The connectivity we have in other aspects of our life has not arrived to healthcare

Posted on: 21.03.2018
Lucien Engelen

Healthcare visionary Lucien Engelen (@LucienEngelen), Director at the Radboudumc REshape Innovation Center (Nijmegen, The Netherlands) and Faculty at Exponential Medicine of Singularity University in the US, will be a Keynote Speaker and the Master of Ceremonies at the HIMSS Europe & Health 2.0 Conference next May in Sitges (Barcelona). At Radboud University Medical Center, Engelen and his team carry out research projects to solve patients’ needs with the help of technology. He is also a prolific writer in his LinkedIn blog, where he has more than 750,000 followers.

In this interview he talks about how the digital transformation healthcare is undergoing and about what we can expect from the conference.

What can attendees expect from the HIMSS Europe & Health 2.0 Conference?

I am very glad the conference is at the intersection of two worlds: the world of big health IT corporations and the world of startups and tech giants like Apple, Google and Amazon, who are rapidly moving into the sector. The opportunities - and the challenges - are enormous.  The event will show what is happening in healthcare IT and what is coming up next. Take as an example the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will be effective on May 25th. What could be seen as a problem for big corporations might turn into an opportunity for startups.

It is clear that these two worlds coexist. Now, how can they merge and work together?

They are different worlds, with a different governance, different mindsets… You need different skills to work in them. When I saw that HIMSS and Health 2.0 started to collaborate I thought it was a great opportunity because that is where we are going towards. In nearly all aspects of our daily life these two worlds have already merged. For instance, I get grumpy if Amazon doesn’t deliver my package a few hours after I ordered it. By comparison, it takes me three weeks to get an appointment with my doctor. The connectivity we have in other aspects of our life has not arrived to healthcare. In my work and as an ambassador of this new HIMSS I want to contribute to the collaboration of these two worlds.

“A great opportunity to solve some of the problems we face”

In this changing scenario, how are healthcare organisations adapting to the new situation?

I have the feeling that healthcare organisations don’t clearly understand the impact of the developments we are seeing right now. One big shift that will happen in the next 5 to 10 years is that citizens and patients will have more data than the organisations. Healthcare organisations will have to subscribe to patients’ data. That is clearly a power shift. Patients will have a more holistic view about themselves and they will be able to share their data with whoever they think. This is hard to understand for many people working in healthcare and of course not all patients will be prepared to take advantage of it. My take on this is: let’s help the 30% of those patients who can use these technologies and use the time freed up with those patients with lower tech skills. I call it “Democratisation of healthcare based on data” and it will be one of the topics of my keynote. 

Your vision about the future of healthcare will be condensed in your new book: “Augmented Health(care)™: The end of the beginning”.

Yes, I will present it in Sitges during the conference. In my book, I wrote about what is going to happen in the next 5, 10 and 25 years. As I explain in the book, I believe the future of healthcare lies in four pillars -four Ds-:

  • Delocalisation: we are going to deliver care in a different location than we do nowadays. That could be at work, in the car, or elsewhere.
  • Democratisation: patients will have more data about themselves and they will be the only ones that will have the whole picture.
  • Digital: With more aspects of healthcare becoming digital, healthcare will turn into a software business and once validated will spread like wildfire.
  • Dollars: Thousands of millions of dollars are being poured in healthcare developments by companies that traditionally do not come from the industry.

Is healthcare ready to take on such a radical change?

The truth is that I see a lot of pessimism. There is concern about the funding and sustainability of the healthcare systems and the increased workload. But I am optimistic by nature and I think this transformation is a great opportunity to solve some of the problems we face. Healthcare demand is going to double in the next decades and there is no way we can handle this demand with our old model. Being pessimistic doesn’t help, let’s see the opportunities and include a thorough methodology to get there.

Healthcare has been subject to waves of change in the past centuries when developments came together. It looks like we are on the brink of such an era right now. Although we all want to progress and we need more sustainable health(care) we face a daily struggle with the implementation of new tools where reimbursement, policies, culture, knowledge and information transformation, and workload are blocking us from a gentle transition. We need to change the way we train workers, how we pay for it, how we evaluate and research.

I hope that the professionals who attend the HIMSS Europe & Health 2.0 Conference will get the energy and the positive vibrations they need to start transforming their own organisations.

Teresa Bau

Healthcare Communications Consultant