As the CEO of Cegeka’s spinoff nexuzhealth, Gertie Delande has been on the front line of the healthcare sector throughout this rough year. ‘We’ve been very active, but we haven’t made too much noise about it. The healthcare sector has been under immense pressure for more than a year, and we don’t think it’s right to approach these people with big marketing campaigns with all this going on,’ she starts.
So, what have you been working on? ‘One example is that we’ve been making the KWS (“clinical workstation”, also known as the electronic patient record) accessible to a larger group of healthcare professionals. Until now, the KWS has primarily been used in hospitals, and by patients themselves via the mynexuzhealth app. We are now expanding that ecosystem step by step, using general practitioners as our pilot group.’
Delande and her team of 200+ ‘nexuz heroes’ are blazing a trail with typical Cegeka modesty. What does the future have in store? ‘A world in which all healthcare professionals can treat their patients easily and effectively by sharing and unlocking relevant medical data, wherever it is stored. And, of course, one in which patients receive smooth, transparent, clear and ethical healthcare.’
Time for a chat!
Four years ago, nexuzhealth was still ‘that small SME’ in the Cegeka universe. Things seem to have changed quite a bit?
Gertie Delande: ‘No, we’re now longer the mini-me operating in the shadow of the Cegeka mothership (laughs). We are a well-established company with more than 200 employees, we deliver great results and have international ambitions. In that respect, we are still very much a company from the stable of Cegeka: hard-working, successful, but modest. Yet we’re doing cutting-edge projects in a crucial sector that is currently in the centre of attention.’
What is your core mission?
Delande: ‘Our goal is to digitize the healthcare sector so that everybody wins: the patient, the healthcare sector and the government. There’s a risk that healthcare will become unaffordable, or rather, more unaffordable than it already is. If we want to keep offering premium quality, we need to bring smart digitization to the entire chain. We do this by becoming architects and builders of digital health platforms, where people, processes and systems come together and work smoothly and securely. Practitioners can share and unlock data easily, with the patient at the heart of it all.’
Our goal is to digitize the healthcare sector so that everybody wins: the patient, the healthcare sector and the government. There’s a risk that healthcare will become unaffordable, or rather, more unaffordable. If we want to keep offering premium quality, we need to bring smart digitization to the entire chain.
‘We do this through the KWS and the apps, i.e. mynexuzhealth for patients, and a ‘pro’ version for healthcare professionals – and we do it well. We have approximately half of all Flemish hospitals in our portfolio, and about 90% if you add all our other activities. The popularity of the mynexuzhealth app has also skyrocketed. In January alone we already had 240,000 downloads, a four-fold increase on last year. Today, we already have over 600,000 unique visitors.’
‘Our ultimate goal is to become the number one quality mark and the go-to partner for the healthcare sector. Actually, we have already achieved this objective in Flanders, but we want to break through internationally. Not only with our ecosystem expertise, but also with solutions from our larger health portfolio, such as Corlabs, our Laboratory Information System. We also want to delve deeper into other segments, such as the government and the pharmaceutical industry – we have dipped a toe into these areas but there’s so much more potential, particularly when it comes to health.’
How would you describe the relationship between Cegeka and nexuzhealth?
Delande: ‘nexuzhealth is a joint venture from Cegeka and UZ Leuven (University Hospitals Leuven). The relationship with Cegeka has always been very strong: we’ve been working in this sector for a long time. Healthcare is very dear to André Knaepen, the founder of Cegeka and President of the Board of Directors. So really we only have to cross the hallway to find our colleagues from Cegeka who specialize in security, workplaces, infrastructure, mobile private networks, etc. Together, we can provide end-to-end IT solutions for the healthcare sector. That’s incredibly valuable.’
We only have to cross the hallway to find our colleagues from Cegeka who specialize in security, workplaces, infrastructure, mobile private networks, etc. Together, we can provide end-to-end IT solutions for the healthcare sector. That’s incredibly valuable.
You were talking about developing the KWS. What does that entail exactly?
Delande: ‘Today, the connected hospital and their customers, the patients, work mainly with the KWS and the nexuzhealth app. We want to expand this to GPs, home nursing staff, specialists and other healthcare professionals. This will allow us to work on ecosystems in which the patient can receive the best possible treatment, because in this system, medical data can be shared with as many healthcare professionals as possible.’
‘A larger platform that will support such ecosystems in the healthcare sector is being developed as we speak. It will be a cloud-native SaaS solution – a “mother of all patient records” – where medical professionals will be able to access and share data that is relevant to them based on their credentials, role and therapeutic relationship. Of course this will all be compliant with the strict legislation in this field, and will only be done with the patient’s consent.’
It will be a cloud-native SaaS solution – a “mother of all patient records” – where medical professionals will be able to access and share data that is relevant to them based on their credentials, role and therapeutic relationship.
‘It will be a win for healthcare professionals, but also for patients, and that is what really counts. Patients can use the app mynexuzhealth to find everything in one place: medical discharge letters, imaging, prescriptions, appointments, contacts, etc. The COVID-19 test results are always quickly available in the app as well, sometimes even faster than on other platforms. On paper our customer is the healthcare sector, but it’s the patient we always keep in mind, even if they don’t pay the bill.’
At the start of this interview, you mentioned that the healthcare sector is under immense pressure at the moment. What impact has this had on you?
Delande: ‘During the pandemic, we have made a number of changes to relieve hospitals, often ad hoc and quickly. This involved all sorts of things, but to give you some examples: when the regular consultations were put on hold last spring, we made sure that every patient of every connected hospital automatically received a notification of the postponed appointment, either in the app or via text message.’
‘We accelerated the implementation of the secure video consultation feature for doctors, so they didn’t have to cancel appointments with chronically ill patients. We worked hard to ensure a quicker flow of COVID-19 test results from the lab to the hospital. Now, we also display the vaccination status of patients in the file, so doctors don’t have to check this themselves. These are small efficiency boosts, but sometimes they make all the difference.
Cybercrime is on the rise, and the healthcare sector is also taking a hit. How can you help in this area?
Delande: ‘As I mentioned before, our security experts are literally down the hall (laughs). You see, Cegeka has always had a very strong security department, but we’ve never made a lot of noise about that. But since Fabrice Wynants took office as Director Security in early 2020, all that has started to change. Cegeka wants to be a key player in the field of security by taking care of customers from start to finish, and they want to make this ambition clear to all. At nexuzhealth, we also benefit from this.’
‘COVID-19, and the sudden large-scale teleworking shift, has opened a Pandora's box for many companies in terms of security. Hospitals, labs and GPs have not been spared from cybercrime either. We have all read the stories in the press, I don’t need to repeat them here now. A lab or hospital that is out of action for two weeks is a disaster, because you not only have to start up again, you also have to regain people’s trust.’
COVID-19, and the sudden large-scale teleworking shift, has opened a Pandora's box for many companies in terms of security. Hospitals, labs and GPs have not been spared from cybercrime either.
‘Security has never been a major budget driver for many companies, and the healthcare sector was – and still is – no exception. However, things are changing. More and more managers are now realizing that a well-targeted ransomware attack can shut down the entire workplace for a long time, with disastrous consequences. This can happen in a manufacturing company, but also in a lab or a hospital. Based on that awareness, budgets are increasing and projects are being launched.’
What about 5G, is that still a dirty word?
Delande: ‘No more or less so than in other groups of the population. Many people still consider 5G as a faster 4G, and this is true in the healthcare sector too, but that label only covers a very small part of the spectrum. There are a lot of interesting use cases for mobile private networks based on 5G in hospitals, such as location tracking for medical devices, but I believe these will only take off once 5G has become a commodity.’
‘The most interesting cases are those where everybody in the story wins: the patient and the hospital. Imagine, for example that your patients can pre-register as soon as they park. Even better: you can assign patients a parking spot depending on the time of their appointment, and the time of their arrival. This means providers can get a head start on certain administrative processes, or even the preparation of equipment, based on the patient’s location. This would be a serious efficiency boost. Cegeka has a whole team working on smart cities and smart parking, so we already have this solution available.’
Finally, what should we know about nexuzhealth?
Delande: ‘People don’t always realize that we are a software company. You cannot contact us to reschedule your appointment, but that does happen sometimes (laughs). In seriousness, the main thing to know about nexushealth is that we have big ambitions. We have become the market leader in Belgium for IT in the healthcare sector, without making too much noise about it – we’re no longer Cegeka’s sidekick. And this is just the beginning.’