The healthcare sector will be facing enormous challenges in the coming years. To contribute to the best possible health and happy life, supported by technology, a collective of experts, scientists and designers has drawn up the Chronically Healthy Manifesto, with action points to design and apply person-driven, sustainable eHealth applications. Sabine Wildevuur, director of the DesignLab of the University of Twente, presented the manifesto last Friday to Robin Koops, inventor and developer of an artificial pancreas.
Sabine Wildevuur did this during the closing conference that was held in the context of Embassy of Health, one of the exhibitions during the Dutch Design Week, which was held in Eindhoven last week. A broad group of practical experts, designers and scientists collaborated on the manifesto, including Sabine Wildevuur and UT scientists Dirk Heylen (professor of Socially Intelligent Computing), Peter-Paul Verbeek (professor of Philosophy of Technology and scientific co-director of DesignLab). and Gaston Remmers (senior citizen science expert).
In recent years, healthcare has been under great pressure: double ageing, multimorbidity and the increase of people with diseases of affluence, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, have led to an increasing and more complex demand for healthcare. There is a shortage of staff at the bedside and both workload and healthcare costs are rising. The consequences of the climate crisis and environmental pollution are also demanding the utmost of our resilience. COVID-19 has demonstrated the challenges we face in healthcare. A number of basic principles are important for the development and design of digital applications that support us in dealing with these challenges. These have been defined by a transdisciplinary group with experience in healthcare.
One of the major challenges in the coming years will be getting the right care to the right place and keeping it sustainable and affordable. This is difficult, because the disabilities and conditions of those seeking care differ from one person to the next as does the way in which people live a good and happy life. This calls for the customization of physical and digital healthcare, making the individual the director of his or her life and enabling them to make arrangements for the necessary counselling and healthcare together with the care professionals (person-centred blended healthcare).
For years, digitalisation of healthcare has been a challenge and still is. The development of eHealth applications is complex and large scale implementation is not easy. Different parties have different interests, at times these will be conflicting, and sometimes they do not serve the public interest. The implementation of eHealth interventions, both the organisational and financial implementation, is stimulated but is not, yet, standard practice.
Sustainability is an important issue when considering the quality of healthcare. Unfortunately, the healthcare sector contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, pollution (medication residues in surface water, for instance) and waste as a result of non-circular work. There is a sense of urgency to reduce our ecological footprint because our health also depends on the health of our planet.