How the Dutch are Responding to Coronavirus with Digital Healthcare
eHealth push in the Netherlands has been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis
The Netherlands is one of the leading countries in Europe when it comes to digital healthcare and data. Healthcare professionals across the country are widely using eHealth technology, including mobile health apps. Meanwhile, with 87% of the nation’s patient data held in digital records, the Dutch digital healthcare push had been well underway of late.
Innovative eHealth solutions
Recently, the Dutch government has been focused on advancing the transition to eHealth solutions, with the former Health Minister, Bruno Bruins, exclaiming in 2019 ‘Digital must become the new norm… and as rapidly as possible”. A short time ago in February 2020, the government announced a package of over 400 million euros in a drive for cost-effective, value-based, connected digital healthcare.
Only one month later, however, it has been the COVID-19 crisis that has further sped up innovation and adoption in digital healthcare, stemming from the global need for efficient and effective solutions. Planned measures have been accelerated and an abundance of new digital initiatives from across the healthcare sector have come to fruition.
The Dutch eHealth community has risen to the challenge
Across the range of needs the Coronavirus has presented the healthcare sector in the Netherlands, Dutch companies and research institutes have responded with creative thinking and innovative solutions – below we have listed a sample of the various initiatives adopted.
- Securely sharing patient data across hospitals
Dutch multinational Philips, a world leader in healthcare technology, worked in intensive collaboration with the Ministry for Health, Wellness & Sport, and the Erasmus Medical Center to develop a COVID-19 online portal for sharing patient information. With many patients being moved to hospitals across the country to spread the burden, it was essential to exchange accurate patient information rapidly and confidentially. Via the COVID-19 portal, X-ray images, reports, and other critical data are made readily available. Since its launch on March 28, 95% of hospitals in the Netherlands have signed up. The platform safeguards privacy of patient-data and is free-of-charge for all hospitals for the duration of the crisis.
- Provision of monitors
Philips once again stepped up to aid the response to the crisis with a simple solution on another front. Together with the eCommerce service Bol.com, Philips donated 3,200 baby monitors to hospitals. The baby monitors help protect frontline healthcare professionals by allowing them to communicate simply, effectively, and efficiently with infected patients who are in isolation. This reduces the risk for healthcare workers and reduces the amount of personal protective equipment used.
- Video consultations
In another move to protect frontline healthcare professionals, CompuGroup Medical (CGM) facilitated video consultations. Video consultations are a rapid, safe, and simple solution for continuing to provide essential medical services. By offering its video consultation system free to healthcare professionals during the crisis, CGM helps to protect the healthcare services. More than 8,000 healthcare providers – primarily paramedics and doctors – are already using the system.
New digital solutions have emerged to aid our analysis and understanding of COVID-19 and its consequences. The OLVG hospital in Amsterdam responded quickly to the virus and launched a Corona-check app on March 16th, analyzing the probability of someone being infected with the virus. People throughout the country can fill in several medical questions and once there is a high probability of someone being infected, a healthcare professional will contact the user for testing.
Utrecht-based company, Bolesian, took a different approach and developed an app to understand how the population was feeling by asking four simple questions regarding their well-being daily. The mental and physical impacts of a pandemic can prove overwhelming for many and Bolesian’s app “Zo voel ik mij.NL” (That’s how I feel.NL) displays how the country is reacting and how neighborhoods are coping.
Rotterdam’s renowned Erasmus Medical Centre has developed Virtual Reality (VR) training films for the assessment and treatment of COVID-19 patients. These films are available on their app, free-of-charge, to all healthcare professionals in the Netherlands, and around 500 VR headsets have been provided to COVID-19 units. This enables them to gain the skills to provide a near real-life treatment experience while receiving training in a safe virtual environment. The initiative is a collective effort of the City of Rotterdam, Erasmus MC, Life Sciences & Health 010, VR-developer VR Gorilla, philogirl care communications, and Cardboards.nl.
- Accessibility and support
Some may experience difficulties accessing digital healthcare services, such as those who don’t have access to a computer and those with low literacy rates. With so many digital initiatives in response to the coronavirus crisis, it is vital to have an inclusive approach. Pharos responded to this challenge by developing eHealth4ALL, facilitating healthcare by using pictograms, images, spoken-text functions, interactivity, and joint-cooperation with other parties. By supporting eHealth developers, Pharos helps improve web-accessibility, apps, and other eHealth applications, ensuring that all people are able to effectively access eHealth healthcare technological advances.
In the face of the Corona pandemic, there is unprecedented urgency to provide effective healthcare. In the Netherlands, the Dutch are seizing their lead in digital healthcare services to step up innovative eHealth solutions.1 May 2020