Vincent The: gets the ball rolling

| Mariska Roersen

Patients with chronic diseases see general practitioners, neurologists, physiotherapists, and the list continues. It would make sense for these experts to align their treatments to benefit the patient most. But Vincent The knows that reality can be different. His PhD focuses on information quality and decision-making in healthcare. In fact, motivating himself and others to be better is a common theme in his life.

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

‘There is limited exchange of information between different types of medical disciplines,’ Vincent The begins. ‘There has been much ado about the exchange of patient information between healthcare professionals because of privacy issues. This results in situations where the patient becomes responsible for informing the dietician of what the doctor has said, for example.’ According to Vincent, this isn’t always desirable.

This is why a solid information system is needed. The PhD candidate started working on a model on information flows in healthcare. The goal is to get insights into the quality of information and how it can be used optimally. This should lead to better decisions, and ultimately to better health outcomes. Vincent: ‘Information is the driver for decision-making. I am trying to find out what we can do to get relevant and usable information to the right specialist in a timely manner’.

Managing health, not illness

Vincent urges for patients themselves to become more involved in managing their health as well. In his research, he focuses on two groups: people with Parkinson’s disease and people with Type 1 Diabetes. ‘Especially for diabetics, there is a lot to gain in terms of acceptance. The progression speed of the illness largely depends on a person’s lifestyle. If we can delay the first complications by several years, that would be huge!’ Vincent believes that a healthier lifestyle can be accomplished by increasing awareness. ‘One option to do that would be to allow a patient to compare himself to others with a similar diagnosis and illness stage.’

Portable devices and wearables play a role in this, too. ‘For Parkinson patients, there are devices in development that can monitor tremors, medication adherence, and work-out intensity via home trainers. In this way, we can get additional and non-disputable outcomes on someone’s health and draft the best treatment plan accordingly.’

Personal growth, please

Next to doing a PhD research, Vincent works as a project manager at Medical Research Data Management. Furthermore, he is a hockey trainer, travels to exotic places to meet different cultures and plays music at reasonable level. ‘It’s all about how much time you want to invest, if you want to be good at something,’ Vincent elaborates. ‘I started playing tennis when I was only 3. I really enjoyed it and was determined to be good, so I spent every day of my summer holiday on the court.’ This determination goes hand in hand with excellent capabilities to relax, though. ‘My mother and girlfriend call me lazy sometimes,’ Vincent laughs.

Continuous development is important to the researcher. He believes travelling is a good way to do that: ‘I remember when I was in Burma at the time when it was still a closed country and long before the monks started to put themselves on fire in protest to the regime. It was a truly enriching experience to be in a remote temple with a local guide and to be able to freely discuss the oppressive situation in that country.’ But Vincent also stimulates development of others by being a hockey coach. ‘I get a lot of fulfilment when I see my hockey team grow. To get them motivated is something I really enjoy.’

Vincent is planning to finish his PhD three years from now.