Ljubljana, 21 May, 2024 - We are standing at a critical point where the challenges of European healthcare threaten the socio-economic stability of our societies. This is not just a health crisis, but a societal crisis that requires systemic and strategic responses to prevent negative consequences for patients as well as wider socio-economic systems. This and much more was discussed at this year's 13th “Value of Innovation Conference” that was organized under the title “Unlocking Potentials in Healthcare to Foster Innovation”. This year, the Forum of International Research and Development Pharmaceutical Companies organized the conference in collaboration with the Association of Economists in Healthcare.

Bogi Eliasen, Medical Director at the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies, opened the conference by saying that a review of the health system in Slovenia shows that, as elsewhere in Europe, it is faced with challenges in implementing change: “However, the system is quite mature in recognizing the need to move towards prevention and primary healthcare and could, if this were to become a priority, become a leader in this field, as this is a change that every country needs to make. Here Slovenia is facing the advantages and challenges of a small country. Its advantage is its ability to bring together relevant stakeholders quickly, but the challenge is that some changes require a certain scale. Ties to the European and global network are very important.” He added that Slovenia is a leader in the healthcare field in its micro-geographic region, both among the Adriatic countries and among Central Eastern European countries. This can be both a responsibility and an opportunity for advancement. 

Marc Schreiner, LL.M., Director of the Berlin Hospital Association, stressed the crucial need for continuous innovation in healthcare because stagnation means decline. In Germany, he said, the Federal Joint Committee for the Financing of Innovative Health Projects has allocated €200 million since 2016 to projects that improve medical prognosis and patient management in overcrowded emergency centres. Schreiner also highlighted a significant investment of €4.3 billion from 2020 to 2025 for the digitization of hospitals, with emphasis on the integration of advanced digital technologies for better healthcare. He stressed the urgency of hospital reform to resolve financial difficulties, staff shortages, and the massive bureaucratic burden on health professionals. 

“In the Association of Economists in Healthcare, which is the central association of experts in the field of health economics, operation, organisation of health institutions and plays an important role in topics such as health economics, we want this field to become visible in the future,” said Bogdan Tušar. “That is why we are investing a lot of energy in highlighting and offering solutions for the health system, for healthcare, for healthcare institutions. As we also noted at today's conference, we have been circling the same problems for at least 15 years. So, the problems remain, but the solutions are there. That is why the Association wants to be involved in the processes of change so that what we see as important can one day see the light of day or be realized.” 

Karmen Janša, M.D., from the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia, presented a study published in January this year on direct health expenditure on diabetes in Slovenia. “Together with my colleagues Petra Došenović Bonča, Jože Sambt, and Dalibor Gavrić, we analysed data from the Health Insurance Institute for the period from 2019 to 2022. The average annual expenditure on diabetes amounted to EUR 174 million, or EUR 1,108 per patient, with an average annual growth rate of 12.5 percent. Over half of the expenditure was due to complications of diabetes, mainly cardiac complications, dialysis due to kidney failure, and diabetic foot care.”

This and more was discussed at the round table by Prof. Dr. Urh Grošelj, M.D., from the Ljubljana Paediatric Clinic, Iztok Štotl from Ljubljana’s University Medical Centre, Tanja Španić from Europa Donna Slovenia, Tatjana Jevševar, director of the Association of Health Care Institutions of Slovenia, and Janez Poklukar, physician at Jesenice General Hospital and former Director of Ljubljana University Medical Centre, and former Minister of Health. The panel was moderated by Dorjan Marušič, International Consultant. Tatjana Jevševar highlighted two key challenges that hinder the development of innovation in public healthcare institutions: “The first challenge is the lack of expertise in the fields of management and leadership which hinders the effective implementation of innovative approaches. The second challenge is the lack of financial resources to introduce new technologies, equipment, and process improvements, which limits the ability of healthcare institutions to keep up with modern trends. The Association proposes an increase in financial resources for innovation and a harmonization of conditions for the introduction of new health services to ensure high-quality health care in Slovenia.” Innovation was the main theme of the round table. Janez Poklukar stressed that a well-developed strategy is essential in introducing innovation: “A strategic concept has to be developed, like the digitization strategy we have in Slovenia at the moment. The project then has to be followed by all the implementation projects and the employees have to first and foremost be well informed about the objectives of those who write the strategy and the purpose of the changes. When employees trust the strategy and follow the leadership, be it the leadership of the hospital, the ministry, there is no problem in implementation. Of course, we must not leave out or forget the user. Our patients also need to be educated or trained so that they know why we are implementing the changes. And if we add it all up, I believe we can successfully implement changes.” Urh Grošelj added that “in the healthcare system, you are often expected to provide a series of routine services, but almost no one expects healthcare to innovate. In environments that do not have a strong innovation culture, innovators are even looked down upon. I think we should recognize that those health service managers who openly support innovation are doing a very important job. If the conditions are right, I think they do bring innovation and vice versa.” Iztok Štotl stressed that the true measure of success of digitization in healthcare, for both patients and the medical profession, is primarily its effectiveness in practice. The key strategic shortcoming of the Slovenian health data space is that we have not created the capacity at the national level to coordinate the daily use of clinical data. 

Tanja Španić presented the patient perspective: “We have the innovations, we have the will, and now I think we just need to start using them as soon as possible. Perhaps the legislation will force us into it somewhat with the new regulation on the way, especially in oncology. Perhaps this can be a starting point where health systems begin to notice the benefit of innovation. Especially the fact that it will make processes easier, not harder and that it will put the patient at the forefront. Sometimes certain innovations can arise out of suggestions from patients, so I wish to reiterate my call to work together and see where we can contribute our own perspective as often as possible.”

Dorjan Marušič concluded the conference by noting that Slovenia is a pioneer among countries that introduce innovation. “The main issue is the integration of innovation into the entire healthcare system. That is why today our panelists highlighted achievements and proposed certain changes - from reorganizing the institutions themselves to reorganizing the regulator and making the environment more favorable to innovation so that patients also embrace it with open arms with the wish for their health to be as good as it can be and last as long as it can.”

You can view the conference at this link:


or visit the website of the conference