The Europe Challenge and the future of health
“How can we make Ghent a healthier city, with technology as part of the solution?” This question was asked to the residents and community of Ghent (BE) in spring 2021, in the framework of the Europe Challenge by Comon – a collective of scientists, technologists and creatives from the City of Ghent, imec, Ghent University and De Krook Library.
Through a process of crowdsourcing questions on healthcare and technology, initiated and facilitated by Comon, the residents of Ghent came up with challenges ranging from “How can we map the health situation of a neighbourhood? to “How can we make students more aware of the signals the body gives?”. Based on the votes and reactions, Comon has now selected one challenge to focus on: How can we make healthcare more understandable for everyone in our super-diverse city?
The idea behind this challenge comes from a Ghent gynaecologist Leyla Yüksel. Leyla tells that she chose this challenge because too many people are experiencing barriers in healthcare due to miscommunication between the doctor and a patient. They often use different words and terms, which is the root of many misunderstandings around the exact health issues and the ways to address them.
Leyla argues in favour of improving the quality of care by making the communication by the healthcare providers more understandable to the patient.
“As a child, I knew already that I wanted to be a doctor. Growing up, I loved sitting in the waiting room, looking at the relationship between the patients and the doctor. I often acted as an interpreter. I came from a Turkish working-class family and was destined for training in tailoring to follow. Instead, I graduated as the first Turkish woman at the medical faculty of the University of Antwerp.”
In the months following the selection of the challenge, Comon organised a matchmaking event – the first brainstorming session with 45 healthcare experts from Ghent sailing in small groups on boats along the Schelde river to refine this challenge further and exchange ideas on possible solutions as to how exactly healthcare can become more understandable for all residents of Ghent.
One of the healthcare experts that participated in the brainstorm was Professor De Maeseneer, Head of the Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care of Ghent University. He shared his insights and ideas that bubbled up during the brainstorm.
“We talk about understandability, but there are two more words that go with that, and those are ‘trust’ and ‘connection’. Those two things are important because if people feel connected to healthcare and trust it, they can also talk to the healthcare provider. Instead of asking ‘What is wrong with Mr Janssens?’, we should ask ‘What makes life worth living for Mr Janssens?’, ‘What are his life goals that give him meaning and purpose?’. Let’s focus on that: how, with everything we have, with our knowledge, with our skills as healthcare experts, can we work with those life goals understandably?”
The biggest result from the brainstorm was that healthcare is about much more than understanding information. It is also about connection, about trust, and also about barriers. Origin, age, location, home situation, heredity and family environment needs to be taken into account to have comprehensible care for everyone.
Comon will continue with this challenge in the coming year, involving both experts and Ghent citizens in devising and experimenting with solutions and looking at technology as an important contributor to these solutions.
Watch a video of the Matchmaking event below [in Dutch] and learn more about The Europe Challenge here.