The Present and Future of Telemedicine in Belgian Hospitals
How do the managers of hospitals view telemedicine? We have spoken to Ilke Montag (CMO of the Jan Yperman Hospital) to discover a new perspective on telemedicine beyond those of pharma and healthcare innovation companies. With a background in nuclear medicine, her main interests are in quality improvement projects; the link between quality management and ethics; patient empowerment; and ethics. She’s also the author of the book Saints and Hooligans (Heiligen en hooligans) where she discusses euthanasia, psychological suffering, and organ donation. If you want to find out more about her after reading her book, you may find her interview in Shift Makers, Leadership in the 2020‘s worth a read.
What kind of problems does telemedicine solve today?
It helps us to shorten the waiting lists. The first contact with the patient can be done earlier, and we can do some diagnostic tests before the patient comes to the hospital. It makes health care more accessible.
What underlying problems does telemedicine solve for patients, clinicians, and hospitals?
We need less hospital beds. Care and cure today are delivered at hospitals close to the patients and their caregivers. Clinicians and hospitals can take care of more patients but there are not enough in their area of service to work at fuller capacity, even if not all patients have to stay at the hospital (some could stay at home and be taken care of remotely).
What’s the situation of telemedicine like in Belgian hospitals? How are telecare and telemedicine impacting the hospital business and how do you think hospital services will change because of them?
Belgian hospitals are at the start of a new decade of telemedicine, although there is still suspicion about data-security. It is a new world for the medical staff and for the (elderly) patients, and the actual financing system is out of date. In an ideal world only a small number of patients should stay in the hospital with the big majority being monitored at home with one or more apps.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for the adoption of telemedicine and how do you see it evolving in the hospital environment?
The actual financing system is not adjusted for a smooth market introduction of telemedicine.
We need a financially safe playground to test the different opportunities of telemedicine. Nowadays, we fear losing money, hospital beds, and the recognition for some specialties.
Should telemedicine replace medicine as we know it?
Should or could? In my opinion, we must come to the best of both worlds. Some classical consultations could be replaced by teleconsultation, but a part of the classical consultations should be kept. It is not ‘or’ but ‘and’.
What are the concrete things you believe need to happen soon to accelerate the adoption of Telemedicine?
Appropriate financing and prior ethical screening of new apps. What is our patient asking? Do we know what the patients are expecting?
How has the Coronavirus crisis changed the way your hospital’s relationship with telemedicine and teleconsultations? What do you think will happen with these changes once we overcome this situation?
At the beginning telemedicine was growing very fast (too fast in my opinion). Now, telemedicine is shutting down like a picnic when it rains.
Who do you think should be driving the acceleration of Telemedicine? And who do you think will most likely be the one actually doing it?
I’m looking to the government and the changes that are needed in the reimbursement.
At my hospital we have a lot of food on our table and we, the executive committee, must make difficult choices. Unfortunately, the reimbursement is also a driver to choose new technologies. More than ever,the increased collaboration between hospitals, industries and patients is necessary as a prerequisite.
Where’s the biggest potential for telemedicine in hospitals in the next couple years?
Reusing big data being collected in the electronic patient health record: finding and getting in touch with the right patient for the right therapy at the right time. The possibilities to do clinical studies are infinite.
About Jan Yperman Hospital
The Jan Yperman Hospital is a modern, high-tech hospital with 532 beds, where 1,300 employees and 130 doctors give the best of themselves every day for their patients. The scale of the hospital makes it possible to offer specialized care at the highest level, while at the same time remaining warm and well-organized, in other words on a human scale.