Flemish Knowledge hub for primary care

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Four universities and six university colleges with one mission: the Primary Care Academy officially came into being on 24 October 2019 with a symposium in Brussels. In the near future this knowledge hub aims to prepare reference tools for use by teachers and professionals to create a strong primary care sector.

The Primary Care Academy has come into being thanks to support from the Dr. Daniël De Coninck Fund, which is providing 2.5 million euros over a five year period. The Academy started out as an interdisciplinary Chair and aims to strengthen primary care in Flanders. It is doing this by bringing research and education capacity together within the Academy’s platform and strengthening the sector itself through teaching and training, providing new tools, multistep plans and other products to serve as reference resources for professionals in primary care.

Adapting quickly

“Thanks to the expertise that this network has available, it can start rapidly and adapt quickly,” says Roy Remmen, Professor of General Practice at Antwerp University, who together with Dr. Emily Verté (VUB) leads the consortium of four universities (VUB, UA, UGent, KUL) and six university colleges (Ghent University College, Karel de Grote University College, Artevelde University College Ghent, Thomas More University, UCLL and VIVES). In addition to these research and teaching partners the Flemish Platform and the White-Yellow Cross are also partner organisations. “This allows us to respond quickly to new areas in primary care and offer products to strengthen them.”

The financial support provided by the Dr Daniël De Coninck Fund to the Primary Care Academy and its French counterpart Be.Hive is giving a tremendous boost to primary care in Flanders. “Bringing together the teaching and research capabilities across all disciplines is something unique in Belgium and it is quite rare even internationally, at least on this scale,” says Dr. Emily Verté.

Getting the message across

The Academy is focusing on three themes – goal-oriented care, self-management and interprofessional collaboration – which are the result of an intensive preliminary process involving all the stakeholders. “We discovered that there is a mismatch between supply and demand in primary care right now. Care is becoming more complex but people want to receive care at home for as long as possible How can we make sure that the services provided respond to that?” asks Verté.

Goal-oriented care starts from the patient’s life-goals; these serve as a basis for defining care goals and options. It is very important to have this conversation in primary care. “We want to get this across to education and professionals quickly,” says Roy Remmen. Not only are work packages being developed, but there are also plans to “train change agents who can disseminate the new methods among colleagues”.

When this is combined with good interprofessional collaboration and better self-management to allow patients to take responsibility for their own care, the result will be inclusive, person-oriented care. “This is for moderately complex problems, not extreme care situations, so you can still develop this and implement it in a neighbourhood yourself,” says Verté.


Each partner has their own specialist area, but the network brings together the various perspectives in inter-disciplinary research departments, each of which is led by one partner.  The teams are structured in a way that creates a balance: between university colleges and universities, between young and old, and amongst different areas of expertise. The six departments are: analysis of the gaps in the existing supply (Artevelde University College), evaluation and implementation of primary care interventions (VUB and UA), goal-oriented care (UGent), self-management (KUL), interprofessional collaboration (UA) and teaching and training (UCLL), with a research element and a teaching element to allow didactic research processes and tools to be developed.

This co-creation is essential, not only amongst academic partners but also with other stakeholders and with patients and informal family carers. “They have been systematically involved in the preliminary process and had structural input at every stage in the process. By closely involving all the stakeholders we can increase the likelihood of implementation. This can also help to recruit participants for the studies carried out by our Ph.D students.”

Paradigm shift

As Remmen has already indicated, the Academy wants to achieve results quickly. Verté: “After five years we want to have concrete tools that can be used in practice. We cannot bring about the cultural change required to introduce person-oriented care in every area of life in just five years. A paradigm shift like that takes a long time. We can, however, deliver concrete tools that we have tested in a pilot phase and which are ready for use.”

The Primary Care Academy officially came into being on 24 October 2019 at a symposium in Brussels. Remmen: “We received more than 200 registrations, from members of the network itself and from the government but also from people working in the field. We wanted to use the launch of this Chair to show the public who we are. Our Ph.D students explained the work packages and the Artevelde University College has already presented one research product. The Academy will be the preferred way of getting all these new products to where they are needed. ”

Initiative supported 2019-2023 ‘Chair of Primary Care’

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