"We give hospitals the opportunity to be patient centric"

Posted on: 26.03.2019
Melchior Wathelet

Many of those attending the HIMSS Liège Conference will do a double-take when they set eyes on one of this year’s speakers. For Melchior Wathelet Jr. - once Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister - is now riding high in a different arena… healthcare! Now CEO at Xperthis in Brussels, you can hear him speak about a cause he’s equally passionate about – enabling patient-centred care.

The term patient centricity is a popular buzz word in the health tech community these days. What does it mean for Xperthis?

Xperthis develops digital solutions for hospitals and for the men and women who work there. We do not develop solutions for patients as such, but we do help ensure that a hospital functions better… that administrative and financial processes are streamlined and that communication and collaboration are improved. And believe me, a hospital that is well managed - with staff that can count on state-of-the-art digital tools - is a hospital that will deliver an excellent patient experience. In other words, we give hospitals the opportunity to be patient-centric!

Is there a danger with modern technologies that we do not focus enough on the patient? And what could be the implications of this?

Yes, there is! Let me talk about a digital solution that forms the basis of a modern healthcare policy: the Electronic Patient Record (EPR). It’s a fantastic tool. If used properly, it can help doctors make the right decisions, work optimally with colleagues, communicate well with nurses and follow up on everything effectively and on time.

Unfortunately, the EPR has sometimes created a barrier between doctor and patient, by creating extra ‘red tape’ and paperwork for the clinician. Medicine is not a checklist! It really needs to be re-humanised somehow!

As patients, we need personal contact first and foremost.  We need to feel safe and that we are in good hands. Of course, it’s important that all conversations and actions related to the patient are recorded digitally - but for the patient that’s really secondary!

Rather than hindering patient engagement, can new technologies actually help improve patient engagement… and enable doctors to have more time, not less, with the patient?

Excellent question! With Xperthis CARE, our brand new EPR, we have one objective – or, more than just an objective, a "mission". We want to create the most user-friendly EPR on the market.

We believe that a user-friendly EPR will improve quality of care exponentially. An example? We recently added speech recognition to Xperthis CARE’s functionality. We chose to work with Nuance - the world's number one in speech recognition technology – on this. What this means for patients is that there’s less erroneous information, because nobody has to retype what the doctors dictate. And so they get more time with the doctor and this time is spent in a much more intimate way, without a screen or keyboard.

Can you give me a few good reasons why those interested in patient-centric healthcare should attend the Liege event – and your talk on humanising healthcare in particular?

Xperthis systems can be found in eight out of ten Belgian hospitals. We have supplied more than 3.6 million EPRs in Wallonia and Brussels alone. If you’re looking to introduce or improve a patient-centric policy, or want to deliver a more positive patient experience, it might be a good idea to come and talk to us.

What is more, we are always looking for people and companies that have ideas to improve user experience of our solutions and on how to make our products more attractive. I’m convinced that many people with great plans for our hospital sector will be walking around at HIMSS Liège. Well ... let's talk!

So why did you leave a high flying career in politics for an equally high flying career in healthcare IT? Is there anything you miss about your former role?

Though deeply fulfilling, the public aspect of politics means that so many aspects of your life are also public. At certain moments, you can get to feeling like you are no longer the CEO of your own life!

In the private sector, you have more capabilities to manage your own life. Though I’m very happy with what I managed to achieve in politics, I feel happier in my life now because of that.

Is there anything I miss? Not so far, no - partly because there are lots of similarities between the two roles. As a politician, you are trying to create the best possible life for the citizens of your country. In my company, we also have an opportunity to help improve people’s lives, by making patients healthier and helping them get the most out of life. So in many ways, the roles are very similar – though the way you reach these goals is of course very different!

Tonya Stewart

Tonya Stewart

Freelance journalist