Date: 08/09/2017

Dialogue Between the Public and the Private Sector Towards the Improvement of Health Policies in the Republic Of Serbia

The second annual conference on health policies hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Serbia (AmCham) featured discussion on the possibilities and best practices for improving the health system of Serbia between the AmCham Health Care Committee and the representatives of the National Health Insurance Fund Verica Lazić, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health Meho Mahmutović and representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Public Procurement Office.

The key topics of this year's conference were the wider involvement of private service providers in the public health system and facilitating a wider choice of institutions in the public or private sector in which patients can receive necessary health services. The systematic approach to increasing the availability of innovative therapies was also discussed. This would enable more efficient, comfortable and faster patient care, while reducing overall cost of treatment for individual diseases.

State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Meho Mahmutović, pointed out that the conference is another confirmation of the very successful cooperation that has been achieved by AmCham and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia for years. "The Ministry of Health is working on the preparation of a National Drugs Strategy which would be a clear policy to implement in the next period in the field of drugs. A national drug strategy should define, first , the creation of conditions for increasing the number of registered medicines in the market, the development of clinical trials of drugs, the pricing policy, the rational use of drugs, a sustainable drug financing system and the prioritization of treatment for the population. This means that a draft of an action plan with deadlines for completing these planned goals will be presented to the stakeholders very soon," Mahmutović said.

"In the coming period, we expect to pass key laws on the national health care system which are the basis for health policy, including the Health Insurance Law,” said Verica Lazić, NHIF director. “And the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) will implement measures in that area in line with health policy in the Republic of Serbia.,” She added: “The permanent goal of NHIF is to improve the rights of insured persons from compulsory health insurance and will continue in this direction in the future. We point out that NHIF has already provided significant improvement of the rights of insured persons both in terms of the availability of innovative medicines as well as in enabling the realization of rights in private health institutions, as well as the implementation of centralized public procurement procedures for the needs of health institutions."

"Today's open dialogue has shown that the improvement of efficiency and public procurement in the health system is a complex topic, but that optimal solutions which take into account the interests and safety of patients as well as the rational disposal of budget funds are quite possible and achievable,“ said Vera Nikolić Dimić, AmCham Executive Director.

The participants also discussed the possibilities for evaluating qualitative criteria in public procurement in healthcare, the application of which would reduce health complications in patients and prevent the emergence of additional costs that may arise from the purchase of the cheapest drugs, means and equipment. It was also concluded that in the coming period it is necessary to improve the financial management system of state health institutions and thus prevent the accumulation of debts and a consequent lower quality of health services available to citizens.

The Law on Health Insurance prescribes the concept of economical and effective compulsory health insurance that achieves the best possible results in relation to available resources. "This applies precisely to the procurement system in health care whose goal should be a cost-effective ratio of costs and health outcomes. For this reason, we need to work on analyzes of outcome outcomes in relation to costs and use the results to define criteria and models in public procurement where the lowest price will be one of the criteria, but not the only one," explained State Secretary Mahmutović, adding that with the Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders should work together to improve public procurement through health regulations in order to obtain a more efficient procedure for conducting procedures and more cost-effective results.

This year's conference was followed by three round tables organized by the AmCham Health Care Committee. These were dedicated to innovative forms of contracting, which would improve the current practice of procurement of medicines and medical devices; the evaluation of the quality of public procurement in healthcare, that is, the possibilities and obstacles to the wider use of the criteria of the most economically advantageous tender, which would give the best value for invested money for patients. The third round table was dedicated to centralized public procurement of medicines by the generic name (INN), during which was highlighted the consequences that possible change in the drug procurement policy would have on the efficiency and safety of patients' treatment, as well as the rationalization of health care costs.