3 minute read 1 Dec 2020
How technology can make you live longer and healthier

How technology can make you live longer and healthier

By EY Belgium

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

3 minute read 1 Dec 2020

What is digitalisation doing to healthcare? Is new technology making patient care more expensive or cheaper? And who’s going to pay for that?

We bring three experts around the table, EY partner Lucien De Busscher, technology expert Peter Hinssen and consumer expert Jo Caudron, to talk about digitization in health care.


Listen to our Inzicht podcast episode on health care with Lucien De Busscher, Peter Hinssen and Jo Caudron

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From left to right: Lucien De Busscher, Jo Caudron and Peter Hinssen

Lucien De Busscher: The relationship between doctor and patient is definitely changing. The patient has become a super consumer. A good example of this: my 80-year-old mother, who’s a trained chef, recently asked her doctor for a different beta-blocker, because it was better. She’d looked it up online and found it through friends in a chat group.

Peter Hinssen: It’s not just digitalization, the patient is more central too, and part of a network. One of my favorite businesses is MyHealthTeams: they develop online patient groups around a disease or condition who share experiences of products and treatments and support each other mentally.

Jo Caudron: Consumers are more in the driver’s seat, their expectations have changed. But hospitals and doctors are still very inward focussed.

Peter Hinssen: I think it’s exciting: new players are coming along, with new ideas and new concepts. In the US, where the employer plays a major role – because they pay in the end – you can see the creativity of start-ups more clearly. Omada Health, for example, is a company that works around obesity and diabetes. They go to an employer and say: 3 percent of your tens of thousands of employees are morbidly obese and that’ll cost you tens of millions. So, Omada coaches those employees, and makes sure they lose weight. Finally, they do a fantastic deal with the employer: ‘Look, you’ve saved this much and we want a share of that.’ That’s creativity. 

Will technology make healthcare cheaper or more expensive? And will the patient have to pay for this?

Lucien De Busscher: The cost of healthcare currently stands at between 8 and 10 percent of GDP and is rising. We want to live longer and stay healthier longer. But naturally, there’s a price for this. You have more expensive robotic surgery, you have all kinds of new technology and therapies that cost many times more than traditional therapies.

Peter Hinssen: Technology can bring down health costs, I’m absolutely convinced of that. Take gene sequencing: twenty years ago it was astronomically expensive, now the cost is almost trivial. So I can now take this genome test. But what do I actually gain from that? We shouldn’t just use technology to learn more, but to really make healthcare better. Otherwise patients will be incredibly disappointed.

Jo Caudron: When a doctor suggests an innovative therapy that’s more expensive, but can deliver a better outcome, the consumer doesn’t object. But the question is: who pays? We all know examples of expensive treatments that aren’t reimbursed, like Baby Pia.

So you need to have a public debate. Do we opt for a welfare state in which we contribute a lot for democratic, common healthcare? Then, it can’t be that you get worse care if you pay less. Or do we roll the system back and pay less in basic contributions, and you have to take out extra insurance? That works in lots of countries. And that’s a political decision.

Peter Hinssen: The only way to deal with this is a real change in health: from sick care to health care. Our health care is still largely based on a patient with a problem. We then solve that problem. We need to make the shift to a much more proactive approach. As has happened in dental care. It used to be all about extracting teeth. But now you make sure your teeth don’t need to be taken out. That’s a fundamental shift.

I can’t see that happening in my lifetime. But possibly in my children’s or grandchildren’s: by using technology to build personalized solutions in a highly creative way. I sometimes think that’s a shame, because we’ll experience a real wave of opportunities in the coming decades. 

How is EY involved in life sciences exactly?

Lucien De Busscher: We’re involved in exciting projects that grab the imagination. For example, we support severely depressed, suicidal patients and follow them throughout the patient pathway. We have some patients who are seeing light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in twenty years. That gives us great satisfaction. Even though it’s not something you’d immediately associate with the job of a consultant.

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Technology can help us evolve from sick care to health care.

About this article

By EY Belgium

Multidisciplinary professional services organization