Technology could save healthcare costs
Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters CD&V signs an agreement today for a Microsoft Innovation Centre MIC to be built in Kortrijk and Genk with a 1.4 million euro injection from his government. This will be the third MIC in our country and, like the others, offers a place for start-up companies specializing in technological innovations in healthcare e-health. The plan is to grow 30 start-ups and create 300 jobs in the next three years."We have been working behind the scenes with 13 new start-ups for a number of months now",says the new MIC director Peter Dedrij. "Some of them have only an idea. Others already have a prototype." The most advanced concept comes from Family Eye and is a fall detection system based on cameras. The alarm system, which goes off the minute a person falls, is intended to allow people to live in their own homes for longer. Other programme applications that are being developed include the game console Kinect's revalidation programme that works via a movement detector and allows a therapist to follow a patient's development and upload adjusted applications. Instead of having to physically visit the physiotherapist, the patient can do his exercises at home. But it must be supervised." "Self-management of the patient is the key,"says Lieve Apers of Flanders Care. "You continue to see more applications. Also for chronically ill patients, who currently represent 70% of all health expenditure in Belgium. Self-management is the only way to control costs." Another innovative technology is the intelligent pillbox which reminds patients to take their tablets and can be monitored from a distance by doctors. "We are on the threshold of a revolution in healthcare,” says Jan Van Emelen, innovation expert for the independent health care fund Onafhankelijke Ziekenfondsen. “But is all this technology a holy grail? No, I don't think so. It's not an alternative but an aid. Moreover people in Belgium expect the government to pay for everything. But that's impossible. There are limits!" Lieve Apers points to the fact that all these scientific projects such as the telemonitoring of heart patients should be properly researched in the long term to see if they do in fact lead to cost savings. All stakeholders should however join in and doctors should accept the technology. "Taking blood pressure is a quarter of our income", they say. Some say they should be remunerated for it in some way if the patients do it themselves. "This is one of the ways in which the logical evolution and innovative breakthroughs are opposed", says Van Emelen.