Cross-border healthcare

EPECS and Huis voor de Zorg are organisations that work together to advocate for patients in border regions and contribute to the quality of cross-border healthcare.

Broadly speaking, citizens may find themselves receiving healthcare abroad in one of two ways: through an unforeseen
health problem or accident, often requiring emergency treatment, or as the result of opting to receive healthcare in another Member State. Two important reasons for opting to receive healthcare abroad are the greater degree of mobility of persons between countries has created a virtually borderless society when it comes to healthcare options for European citizens. And, there are other factors that play a role in this choice, such as waiting lists, specialised care or vicinity issues. This makes it important to stay aware of issues such as financial consequences of cross-border healthcare, differences in regulation and medical and cultural opinions.

EPECS and Huis voor de Zorg

EPECS (European Patients Empowerment for Customised Solutions) is a network of regional patient organisations
and persons interested in cross-border European healthcare. EPECS’s primary objective is to safeguard the central role of citizens and patients in a rapidly developing Europe. One of EPECS’s founders is Huis voor de Zorg, an independent organisation that advocates for patients in the Dutch province of Limburg. Patient mobility is in full swing in Limburg.

The organisations’ joint activities are aimed at:
– contributing to the improvement of accessibility, transparency and quality of cross-border healthcare; 
– helping to ensure that patients’voices are heard;
– protecting and bolstering patients’ rights and obligations.

The patient’s perspective

The Kohll – Decker rulings contributed enormously to expanding cross-border healthcare. The patient’s perspective
is indispensable in this context. EPECS and Huis voor de Zorg both endeavour to ensure that this perspective is embedded in projects, initiatives, consultations, studies, and lobbies in cooperative relationships in particular Euregions and throughout Europe as a whole.

By applying the bottom-up method in organising such events as round-table discussions with citizens, e-panels, collecting specific testimonials from citizens, and conducting studies, EPECS and Huis voor de Zorg ensure that the patient’s perspective is brought to the attention of regional, Euregional, and other European stakeholders.

Round-table discussions have been held on themes such as combating infectious diseases, antibiotics usage, and citizens’ rights and obligations. EPECS has also joined forces with Maastricht University to study the national contact points referred to in the Directive 2011/24/EU.

Provision of information

In addition to the bottom-up provision of patients’ perspectives, EPECS and Huis voor de Zorg also provide the patients themselves with information about their rights and obligations in respect of scheduled cross- border care. For example, several practical brochures have been published explaining the rights of e.g. Dutch patients in Belgium and Germany. Answers are provided to questions such as ‘Do I have a right to get a copy of my file?’ and ‘Where can I file a complaint?’


The Kohll- Decker rulings have put patients on the international map. EPECS and Huis voor de Zorg have carried on this work and, given that patients are at the crux of healthcare, they wish to continue to do so in the future.

This article appeared in Parliament magazine on 21 september 2015.