ERN Exchange Programme: Striving for better and fairer healthcare

The ERN Exchange Programme stimulates collaborations and knowledge sharing between healthcare professionals within and across the European Reference Networks (ERN). The programme brought together medical doctors, patient representative, nurses, professionals in training and technicians. This was guided and supported by Ecorys in aspects such as the organisation and promotion of the exchange visit and the registration of all the relevant information of every exchange visit in a data repository. Evaluation showed that visitors and hosting centres are overwhelmingly positive about the support they received under the programme.

Besides bringing the exchange visitors together to increase cooperation, the visitors self-reported an increase in specialised knowledge on rare diseases and procedures. This is perfectly in line with the ERN’s goals of the programme, among which were the fostering of personal relationships, diminishing disparities in knowledge and expertise on rare diseases among hospitals, and contributing to equal quality of care for patients in different Member States. These successes made ERN’s eager to continue the programme.

This led Ecorys to make recommendations for the future implementation of the programme, based on the experiences gathered over the past 2.5 years. These include the diversification of participating countries and professions and the prioritisation of the objectives of the programme to bring more focus and avoid overlap with other activities of the ERN’s. This will cause a further intensification of cooperation, the exchange of knowledge on rare diseases in Europe and the increase of care for patients suffering from rare diseases.