Jan de Lange, founder of eFORZE, spreading the good word of openEHR

Can you introduce yourself please? 

I’m Jan de Lange and together with Jan Weterings, an anesthesiologist and medical manager, I work in marketing at eFORZE. Our focus is bringing digital innovation and data availability to healthcare. 

We would often discuss how we could improve healthcare, and around 2018 we decided to not only talk about it but to take action.

Our focus was on digital innovation in healthcare and we started to visit some international events and digital health conferences. At one event in London, just an hour away from the Netherlands, we were surprised to find that we were the only Dutch representatives. Five months later there was a World Congress on digital health in The Hague Netherlands with 44 speakers of which 42 were Dutch, one from Belgium and one lady from Estonia. 

We saw the limited ability within the healthcare sector to look beyond its own borders and to learn from experiences and developments in other organisations and in other countries as an additional problem.

And based on that, we decided to connect with international innovators, build strong relationships and explore applications that had succeeded in other countries.

What problem were you trying to solve? 

We saw a situation where healthcare was highly fragmented, with data isolated in separate silos, as well as vendor lock-in and a general ignorance regarding the availability of open data ecosystems (openEHR in combination with FHIR and, for example, Snomed and OMOP). This fragmentation and isolated data posed obstacles to fostering new innovations. 

Around this time I was dealing with various companies and established collaborations in Finland, and that’s when I connected with Hanna Pohjonen (co-chair openEHR International Education Program and Recognised Educator openEHR). Interestingly, it was actually through LinkedIn that I noticed her involvement in openEHR and education, which paved the way for our introduction. Our first face to face meeting only happened earlier this year during the openEHR Barcelona Conference in June. 

Through Hanna I began to grasp the added value that openEHR could bring and that’s when our focus really shifted towards openEHR: recognising the challenge of interoperability and communication gaps within healthcare organisations and systems. After that, we started to foster relationships with international corporations and created the openEHR Masterclass.

I would say at that time, the potential of openEHR was not widely fully understood, so I engaged with several companies, including Better, Vita Group, and Cambio, just to see the solutions that openEHR offered to enhance interoperability. But the main hurdle was still raising awareness about its value proposition.

How do you split the work? 

We actually run different companies. Hanna is the CEO of Rosaldo which specialises in education, delivering courses that are tailored to the course content itself. But our approach goes beyond that. At eFORZE, we use her skills and expertise and then we add a social element to the mix. We organise seminars with the emphasis on group discussion in our virtual classroom; we bring a range of people together with different roles in healthcare, from different health organisations, and in that way we create more of an openEHR community. The attendees then take these discussions back to their own organisation and it starts to come alive. We’re showing people the possibilities of openEHR and that’s how we’re creating openEHR ambassadors.

For example, one of the participants was a key figure in a big health insurance company here in the Netherlands. After attending our Masterclass, he was so enthusiastic he’s now flying the flag for openEHR within his organisation, generating more interest and more momentum. 

You are spreading the good word of openEHR!

Yes! At first, it seemed foolish how people failed to recognise the possibilities available and how they were trapped within the confines of traditional vendors. They were almost oblivious to the alternatives for improved data availability.

The distinguishing feature of our openEHR Masterclass, in addition to a thorough online transfer of knowledge, skills and experience in the field of openEHR, is the opportunity to share experiences, problems, solutions and questions with peers.

Barcelona was a turning point, I think. I was able to present a Masterclass to an education group, with attendees from the Nordics and they showed genuine interest in what we had to say. Based on that they extended an invitation to a meeting with another 150 representatives at the HIMSS conference in Lisbon, focused on the future of healthcare in the Nordic region. They proposed incorporating my presentation into their own, acknowledging it as a transformative tool to foster ongoing discussions within their countries, and by doing so, catalysing the transformation they were looking for. 

Convincing people of openEHR’s value is the initial step, making them more receptive to change within their respective organisations. Yes, spreading the word.

How many Masterclasses do you run a year? 

We only started last year, with our first Masterclass in the Netherlands. This year, we ran our first German Masterclass, and the second Dutch edition. Now we’re planning an international Masterclass for the 13th of September, and another Dutch Masterclass. 

There is also a lot of interest from the UK and and from Belgium to collaborate closely, and we’re talking to the representatives from the Nordics about strategies to influence global top decision makers. We are working on an executive Masterclass for this purpose, made up of two sessions, tailored to high-level decision makers. We’ve also put together a webinar featuring a lineup of top speakers including from One London and Catalan Health, amongst others.

Our Masterclass attracts a diverse group of individuals, including policy makers, representatives from health insurance companies, clinical informaticians, hospital board members, GPs and a wide range of health professionals. Consultants have also become actively involved, further contributing to the discussion. Even traditional EHR vendors have expressed an interest and it’s this diversity that really lends itself to the quality of both our discussions and webinars. 

Additionally, consultants have also become actively involved, further contributing to the discussion. Notably, even traditional Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors such as Chipsoft have expressed interest and are now partaking in these initiatives.

What does the future look like for openEHR and the Masterclass? 

We expect that within a few years traditional EHR vendors such as EPIC, Chipsoft and Cerner will gradually open up, following examples in Finland and Sweden, breaking down the silos and embracing openEHR.

The current successes of openEHR-based data ecosystems will initially be perceived as a threat by traditional vendors.

But these successes show healthcare providers, governments and also health insurers that data availability can be quickly improved in the interest of the patient. Prevention and research also benefit from better and structured data availability. So we predict that the existing healthcare providers, who still experience a lot of vendor lock-in and are hampered in regional cooperation, will increase the pressure on their traditional vendors to open up.

If the traditional vendors continue to resist opening up and breaking down the data silos, international (openEHR-based) providers will fill the growing need in the respective markets and the traditional vendors will eventually disappear. 

In the interest of the patient, the affordability of care in the future and limiting the effect of staff shortage, we hope that this transformation to data availability will happen quickly. And we are happy to contribute to that.





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