Health & Science

Belgium plans an overhaul of the hospital system with a flat fee approach

Belgium Health Minister presented his reform of the healthcare sector to make it more efficient. One of the goals will be to provide a flat fee for treatment that the State will pay for.

Surgical intervention in an hospital
© Anna Shvets

Belgium Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke prepared his plan for improving the healthcare sector in the country.

The ‘Operation Hospital’ has been launched on January 28 with a presentation of the reform to members of the hospital sector, De Standaard reports.

The minister wants to improve the efficiency of hospitals. The reform also aims at finding more balance in revenue and cost between different practitioners and various medical procedures.

But the first layer is to increase the number of specialty hospitals by 2023 to provide care more efficiently by the specialization of each center.

The specialization of hospitals may bring more efficiency but one of the challenges would be to make health care geographically accessible for everyone who needs it. Moreover, Vandenbroucke advocated for cooperation between medical centers.

However, he seeks a reduction of maternity wards.

Another pillar of hospital reform is to avoid the excessive use of medical interventions.

An all-inclusive flat fee and more balance between medical specialties

In the new framework, Belgium would finance a number of X-ray exams in hospitals depending on the size of the medical center instead of individual medical interventions. The goal is to avoid an inflation of unnecessary interventions that the State needs to finance.

Because the broader objective is to have a global approach to the costs related to health care by 2025.

Belgium, instead of paying hospitals for each medical intervention, would finance hospitals with a bundled payment, an all-inclusive flat fee. This comprehensive approach would give a flat fee for each therapy, from the diagnosis to the medication.

As such, the calculation of the fee would be inclusive of the X-ray exam, the surgical intervention and the medication. One can assume the calculations will not be straightforward.

In the end, the minister of Health hopes to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments and long hospital stays.

But another major goal of the reform is to have a more balanced pay between health practitioners.

Practitioners using heavy equipment, like radiologists, have better pay than pediatricians or geriatricians, for instance. Similarly, nephrologists are paid more than pulmonologists because it was historically complex while some of their acts are performed by nurses now, RTBF reports.

This global approach in Belgium’s hospital reform would tackle large salary differences between healthcare practitioners that the government finds unfair. For the RTBF, the country has been sitting on such a reform for 30 years and acts as a “big bang” in the industry.

Read more about Belgium

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