Digital technology makes healthcare safer and better

Team Zorg Enablers
Published on

Afbeelding van Giel Megens

About twenty years ago, around my fiftieth, I was diagnosed with heart failure at VieCuri Medical Centre Venlo. Years of trips to the hospital followed and I suffered a lot of fatigue as a result. I received a pacemaker but still had to be taken to hospital urgently with cardiac arrhythmia more than once. Two years ago, I started using the SanaCoach heart failure app. It puts me in contact with doctors and nurses weekly, which makes me feel a lot safer. I want everyone to experience the same benefits as I am; my generation should embrace digital technologies more than they are at the moment.

Digital care to supplement physical care

When VieCuri approached me about the SanaCoach heart failure app, I wasn’t convinced right away. I’m not very tech-savvy and felt quite insecure about my ability to work with the app at first. But I quickly learned that the app is extremely easy to use. The heart failure polyclinic gave me a tablet; the staff and my son taught me how to use the app. Now I am able to use it without any help and can’t imagine my life without it. I feel a lot safer thanks to the SanaCoach app because my physical and mental health are being monitored every week. I submit questionnaires about my sleeping pattern, appetite and weight and my blood pressure is being measured. In addition, I can submit all of my questions through the app. If any suspect values show up, I am alerted right away and invited for a check-up. For example, I recently gained two kilos in a short period of time and received an alert with an invitation to come into the heart failure polyclinic. They found out that I was retaining a lot of fluid behind my lungs as a result of reduced heart function. I would have probably never noticed the weight gain or would have simply forgotten to weigh myself. Because it was caught so early, they were able to help and the fluid was gone in no time.

Another benefit of the SanaCoach app is that it has freed up a lot of my time to relax and enjoy life. I used to spend a lot of time at the hospital for check-ups. And was travelling 50 km there and back. More often than not, everything turned out to be fine. The digital application has eliminated the lion’s share of my hospital visits, saving both the doctor and myself a lot of time. I am convinced that this type of heart failure care is a lot more effective and efficient an improves the affordability of healthcare for the future.

Digital healthcare still faces challenges

Of course, challenges do arise at such an early stage. For example, there were some places in my home where the app couldn’t connect to the internet, leaving me unable to enter my data right away. Plus, I still need to get better at using the app. But VieCuri is providing lots of support so I’m not left to my own devices. People often say that technology takes the personal aspect out of healthcare. In this case I disagree. I am now in closer contact with my doctors and nurses, be it digitally. Plus, I still see the doctors three to four times a year at the hospital for check-ups and to calibrate my pacemaker. I have no doubt that some things will always have to be done in person.

Digital care needs to be embraced

Looking ahead to the future of healthcare, I envisage even broader use of current digital resources. As a diabetic, I am receiving proper care in our village. We have one injection clinic for 1,700 residents. I can imagine that these locations will end up disappearing altogether for such small populations and we will be dependent on digital resources to support monitoring and treatment of diabetes. I am optimistic because I now know the benefits of the heart failure app. I might feel even safer and healthier if I can monitor my diabetes more frequently.

My generation tends to be more hesitant when it comes to using technology for their health, and I get it. It can be tough to get used to a new mode of healthcare at first but I do believe we need to keep up with the times. Am I concerned about all the data that is collected and my privacy? It doesn’t worry me too much. As long as it benefits my health, they can collect anything they want. In the end, health is all that counts.

The future holds a lot of digital healthcare anyway so it is best to embrace it. I think it is important to keep sharing successful experiences with each other, to help seniors understand how much new technologies can benefit them: safer healthcare and improved quality of life!


Giel Megens

Giel Megens (69 years old) has been living with heart failure since his fiftieth. Giel used to be a butcher and hospitality operator and retired at the age of 60 due to persistent heart problems. He started using the SanaCoach heart failure app two years ago, considerably improving his quality of life.