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Innovative Healthcare in Belgium – A Policy Debate

Laura Capitaine, Government Affairs and Policy Analyst, Johnson & Johnson Medical NV

On October 15, AmCham Belgium’s Innovative Healthcare Committee (IHC) hosted a political debate on the future of the healthcare ecosystem in Belgium. The discussion centered around the IHC’s three current areas of focus: data, integrated care and value-based healthcare.

Olivia Natens, Chair of the Innovative Healthcare Committee, kicked off the event with an overview of the IHC’s mission, make-up and projects. Subsequently, Minister of Health Maggie De Block took the stage. She briefly revisited the various initiatives taken by the Belgian Government over the past five years in the three relevant areas. These include patient access to personal health data, the mHealthBelgium platform, the ‘data for better health’ initiative and the 14 pilot projects on integrated care. Regarding value-based healthcare, the Minister stressed the need to invest in prevention and patient empowerment.

Pedro Facon, Director-General Healthcare at the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, further built upon the Minister’s opening speech with some reflections. In the context of data, he highlighted the need for an integrated strategy, bringing together public and private actors. The governance for this strategic work should, according to him, lie with a single platform or agency so as to overcome the current fragmentation of data-driven efforts.

Let’s put data to work!
– Pedro Facon

Following the speeches, five panelists – Jan Bertels (sp.a), Robby De Caluwé (Open VLD), Kathleen Depoorter (N-VA), Muriel Gerkens (Ecolo), and David Leisterh (MR) – were invited onto the stage. The first discussion point related to priorities in the context of data-driven healthcare. Here, Depoorter highlighted the importance of opening up data to academia and industry. De Caluwé, in turn, emphasized investments in health literacy to enable patients to interpret their own medical records. In a somewhat similar vein, the MR representative saw an important role for the public sector to reassure citizens and patients when it comes to the use of their medical data. Bertels commented that the basic framework for the exchange of data should be set, organized and controlled by the government.

On the topic of patient empowerment and integrated care, Bertels saw the need for a cultural shift, both on the side of the patients and the healthcare professionals. Ultimately, he stressed, patients should be ‘co-pilots’ of their healthcare journey. De Caluwé saw an important role for the hospital networks and the care regions in securing patients’ involvement in integrated care. Depoorter underlined the presence of a strong patient focus in the Flemish Government agreement. Gerkens mentioned a shared, strategic vision on healthcare as a prerequisite for patient involvement in integrated care. Finally, Leisterh stressed that the elderly and the most vulnerable patients should not be left behind.

Regarding value-based healthcare, the idea of a ‘pay for performance’ model was raised several times. The need to tear down the budget silos was also highlighted. For example, the impact of a product on the length of stay in hospital should be factored into its reimbursement. In other words, innovation can contribute to long-term cost savings.

The IHC would like to thank its members, the attendees and the speakers for an inspiring debate. The Committee looks forward to further engaging with political stakeholders over the course of the next five years. In addition to this, the IHC and AmCham Belgium are preparing a Year of Healthcare, which will take place in 2020. Stay tuned for more information!

About the author

Laura Capitaine, Government Affairs and Policy Analyst, Johnson & Johnson Medical NV

Laura is a member of our Innovative Healthcare Committee and the Government Relations Forum.