The Policy Maker’s Role in the Digital Transformation of Healthcare

Posted on: 22.09.2017

The View of the Policy-maker is one of the most important voices in the world of  Digital Health. This period of digital transformation within the European healthcare scene gave us the opportunity to seek out the voices of a number of stakeholders within this revolution, and this time round we approach Mr. Gerritsen, Secretary General within the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.

European Member States have different priorities and needs. How can we find common ground amongst member states to achieve a European-wide Interoperability?

Common ground can be found by showcasing what everyone is already doing to realise their own goals and meeting their needs. Everyone is working with information standards within their systems, some a lot, some only local or regional, some everywhere. So I have shared the list of standards we use here in The Netherlands to improve and safeguard medication safety on all levels: the way we identify and describe pharmaceuticals, how we structure the medication data, how we model the interactions between the stakeholders, how we transport the messages. Coalitions of the doing that share the same fertile ground of standards used may cooperate to bring interoperability further.

Which case studies inspire you to keep on working within the field of Digital Health?

I always use a short movie of Tim Kroesbergen, a patient with brittle bone syndrome in my presentations. In this movie he shows us why eHealth adds value to his life, even making him a better person. It's compelling stories like Tim's that go straight to your heart and help us keep working to improve the lives of people like him.

I also get inspired by engaged doctors and other healthcare professionals, who stick their neck out to bring necessary change to a big and complex healthcare system.

People like Leonard Witkamp have done ground breaking work in the field of telemedicine in the Netherlands. He has show that a large part of health delivery in ophthalmology, dermatology and cardiology care can be done remotely. Furthermore, his practice shows clear evidence for better care and lower costs.

We bring patients' needs and engaged doctors together in our national “MedMij” programme. This programme creates the framework to answer questions like "how do I get my patient data safely and securely, so that I can use it for my own healthcare" and "how can we share our health data safely with others" and "how can I improve my health using my health data"? MedMij sets the standards, rules of engagement and payment options for proper patient control of their own data. We are proud to share our experience and progress with all other member states.

You’ve been to several Digital Health conferences and you’re also active on Social Media. What motivates you to keep on attending such conferences?

To be honest, I don't really enjoy going to these conferences. But I love meeting the people who are there and hearing their stories and what inspires them. I also get to showcase our own compelling story, why the Ministry is doing what it does. Being the Secretary General of the Ministry of Health gives me the opportunity to open doors that otherwise remain closed. Often I connect people, in order to breakdown unnecessary barriers and speed up necessary change.

Can you provide us with some hints on what you’ll be talking at eHealth Tallinn?

The Estonians have done a great job at putting eHealth and health information on the European agenda, both at the European high level strategy with the proposed Council Conclusions on eHealth, as with their action-oriented Digital Health Society (DHS). We support the DHS by leading one of the task-forces, and we will be presenting our results and roadmap for the near future at the eHealth Tallinn conference. I’m also joining an interesting roundtable session with the United States, India and Australia, about where we can find common ground in the challenges of making eHealth part of every day health.

Mr.Gerritsen, is a forward-looking person with a pragmatic view that you would love to connect with at #eHealthTallinn. Visit Tallinn, Estonia between 16th and 18th October and form an active part of the Digital Transformation of Europe.

Stefan Buttigieg

Specialist Trainee in Public Health Medicine, Malta