies are shifting self-care dynamics.

There is an economic cost to this regulatory disharmony, but there is an even bigger loss to patients and healthcare systems.

Zephanie Jordan

Chief Safety, Quality and Regulatory Compliance Officer at RB

RB’s ongoing commitment to self-care

RB will continue its efforts to help drive evidence based reforms in self-care and that the policy efforts, including the preparation of this report, are overseen by Flavio Kakimoto (VP Regulatory, EURANZ, Global Policy & Global eCommerce) and Grace Li (Head of Regulatory, Global Policy & eCommerce).