Lucien Engelen (1962) talks about the future of healthcare. That’s not a job, that’s a passion, he says. “I do not have a crystal ball. Only by doing, can I make clear what is going to change.”
Photograph © Vincent Boon
How did you become a speaker?
“It’s part of my role. I rolled into it without a plan. Every time I had delivered my lecture, someone came up to me afterwards to ask if I would come to speak somewhere else.”
“In 2010, I had my first major international conference in Dubai. I was bitterly ashamed. It was an event on Mobile Health. I soon realised that I was completely on the wrong track. There was no sign of a patient or a physician. Yes, there was a dentist who was accidentally at the wrong convention.”
“I have always learned: if you are being talked about and you’re not at the table, then you are on the menu. In Dubai, I thought: I will never again speak in places where patients are not on the stage or the target group is not involved. I coined the term for this: ‘patient-included.’ The concept has been given a boost: universities and conferences around the world adhere to it now.”
“In 2012, I was invited to give a talk at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. it is the oldest bastion of medicine, very exciting. Sitting among the pin-striped suits were also patients, which was new to them. After ‘patient-included,’ I recently introduced the term ‘nurse-included.’ Nurses have the most contact with the patient and the family, but never have a seat at the table.”
What do you talk about?
“Usually, I get asked about my future vision of healthcare. I always say, “Guys, I don’t have a crystal ball.” What I can do is to show that something is changing. 98 percent of the Dutch do telebanking. Thirty years ago, bank employees thought that this would never happen. They were ‘too special’ to be replaced by machines. Exactly the same discussion is now taking place in the healthcare sector.”
“I always show some concrete, innovative products. The ‘care patch’ that we stick onto a patient’s chest and so that we can measure such values as temperature, blood pressure and heart rate from a distance. Or, for example, the Scana-flo, a disposable stick. You dip it in your urine. Then you take a picture of it with the app and within four seconds you have the results of the most frequent urine tests. This is done simply at home. It is something you would normally need to go to the family doctor for. Then it becomes tangible, these are projects we are working on within the REshape Center for Innovation at the Radboudumc
“In the last part of my speech, I give handles for getting started. I recommend starting out small. Give a few people within the organisation the ability to think freely, in order to release the energy.”
What is your message?
“That we are now facing the biggest change ever in healthcare. The technology that makes things possible now intersects with the demand of patients who want to be more involved. We are in the midst of the crisis, but people are still in denial. It is my message – but also my role – to show with tangible examples that this is the present, and that this is what we must start working with.”
“It is progressing much faster than you think. In Silicon Valley, they are not waiting for us. To keep up with them, we need to do instead of to talk. In the coming decades, the demand for care will double. If doctors do not outsource tasks, the healthcare sector – and they themselves – will go bankrupt. I love to shock a bit. Then I bring along a poster with a shopping cart that measures heart rate and blood pressure while the person is shopping. They get the results at the checkout counter.”
How does a hall react to your message?
“I recently held a one-hour presentation for family doctors in training. I used the first forty-five minutes to show that the healthcare sector is changing right now. You could hear a pin drop. They realised: this is about us. But they had heard nothing about it during their training.”
“I then used a small device to do a complete health check on myself within ten seconds. A wave of indignation shot through the hall. That thing had all the necessary quality marks. It is just as good as the 40,000 Euro appliance that is in the hospital. Then, a grey-haired family doctor stood up and said: “Where does that leave the patient if we are going to use these kinds of toys?” That man almost got a standing ovation. This story says it all.”
What is your speciality?
“I often hear that people find my enthusiasm infectious. That’s because this is not a job, this is my passion. The biggest compliment I can get is when someone says: “I heard you talk six months ago, but today it was, once again, a completely different story. We really must get to work. ‘”
Have you been surprised lately?
“Difficult to choose. I recently spoke at a staff day of the Ministry. People were surprised that there is so much happening around them that they know nothing about. That touched me. At the same time, I knew this already, because it is often no different in our house. You come to work in the morning in artificial light and air conditioning and, in the evening, you think: shit, it snowed! There’s a whole world passing you by. I am constantly amazed by how few people take the time to occasionally look outside. Once a year, I go to a strongly commercial event. Just to hear another way of doing things and to push myself a bit. Step out of your comfort zone, now and then.”