mhealth in Belgium: what is currently possible?

Sofie healthsystems, strategie Leave a Comment

Mobile health or mhealth is not yet a reality in the Belgian professional healthcare market. The newspaper De Morgen recently reported that 60% of Belgian doctors do not feel involved in digital health.

Note: This is a top3-article 2017 on the healthnode-blog.  We’ve put a january 2018-update at the end .

This is strange, because digital is the new normal to a greater and greater extent outside the general practitioner’s consulting room: we have more mobile connections than Belgian citizens, 72% of Belgians use mobile internet on a smartphone and 82% of those do so every day (source: Country profile: We are social (study conducted in January 2017)). The smartphone is taken for granted in our daily activities and consumption patterns, for example when we make payments or book appointments. Many of us currently keep track of a huge amount of data about our health: 40% of Belgians already tracked their own health data in 2016 and we expect that this percentage will increase by the end of 2017.

The lack of mobile healthcare is even more surprising when we consider that many general practitioners, doctors, pharmacists, psychologists etc. have brilliant ideas for digital care. But mobile health is not yet common in healthcare.

People blame the government, because there is no legal or regulatory framework for mhealth and no budget to help pay for it. In other words we ‘can’t do it yet’ or we ‘aren’t allowed’. We don’t believe that is true.

There is plenty available on the market for those who want start providing digital care to their patients.

Below is a shortlist of currently applicable mhealth apps in Belgium, alongside features which are not yet possible. As a health care provider and patient, it is useful to focus on what is possible and why.

 

POSSIBLE NOT YET POSSIBLE
1)      Appointments
Booking and managing online appointments with a healthcare provider or group practice Booking and managing online appointments with multidisciplinary care providers in a care pathway
2)      Consultation and patient follow-up
Remote consultation for first contact Reimbursement code: there is no nomenclature code yet for digital contact and advice
Remote consultation in the context of patient follow-up
Recommending and prescribing apps to your patient (only as a formality) and using them together Structured reimbursement model for apps (but: on 29/09 Partena decided to reimburse Fibricheck-see below)
Reimbursement of prescribed apps has started: on 29/09 Partena was the first to decide to reimburse Fibricheck
Monitoring and patient follow-up using apps for heart rate, blood pressure, wound healing etc. “App pharmacy” for the healthcare provider
3)      Electronic patient records and data sharing
Online consultation between healthcare professionals by e-mail and using the ehealth box, Skype consultations or similar
Mobile data sharing between healthcare professionals Digital consultation of entire patient record (neither for the care provider or the patient)
Provision of access to the patient’s electronic health record and cooperation (data sharing with the patient) Transmission of digital data from an electronic health record to the patient
Entry of health data by the patient (or app used by the patient) into an electronic health record held by the general practitioner or other healthcare provider
4)      Testing and diagnosis
Testing and collaboration in research for new tools
Mobile DNA analysis and analysis of body fluids such as blood, urine etc. using an app Information exchange with the general practitioner/health care provider

update january 2018: Federal minister of health, Maggie De Block, just announced the start of the PHR by a patient viewer platform by the end of march 2018. From that moment on, all belgians should have access to their personal medical record summary. By the end of 2018, they should be able to make notes and communicate with their doctor. Moreover, patients can insert cloud-based medical data from apps into their PHR.

I wrote this article together with Frank Ponsaert and Vincent Dupont. The original october-version was also published at Bloovi and in De Specialist.