Flemish e-health applications appeal to German market
Visitors to this week’s conhIT industrial fair for informatics applications in the healthcare industry in Berlin receive a box of chocolates with the compliments of co-hosting country Belgium. “There’s more to Belgium than beer and chocolates,” says Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V. “Nanotechnology or innovative technology in healthcare also rank among Belgian specialities,” he said during his short visit to the fair with fellow party member and welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen yesterday. E-health, with its annual growth of approximately 10%, is one of the fastest growing niche markets in the healthcare industry, with an increasing number of hospitals eliminating paper work thanks to the digitization of patient data and innovative techniques ensuring increased quality of care and efficiency – essential advances in view of the challenges of an ageing population. “Innovation is a crucial factor if we hope to ensure quality and affordable healthcare,” says Vandeurzen. Within the framework of Flanders’ Care a large number of Flemish hospitals have already taken their first step towards digitization but many opportunities still exist in Germany, where various hospitals and medical centres are only beginning to discover the enormous advantages of technology and actively exploring these new applications. Flemish companies are keen to profit from this search, with about twenty of the approximately 120 Belgian businesses specializing in e-health exhibiting at the fair. The export agency Flanders Investment and Trade has boosted their efforts by reducing the cost for their stands, arranging networking events and hospital visits. Three companies stood out with their e-health offering: Esperity, Icasa and Essensium. Esperity, a ‘Facebook for cancer patients’ will provide a multi-lingual service in June and is a social networking facility for cancer patients. Sufferers can visit the site anonymously and receive advice or exchange information and support others who are in a similar situation. Moreover it will provide a platform for following up on various side-effects with regular data input regarding weight, state of mind and hours of sleep. Icasa’s offering is electronic appointment management in hospitals, issuing registered patients with a printed ticket from a registration kiosk which indicates exactly where a specific doctor can be visited. Essensium, an Imec spin-off, is the result of technological inroads started in 2005 and makes it possible to locate people and items, with a transmitter for dementia patients that send signals to nurses.