"You cannot set up effective integrated care if the patient is not willing to go in that direction!"

Posted on: 26.03.2019
Damien de Greef and Joost Felix

The patient is more engaged with his health than ever before, say Damien de Greef, Business Unit Director, Integrated Care Solutions and Joost Felix, Manager Integrated Care Solutions, both at Agfa HealthCare. And this presents both opportunities and challenges to modern-day healthcare!

What are the challenges you see in today’s healthcare environment?

DdG: The first, most obvious, challenge is an ageing society and a consequent increase in the burden of chronic diseases. World Health Organisation figures show that chronic diseases represent more than 75% of the diseases treated in hospitals today. At the same time they represent 82% of healthcare costs - which highlights a clear need for addressing this issue.

If we look at the figures on those with chronic diseases, among the most concerning factors are those involving the elderly. 80% of them have at least one chronic disease - and 66% of them have more than two. People with multiple chronic conditions face an increased risk of conflicting medical advice, adverse drug effects, unnecessary and duplicative tests, and avoidable hospitalisation. We cannot afford to ignore this challenge!

A third challenge is the fact that the care system is organised in silos and is still very fragmented. This means that the different groups involved in the patient’s journey - from home care to community care to hospital care - often are not integrated, making it very difficult to organise care. The patient, of course, has to navigate that environment, creating a lot of frustration, more often than not!

This brings us to a fourth challenge - what we see as new needs from the patient’s perspective, created by the patient being much more engaged with his or her health than ever before. Today, patients expect to manage their disease much more, to learn about it, access medical information and be able to communicate and share their information. This is another challenge that didn’t exist before.

All in the context of our fifth challenge - and an obvious one - rising costs!

And pretty much all of these five challenges are calling for major health policy changes.

And so there is much work to do! Yet there must be opportunities latent in these challenges, too?

DdG: Yes. One of the major opportunities is the evolution of technology, which makes it possible to offer higher quality, more efficient access to patient information at a lower cost. Another opportunity related to cost-containment policies is the evolution from a volume-based to a value-based approach in healthcare. So we realise now that we don’t need to have more and more data. What we need is good quality data that we can analyse and work with.

A third opportunity, which makes truly integrated care possible, is the increased patient engagement in the care path and in the whole process. You cannot set up an effective integrated care system if the patient is not willing to go in that direction!

The final opportunity we see in the healthcare space today is that integrated care can be effectively enabled by many of the digital health solutions that are being created today. And it is in this space that Agfa HealthCare has a significant amount to offer.

And so why has Agfa HealthCare decided to move into the integrated care arena? How does that strategy fit in with its overall IT strategy?

DdG: For years Agfa has been focusing on two main pillars within healthcare. The first is imaging IT where it is one of the top market leaders in this arena. The second is hospital IT – where it also holds a predominant leader position.

The company has, in recent years, noticed a dual need:

  1. For patients to be more engaged in the care process and,
  2. For more effective care coordination.

And from there, it decided to develop an integrated care portfolio, to become part of its global health portfolio. And that has now become a third pillar for Agfa.

What are some of AgfaHealthCare’s  unique offerings within the healthcare IT space, for you?

JF: We are one of the most truly European companies working in this space - we know the European landscape and what is happening in different countries when it comes to healthcare - while most of our competitors’ customers are quite local. What we do is bring that valuable Europe-wide experience to our customer base.

DdG: Also, being present in the two other areas of hospital and imaging IT, we have a true understanding of the whole healthcare ecosystem - not just the integrated care view, but the patient and clinician view as well. So I would say we are a very strong and solid partner for offering solutions in the integrated care arena.

Damien de Greef will speak on Enabling Patient Engagement throughout the Continuum of Care at HIMSS Liège, April 3rd. Agfa Healthcare is a Diamond Sponsor at the event.

Tonya Stewart

Tonya Stewart

Freelance journalist