The healthcare landscape is changing. Third parties are making their entrances, the sector is searching for more collaboration and at the same time feeling the need for specialization. How can the branch find a balance? IG&H Healthpartner Bas Leerink offers his vision with regards to five big challenges.

Leerink joined IG&H as a partner of the Health practice in January. Prior to this, he was chairman of the executive board at Medisch Spectrum Twente, where he was highly praised for helping the hospital emerge stronger from trying times and making the organization more transparent. He has also worked as a director and executive board member at health insurer Menzis.

  • The healthcare landscape is very fragmented. What needs to happen in order to create more unity?

In our healthcare system, many issues depend on each other. The government decides many things, but hospitals and insurance providers also have a big influence. I would like to see all of these parties work together more closely, deciding priorities and choosing a course based on this. At the moment this occurs far too infrequently, as far as I’m concerned.

Since the start of this year, I have been a future scout for the province of Flevoland. I was hired to formulate a vision regarding healthcare in the province starting in 2020. We at IG&H aren’t there to analyse what went wrong during the bankruptcy, but to find out how we can reach an agreement with all stakeholders to continue in the same direction. You can see that there has been much damage done to the balance between municipalities, doctors, insurance providers, and specialists. They need each other in order to be able to help patients, but they aren’t able to find each other at the moment.

I believe that IG&H’s role is to make it possible again. Together with every party involved, we look at how we can leave the past behind in order to be able to once again focus on caring for the patient. That’s what we are doing it for in the end, not in order to sustain an institution. I look for harmony and connection within organizations and enjoy being able to contribute to this.

  • In the past six years, you have been intensively involved as a hospital director in Value Based Healthcare projects. When is this method useful for healthcare institutions?

Because of the focus on regulations and costs, we sometimes lose sight of how we in healthcare can systematically improve the outcome for the patient. The Value Based Health Care method makes sure the focus is on the patient. You should not ask directors or managers to think about this subject, as patients and professionals are able to perform this task much better. As a board, you must help to facilitate and execute these improvements.

In my previous function, we used Value Based Health Care (VBHC) as an improvement tool between professionals of 7 hospitals, united in the Santeon group.  We were able to create multidisciplinary teams that improved outcomes and costs for patients in 7 hospitals for 11 medical conditions. And the improvements were significant! Not everybody is convinced that VBHC is the way formard for health care, and indeed it is not a solution for all problems. But it definitely is a very powerful way to improve outcomes for patients. At IG&H can create added value in these discussions by bringing people together,  And facilitating the creation of improvement dashboards from the diverse systems that are being used in hospitals.

  • Another current issue is the call for specialization in healthcare. What is your take on that?

In every branch of business that is currently developing, there is a call for specialization. That is now also the case in healthcare. An important question in this debate is whether it is possible as a board of directors of a healthcare organization to make sure that every part of the organization you are responsible for functions optimally. Can these specializations develop according to the latest state of the art standards?

Many directors believe that it is possible for hospitals to specialize in various fields. I think that this is not feasible in the end. Take a look, for example, at the field of pathology. You are substantively educated to do that work; it’s a profession. At the same time, this job is very much in development due to technical possibilities, such as digitalization or new molecular possibilities for ideal diagnostic performance, for example. I don’t think that it is possible for every hospital to be at the forefront of these new developments and to be able to offer these to patients.

  • At the same time, we are seeing that more and more commercial parties are taking over specialized issues in healthcare. How should hospitals deal with this?

We are already seeing that certain laboratories are working together with each other, allowing them to bundle their areas of expertise. In the future, more of these new groups will come into being, maybe even from overseas.

This development is approaching and brings a few questions with it. Hospitals are no longer owners of these organizations. That is new –and exciting- for us in the healthcare branch. How will hospitals and other companies come up with offers and in which way can collaboration be productive? It is important to expressly think about the long term and the value for patients with regards to this.

  • It is clear that e-health is going to play an increasingly large role in healthcare. How should the branch respond to this?

You can already see that hospitals are taking steps in this direction. For example, they are creating patient portals, making medical information such as blood test results available at home. In this manner, it’s possible for patients to follow their own care processes.

Big tech players also collect various data, such as the Apple watch. This information can be connected to a personal platform which allows you to see health trends.

I don’t think it will be long before these kinds of trends are represented everywhere. At the moment, hospitals are not able to respond to them. They are stuck in all kinds of ICT systems and packages that prescribe our internal processes.

If they do not respond in a timely fashion to these developments, they will be overtaken by big players and lose control. That’s why it is important that they start thinking now about ways to for the client to also occupy centre stage in the field of technology.

There are various ways to make this possible. At IG&H, we are big supporters of platform technology. That makes it possible to create a flexible shell around the pre-existing ICT structure, allowing fast and effective applications to be developed. This allows you to control the costs and maintain control as an organization. 

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