Catalonia: At the Forefront of Spanish Healthcare

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The North-Eastern region of Catalonia is one of Spain’s most prosperous and has been allocating increasingly large amounts of its budget towards healthcare. With strong government backing and a robust enabling ecosystem, the region is now aiming to embrace cutting edge areas such as personalised medicine.

 

Healthcare a Priority

In 2019, Catalonia announced its largest ever healthcare budget. As Alba Vergés, the region’s minister of health points out, “40 percent of the budget of the Catalan government is dedicated exclusively towards the Catalan healthcare system, which includes important areas such as assistance, public health, research and innovation. Our main objective, and a fundamental right for all citizens of Catalonia, is to maintain a sustainable universal healthcare system and eventually increase our funding through better policies for our citizens.”

Vergés continues, “Our responsibility is to spend our budget in the best way possible.  For Catalonia, spending such a large amount on healthcare is seen as an investment into the wellbeing of the people.”

 

Private Healthcare: Good for All?

Catalonia boasts the largest regional private hospital network in Spain. However, Vergés asserts that this fact does not signify that public health services are lacking in Catalonia, but rather ensures quality healthcare coverage across the region.

She states, “We have a diverse range of private suppliers and organizations, though most of them are integrated within the public system, and there are very few purely private hospitals. We have a very well-integrated system. Additionally, there is a very good dialogue between the public and private side as 90 percent of their funds are coming from us. We also see them as an integral and important part of achieving for Catalonia the right to universal healthcare as they maintain equality and sustainability in the region.”

 

Getting Personal

With this robust enabling healthcare infrastructure behind it, Catalonia is now looking to develop its capabilities in personalised medicine and the use of big data. As Albert Barberá, the Catalan government’s director general for research and innovation in health articulates, “personalised medicine is a key priority for us. We have very good science and infrastructure and our goal is to move to make personalized healthcare an area of interest and build on the available assets that exist in the region.”

Barberá continues, “We want to design a road map for personalized medicine. This will be challenging since it’s something that will require assistance from other organizations. There are many things happening right now in the region in regard to cell and gene therapy and we have world-class researchers, though we still lack the connection to bring it all together – this will be our role. Having personalized medicine done in an organized manner will have a huge impact since we will be able to facilitate better and quicker diagnoses. This approach is transferable to rare disease patients and, therefore, the social impact will be enormous.”


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