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The Dutch way: What the Netherlands can teach us about digitisation

It’s a familiar scene: at the end of an appointment, a doctor scribbles out a prescription on a notepad and sends you away. But when it comes to prescribing practices, the Netherlands has torn up the paper and opted for digital.

And it’s no secret the Dutch are a rising star in the digital health game. In a recent survey from HIMSS Analytics, the Netherlands, Nordics and Estonia were identified as the countries driving adoption of digital technology in European healthcare.

With most organisations “pretty well” digitised, according to Pieter Helmons, chief pharmacy informatics officer at Dutch hospital St Jansdal, a strong foundation to transform the healthcare system and provide services that are fit for today’s world is now in place.

But one area that could use some improvement is patient engagement.

“Being able to have the patient manage their own healthcare by using apps, by using a patient portal, making sure that they have all the boxes ticked before they actually have to go into the hospital for an outpatient visit, streamlining processes in the outpatient clinic, we can do much more,” the CPIO tells Healthcare IT News.

“With the increasing pressure of the ageing population on the healthcare system, we need to move towards that direction much sooner. So I think that is something that can be improved.”

Transforming digitally according to strategic ambitions

Later this week, Helmons will be speaking at the HIMSS Digital Maturity event in Cambridge about St Jansdal’s efforts to digitise, more than two years after the organisation was validated against the Stage 7 standards of the HIMSS Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM).

To date, St Jansdal remains one of a handful of hospitals in Europe to have achieved this.

“You have to use IT to create the efficiencies that you have to achieve for the ageing population,” Helmons says. “You won’t get more staff, staff are scarce. You have the technology that can support clinical workflows, you have to use it, because otherwise you cannot perform in this new [landscape]. So it is going to be essential for all hospitals to figure out what the ideal process is and how to use technology in the most efficient way to support that process.”

But digital transformation should align to the strategic goals of an organisation.

“You should not introduce technology because it looks good in a list of best hospitals in the Netherlands,” Helmons cautions. “The best hospital is the hospital that can perform and provide high-quality healthcare the most efficiently, because efficiency creates the basis of your hospital.”

Technology, however, will be key to providing sustainable solutions for the challenges of the future.

“We can no longer [afford to] be inefficient, we can no longer hire until we can manage a process because there are no people left,” the CPIO continues. “We have a huge problem with nursing staff, we have a huge problem with pharmacy technicians, just to get [hire] them. So information, information technology, it is essential to remain viable.”

More information about Helmons’ session at the HIMSS DM event in Cambridge can be found here. Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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