The innovative healthcare industry in Belgium – largely driven by foreign investment – has a significant positive impact on the country’s economic performance, infrastructure, export and employment and contributes to improving citizens’ quality of life.
The sector directly employs more than 52,000 people and benefits from several positive fiscal incentives which contribute to making the country a world leader for clinical trials and logistics for pharmaceutical products.
However, Belgian healthcare could still be dramatically improved in order to benefit patients even more. For instance, the country’s administrative complexity can be a big challenge for companies, especially in healthcare, and can prevent patients from getting innovative treatments as quickly as in other countries.
The current COVID-19 pandemic also reminds us of the importance of our overall health and of the vulnerability of our healthcare system. It reinforces the crucial role healthcare companies have during this crisis in finding solutions.
To enable sustainable growth in this sector and attract more substantial investments, the government needs to invest in long-term healthcare sustainability: research & development, early and broad access to healthcare innovation, early adoption of innovative solutions and ultimately move to value-based healthcare. To anticipate future healthcare needs, an ambitious government program is needed, where binding collaboration - between governments and all stakeholders, including industry - is key and the complexity of divided and ill-defined competences is overcome. Also, investment in a strong health data policy and integrated digital health infrastructure for all healthcare actors, including the patient, is fundamental.
AmCham Belgium recommends
To improve business and investment opportunities
- Start building the future of healthcare through collaboration
- Digitize value-based healthcare
- Build a foundation for healthcare innovation
- Stimulate lifelong health for all
Now is the time to act and start building the future
- Start expert groups now to simplify the multi-layered hyper-complex organization of healthcare and optimize communication, collaboration and coordination between different stakeholders.
- Depoliticize healthcare reform by ingesting industry expertise and split power between preparation and decision.
- Reduce cost through enhanced focus on eliminating waste in the healthcare system and re-invest gains in healthcare innovation.
Digitize value-based healthcare
- Accelerate healthcare digitization to improve outcomes, remove red tape, speed up decision-making, reduce costs and increase effectiveness of healthcare workers and solutions.
- Invest in the technical and intellectual skills of the healthcare workforce to adapt to and speed up digitization in healthcare.
- Provide tech-based touch points with citizens to improve interaction and to unlock the potential of real world data while investing in advanced analytics and AI to target the right interventions for the right people.
Build a foundation for healthcare innovation
- “Innovation tax kills innovation.” Remove innovation blockers, simplify rules and regulations, expand funding mechanisms to stimulate the healthcare R&D ecosystem and reimbursement systems to embrace the sandbox principle.
- “IP stimulates innovation.” Encourage an open and future-oriented policy framework based on a strong commitment to intellectual property (IP) rights to foster creativity and innovation in the Belgian healthcare landscape and guarantee future innovation for patients.
- “A good data framework stimulates innovation.” Invest in accurate data collection, digital access and data provision to accelerate discovery and involve expertise from the field for the development of evidence-based healthcare solutions.
Stimulate lifelong health for all
- Accelerate investments in patient education, patient empowerment, prevention (including vaccination) and health promotion, to improve health literacy and influence citizen behavior.
- Learn from the COVID-19 outbreak and build a plan that guarantees integrated and continuous care for (chronic) patients, even during a health crisis.
- Enhance investments in an integrated health infrastructure, care facilitation, integrated care pathways and access to data and information.
Year of Healthcare
The Year of Healthcare – an initiative which started on September 24, 2020 and running until June 2021 – aims to help build a long-term sustainable and innovative healthcare ecosystem for patients in Belgium while further strengthening Belgium’s position as a global leader in healthcare. During this year, several dedicated events will be organized and various publications will be released.
More than one in four Belgians suffer from chronic diseases, and the number keeps going up. However, the fragmentation of care is not optimal to treat these patients. That is the reason why the concept of integrated care has been introduced to offer a solution. It implies coordination and strong collaboration among all healthcare actors, also including patients themselves. The end goal is to provide higher quality care, improved health outcomes and a better patient experience within the care journey.
In its newest report, AmCham Belgium's Innovative Healthcare Committee (IHC) put forward eight actionable recommendations for "Moving towards integrated care in Belgium":
- Install an overarching integrated care facilitator responsible for coordination and alignment with facilitators at national, regional and local levels and across disciplines
- Set targets for the chronic patient population that will benefit from integrated care by 2024
- Align regional and national funds to finance infrastructure and scale up integrated care projects
- Revise the education curricula and training to support healthcare workers and health educators in achieving multidisciplinary integrated care
- Build a strategic vision on the use of integrated care pathways (across the levels of care) that enables increased efficiency and coordination
- Create a single interoperable electronic health record, accessible and adapted to the needs of the patient, primary care teams, hospital specialists, psychologists, social workers and other health partners
- Empower patients by ensuring that adequate resources for integrated care are within reach and giving them tools to effectively use the resources
- Create incentives for health actors to embrace integrated care
Real World Data
The key to securing an innovative Belgian healthcare landscape
Real World Data (RWD) can be defined as patients’ health and lifestyle data that is obtained through real world settings, i.e. the daily life of the patient, rather than the data collected from clinical trials. The integration of RWD in the Belgian healthcare system can lead to more innovative, increasingly patient-centered and sustainable healthcare. From prevention of disease to maintaining a healthy life and treatment and care management, it results in a more personalized healthcare approach and a better allocation of the available budget.
Belgian healthcare policy has gradually begun to integrate RWD, a trend which is only expected to accelerate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To reach the full potential of RWD, however, certain issues must be addressed.
COVID-19 and the healthcare system
The current pandemic reminds us, more than ever, of the importance of our overall health and of the vulnerability of our healthcare system. COVID-19 will impact healthcare in several waves and in different ways, with consequences on acute COVID-care, non-COVID care, chronic care and well-being. AmCham Belgium's Innovative Healthcare Committee (IHC) believes that the COVID-19 outbreak is a unique opportunity to rethink our healthcare system with out-of-the-box ideas to improve it and ensure that it continues to fulfill its role as an example to aspire to.
- Secure free trade of healthcare-related goods
- Invest in non-COVID care and ensure fast access to innovation
- Accelerate the integrated digital approach to healthcare
- Optimize integrated chronic care
- Invest in prevention and the overall well-being of the population
- Make the Belgian healthcare operating model less complex, more coherent and efficient
International companies are part of the solution
Read more about our recommendations on Healthcare!
International companies believe in Belgium and are committed to helping find solutions to make the country and its governance more efficient and more attractive for foreign investors. We stand ready to work with all levels of government, whatever their political affiliations, to facilitate dialogue and collaboration between the international business community and policymakers, on the basis of our Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium, in pursuit of our common goal of a better and more prosperous future.