Belgium has always been a key-player with innovations in the healthcare. Now, start-ups are rising in the e-health sector. They provide solutions that combat the healthcare challenges of today:
- People are making worse lifestyle decisions with higher risks of chronic diseases as a result
- Rising costs creates friction to democratize healthcare for everyone
- Seniors are getting older and older .
Just to name a few examples of the challenges we are dealing with in the 21st century (1). Belgium aims to be the place-to-be for healthtech innovations, attracting talent and innovations all over the world (2). Opening our doors to digital revolution in healthcare will result in benefits that transform healthcare delivery. And Belgium is starting to reap the harvest…
Belgium has big plans for implementing E-health in the healthcare system. In 2019 it will be possible to share medical information and ‘documents’ of patients on secured platforms. It is termed the EPD (Elektronisch Patiënten Dossier) in Belgium. Every caregiver will have access to the relevant information of their patient. Easier access supports multidisciplinary care and drives collaboration between the specialists. These elements increase the quality of care. Patients are included in this e-health transformation. They can have access to their medical records, which helps them to be on track with their health. Furthermore, communication between patients, caregivers and other stakeholders will improve with the EPD. Electronic platforms ensure processes to run even smoother (3).
With almost everyone owning smartphones, tablets or wearable devices, Mobile health (M-health) is in rising demand. Mobile applications allow the patient to be copilot on their health. They can track and be tracked in real-time on their health status. This allows the caregiver to take quicker actions when symptoms appear. It could even save lives! Patients with epilepsy can now alert their caregiver, when a sudden attack is appearing. Without immediate treatment a seizure could lead to death. With the help of a smartwatch, it will detect these seizures and notify the caregiver on time (4). Another benefit is that patients can make healthier choices in daily life. They have more insights in their own health and this will prevent them from getting disease risks.
The Belgian government with Maggie De Block (minister of Public Health) at the forefront sees these life-changing opportunities. Her aim is to incorporate M-health into the healthcare. But before M-health solutions are implemented, they will go through a validation pyramid. The validation pyramid analyses whether an application is safe, secure and provides benefit to the patient, caregiver or the healthcare system. That is to say healthcare is one of the slowest sectors to adopt healthcare technology. Therefore, to fast-track these applications, this evaluation model will ‘test’ and ‘fail solutions quicker. No more delays of valuable innovations accessing healthcare (5).
De Block has performed the validation pyramid on 24 M-health applications and published the first results. As expected, the main benefit is that patients are more involved in their health maintenance. They are more willing to follow through with their treatment, feel supported and safely tracked by a caregiver on distance. Giving the patient control, also drives healthier choices in lifestyle (5).
The benefits of E-health will soon be greatly added into the Belgian healthcare system. But how would this change the way we view healthcare?