Patient Engagement

MSD supports the non-profit organization “Patient Empowerment”, led by Prof. Eeckman

December 31, 2022

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A person who falls ill loses their autonomy and independence. This can give rise to anger and frustration and even make the patient sicker. So, it is important not only to give the care recipient the best care but also to maintain, restore or even reinforce their sense of autonomy.

This is done through the way in which everyone involved in care communicates and interacts with the patient. In doing so, this also transcends the interpersonal relationship between the care recipient and care provider.

For example, at the reception desk in a hospital the patient may feel they are the passive recipient of treatment they must undergo. The complex bureaucracy of the healthcare system can also evoke this feeling. Respecting a sick person’s sense of autonomy therefore takes place on several levels and can only be successful if we all strive for and contribute to it together. ‘Together’ is therefore also a keyword within the daily functioning of the non-profit organization Patient Empowerment, of which Prof. Eeckman is the co-founder and current chairman.

Sustainability of the Patient Empowerment organization

“Without grant funding, Patient Empowerment cannot implement projects. The non-profit organization is looking for sustainable funding to help it run as efficiently as possible.

The partnership with MSD is essential. Moreover, MSD is a highly committed partner, which we greatly appreciate. Both organizations are working towards the same goal. After all, this is about a person’s well-being at perhaps the most vulnerable time in their life, namely when their health and sometimes their entire existence is threatened.”

Edgard Eeckman (Chairman)

Patient Empowerment is a high priority for MSD and PE. What does Patient Empowerment mean exactly?

Patient Empowerment is the process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions affecting their health. The patient should be given the possibility of being in control of their own care process. The ultimate goal is for a patient to be well informed about what is happening to them, what can be done about their disease, the potential advantages and disadvantages of each treatment and as such, to be in a position to make a conscious decision in favor of a specific treatment and to consider this feasible. This results in a person who is sick being closely involved in what is happening to them during their personal treatment. They are as convinced of the importance of the treatment as the doctor. After all, they must both make decisions together. Once again, the word “together” pops up.

“Together we know so much more!” – MSD participated in the Patient Empowerment Symposium & campaign

This symposium kicked off the patient empowerment campaign: “You have more to tell to each other than you think.” How easy or difficult is it to bring these different parties (doctor, patient, hospital, company) together and get them to listen to each other?

Care recipients need caregivers, so dependence is inherent in this relationship. However, through communication, we can try to reduce the uncomfortable and unwanted feeling of dependency to the bare minimum. For this to succeed, it is important that they understand each other, and understanding begins with listening.

A caregiver such as a doctor must obviously listen to a care recipient because doctors are experts with valuable knowledge and experience. But healthcare providers must also listen to the patient. After all, it is not because something is possible from a medical perspective that a patient is also in favor of it. Patients may feel that the side effects are too great, that they must compromise too much on their values.

In the end stage of life this is obvious: if your life is about to end, does it still make sense to undergo a further surgical procedure? The surgeon may be able to justify this on medical grounds, but ultimately it is up to the patient to decide whether they still consider it worthwhile. That principle should apply throughout the entire healthcare system.

By the way, I believe that the patient should not be a partner in their care process, but the owner of it. My view is that the user should be the co-owner of the care system and should also have a say. The care recipient, care provider, and care organization share control and responsibility, and this should always involve mutual respect. To me, the care recipient is not just a “client” who can place an order, they also have a shared responsibility and duties.

Edgard Eeckman (Chairman – Patient Empowerment VZW)

All these aspects are covered in the associated campaign which started on October 26 with posters, social media posts, and videos with tips.

“Patient Empowerment for Healthcare Providers”1 Practice Book, Prof. E. Eeckman

The concept of Patient Empowerment entails communication as a means, not an end, that puts the care recipient in the driver’s seat. Some patients will naturally be empowered, some do not wish to be (and are free to choose), and others wish to be, but cannot. After all, a third of the Belgian population (aged 15 and over) has a low level of health literacy and this is why we need to support these people. How healthcare providers can empower patients is the topic of a new publication, the “Patient Empowerment for Healthcare Providers Practice Book,” published by Politeia. This book is packed with concrete tips. Ultimately, empowering the care recipient involves 1001 minor behavioral elements.

The book puts into practice the insights from Eeckman’s first book, ‘Balancing between power and powerlessness, Patient Empowerment as a basis for equivalence in the patient-doctor relationship’ (Politeia). It is based on his doctoral research (Communication Sciences VUB [University of Brussels]) and explains the concept of Patient Empowerment in an accessible way.

More information and details for how to order can be found here (Publicaties – Patient Empowerment)

[1] Dutch version only

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Patient Engagement at MSD BeLux

At MSD we strongly believe the risk of not engaging patients and their carers is much higher than the risk of engaging them. For too long we have developed medical solutions without the input and views of our ultimate customer, the person living with, or caring for a person with a life-impacting medical condition.

How we do this you may ask?

  • We aim at embedding the patient perspective in all cross-functional team plans and by doing so, we make it part of our company DNA. Are we there yet? Definitely not, but with the help of our patient partners we are getting there.
  • We have developed our own local patient involvement guidances and tools, safeguarding ethical and compliant conversations, with respect for local regulations and practice.
  • A pan-tumor oncology patient panel is advising MSD Belgium on a regular basis, allowing systematic patient input and ideation in projects of common interest.
  • We closely work with patients, caregivers and organisations to capture patients’ experiences, perspectives, needs, and priorities to inform MSD’s strategic decision-making and with the ultimate goal to improve the patient experience and outcome.
  • We partner with patient experts and organisations to advocate for policies that support patient access to innovative treatments.

As we expand beyond our traditional stakeholders with whom we engage and amplify engagement with patient stakeholders, it will be increasingly important to engage early, in full transparency with our partners and with regular feedback loops allowing us to learn, adjust and improve. This way of working will enable us to build stronger, short- and long-term relationships that are rooted in mutual trust and are in the best interest of patients.

Danielle Derijcke
Patient Engagement Manager, MSD BeLux

Our People

Meet our leaders at MSD BeLux: Thomas Mourait, Vaccines & Primary Care Business Unit Lead

November 4, 2022

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We are starting a series of articles where we would like you to meet our leaders at MSD BeLux. Get to know what drives them in their roles, what it is like to lead at MSD BeLux, and how it is like to be part of a company with such a significant impact in the world.

How to achieve work-life balance while leading a team?

People managers have a responsibility to carefully watch over the work-life boundaries of their team. By giving a clear direction and purpose – mission life – which means a filter to help them prioritise their work and capacity in order to keep a good balance.

My role to help my team to achieve a work-life balance

I empower my team members to make the decisions on managing their agendas according to their family life and personal obligation. When you achieve a good balance, this allows you to be serene, have no external stress, and as a result, be more efficient to perform at the office with your colleagues. When I see that they are working too late or too early, I am being careful of these indicators to remind them.

Parental Leave

MSD provides paid parental leave to ALL parents irrespective of gender or family type. As a young dad of an almost one year old boy and a new-born baby-girl, I am taking time off again to spend quality time with my family.

“It is important to be with my baby from the beginning and share moments together. When I did it for Arthur, I really felt a change in the connection and how we interacted at the time and now I do not want to do anything different with my daughter.”

“The New Man”

Today we often speak about the “New Man”, a man who rejects sexist attitudes and the traditional male role, especially in the context of domestic responsibilities and childcare.

I have been raised in a family where we do everything together and, as a team, we can achieve anything. It is very important to me to do the same thing. We are a family and a team together. So everything needs to have a balance and be shared together. This allows us to reduce the pressure on both personal and professional aspects, and spend some quality time together as a family, and keep the energy high :-).

We will continue the series with more interesting stories from our top leaders. Stay close!

Our People

Meet our leaders at MSD BeLux: Brecht Vanneste, Managing Director at MSD BeLux

November 4, 2022

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We are starting a series of articles where we would like you to meet our leaders at MSD BeLux. Get to know what drives them in their roles, what it is like to lead at MSD BeLux, and how it is like to be part of a company with such a significant impact in the world.

Proud to lead a R&D driven bio-pharmaceutical company

MSD is at the forefront in the industry regarding R&D funding as each year, we spend around 25% of our top line in research and development [1]. The more patients we can treat every year, the more we are able to reinvest in new therapies and cures. MSD’s vision is not centered around very specific disease areas while excluding others. We do have a very significant experience and focus on oncology, vaccines, and infectious diseases but if there is an opportunity to be first or best in class in disease areas with high unmet need, MSD will decide to invest and investigate further with the hope of saving and improving lives of many patients.


My Leadership style: both participative and transformational

I value different opinions and thoughts. Leadership team decisions are very often based on an open debate, where everyone can contribute and hopefully feels heard. I embrace change and appreciate to challenge the status quo.

Through my career I learned that teams and organizations perform better and make better decisions when team members are not the same and can have very different opinions and ideas. This leads to sometimes intense discussions and debate when making high-stake decisions and while this tension is not always easy to manage, it clearly leads to better outcomes. This is also how we work on Inclusion, as allowing everyone to have a voice is the key in the growth of our company.

As you know, D&I is much more than gender, age, or nationality. It speaks also to backgrounds, education, and culture and the more diverse the teams are, the better we will perform as an organization. So, it is a true pleasure for me to see several colleagues at MSD BeLux grow and learn every day and have the potential to become excellent leaders who will help us in the future.

What is driving me each morning?

I feel a great sense of responsibility and pride to be able to contribute to MSD BeLux’ mission of saving and improving lives of so many people in Belgium & Luxembourg. Helping more patients and physicians (health care professionals) to get access and understand the benefits of our innovations is not easy; it requires a joint effort from many colleagues, day in and day out.

Seeing this mission come alive at MSD, through the activities of all our colleagues, is very rewarding and it therefore does not feel as a job, but more as a mission to help advance healthcare in these countries which we serve.

I don’t think we need to convince employees on the importance of the work we do, all of them know what our mission is and would easily repeat what our founder George W. Merck said several decades ago: “We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that they have never failed to appear.”

We will continue the series with more interesting stories from our top leaders. Stay close!


Cliniclowns bring resilience and lightness for children in need

November 4, 2022

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Cliniclowns Logo

“Cliniclowns” visit sick or disabled children in hospitals and offer them a moment of joy. Cliniclowns put these children into the center of everything they do. Therefore, they deserve MSD Belux’s attention and support.

Cliniclowns Belgium has been sending professional clowns to sick and/or disabled children for over twenty years to give them comfort and offer them some distraction and fun.

Being sick is not pleasant, being very sick is unfair, being very sick and having to stay in the hospital is hard for everyone who goes through this, but even more so for a child.

MSD Belux take these hospital helpers or Cliniclowns seriously and really appreciate their job. Cliniclowns prove that laughter is the best medicine.

Making patients laugh is not simple, but good humor is needed now, more than ever. With a dedicated grant, MSD Belux helps Cliniclowns to visit even more children in hospitals and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of young patients!

“The support that Cliniclowns Belgium received from MSD Belux enables us to organize a Cliniclowns’ visit to no less than 200 children. We are extremely grateful that consequently, the clinic clowns can bring some relief to the patients themselves, but also to the parents who are very grateful with this extra boost for their child. In this way, these clowns’ visits achieve their goal!”

Valérie Van Gastel
General Director Cliniclowns Belgium


Launch of Coalition Next in Belgium

November 4, 2022

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Coalition Next was first founded in 2020 in France by Digital Pharma Lab in the context of the Corona pandemic. It is a coalition of pharmaceutical industries, patient organizations, and healthcare organizations, that launches once or twice a year, a call for projects for start-ups in digital health and medical devices to meet the pre-identified needs of these organizations.

As the methodology has proven its success in France with more than 30 projects supported, in more than 50 healthcare institutions, for an amount of nearly €4.5m, concerning 20,000 patients, Coalition Next Belgium was launched in March 2020. MSD Belgium is one of the founding members and Azèle Mathieu, Innovation Lead, is its President for 2022. The Vice President is Dieter De Court, Innovation Manager at UZ Brussel.

Every week, Coalition Next Belgium gathers together its different members (note that any organization active in healthcare can still join CNB) who are convinced that together it is possible to co-create our future healthcare system by implementing digital solutions to address the main challenges of the Belgian healthcare system. Concretely, the pharmaceutical companies commit to finance the implementation of the start-up’s solution in the hospital if the project makes sense to them. This offers an excellent opportunity for healthcare organizations to benefit from expertise in selecting innovative projects and financial support for the implementation of the selected solution.

The following organizations are currently members of Coalition Next Belgium:

  • AZ Delta
  • AZ Groeninge
  • AZ Maria Middelares
  • AZ Sint Maarten
  • AZ Voorkempen
  • Brugman UHC
  • Cliniques de l’Europe
  • Eli Lilly
  • I-Mens
  • Imec.istart
  • Ipsen
  • Jules Bordet Institute
  • MSD Belgium
  • Novartis Belux
  • Roche Diagnostics
  • Roche Pharmaceuticals
  • Shared Patient Experience (SPX)
  • Takeda
  • UZ Brussels

The first call for projects shall be launched in September 2022.

For more details, please visit: Coalition Next Belgium

Health Literacy

MSD invests in health literacy with

July 12, 2022

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Health literacy, or a better understanding of their illness, is invaluable to the quality of life of cancer patients. Freya Rowaert knows this all very well too. She is 44 and has been living with cancer for 20 years. And she has been working for MSD for just as long. We are proud that, together with Freya, we were able to launch the brand-new information platform Clear view on Cancer. This is how we contribute to a world; with a better understanding of cancer for those who must live with it.

Inform, inspire and support

With Clear view on Cancer, we want to inform, inspire, and support cancer patients and their loved ones, by providing clear information about the disease and how to deal with it. By giving the right information and making cancer a subject of discussion, we want to increase patients’ knowledge of their illness. In this way they learn to better understand their disease and can better communicate with their caregivers and their environment.

On Klare kijk op Kanker, Freya Rowaert herself is the guide for cancer patients and their environment. She has been dreaming for a while of offering patients and their families, some clear information: “With Clear view on Cancer I want to give others what I often missed myself: clear, accessible information, from patient to patient.” She also wants to offer moral support and to relieve stress and uncertainty. First and foremost, by sharing her own experiences: “By sharing what I have learned along the way, I hope to inspire others on how to deal with their diagnosis and their illness. Knowing where you stand, can save you a lot of uncertainty and stress.”

Vocabulary and videos

The content on Clear view on Cancer is twofold. Visitors find a concise glossary of cancer jargon, which is clearly and briefly explained. In addition, Freya and various ambassadors share their knowledge and experiences with visitors via short theme videos.

Recently, science watcher and former cancer researcher Hetty Helsmoortel strengthened the Freya team. Together they worked out a dozen new videos, including how does cancer arise, what causes cancer, is cancer hereditary, and what is a biopsy?

And the platform is constantly being supplemented with new vocabulary and more stories from different ambassadors: other patients with their own stories, as well as scientists, people from the field and doctors. In this way, Clear View on Cancer will continue to grow and create more and more clarity in the complex world in which cancer patients suddenly find themselves after their diagnosis.

View the platform at

Health Awareness

Results from the MSD’s #CancerScreening Barometer 2021


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The MSD #CancerScreening Barometer is a survey that reflects the knowledge and attitude of the Belgian population towards cancer screening.

Cancer screening is an important factor that positively impacts disease outcome, unfortunately, the survey shows that 6 out of 10 Belgians have the feeling they lack information on screening.

Belgium is at the European top regarding breast cancer screening

But 78% of surveyed women weren’t aware of the recommended screening age of 50, and 25% of those above 55 years old have never had mammography.

Other cancers have even worse numbers, where 46% of men above 50 have never done a colon cancer screening and even 66% of them for prostate cancer.

1/3 of the respondents find cancer screening a painful and scary experience, but it saves lives.

Cancer screening is not a fun experience, 1/3 of the respondents find it a painful and scary experience, but it saves lives.

78% of the respondents also think we have a huge gap to fill in terms of cancer diagnosis due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has already been confirmed by the medical community.

Let’s work together on creating more awareness on screening and screening programs to help improve disease outcomes in Belgium.

Download the infographic in FR and NL.

Health Awareness

Finding yourself after surviving head and neck cancer


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Head and neck cancer will impact not only someone’s health, but also someone’s sense of self. Paolo Berti survived head and neck cancer caused by the papillomavirus. In two years time, three tumors had to be removed. For the first tumor they used chemoradiotherapy, for the second a lymph node dissection and for the third tumor he had to undergo robotic surgery. Paolo shares his story about the way the disease has changed his life.

Something we need to talk about

It is pretty well known that the papillomavirus can cause severe diseases such as cervical cancer. It is less well known that it can also seriously affect men and cause diseases such as head and neck cancer.

“When you receive the diagnosis, you can’t help but ask yourself ‘why me?’. You don’t understand why this is happening to you. Being a non-smoker and a non-drinker, it took the doctors more than a year to determine that the disease was caused by the papillomavirus. That’s why it’s very important to me to talk about the ways in which this virus can affect men.”

Rebuilding life as a cancer survivor

The treatment of the head and neck cancer had a big effect on the way Paolo speaks. It is more difficult to understand him, which impacts both his personal and his professional relations.

“I was a salesman, I was often on the road. It was easy for me to talk to people. I was a communicative person. But now, unfortunately, communicating is not easy for me. My speech is not very clear, I am not easy to understand. Sometimes this can hold me back.

My friends and family know me, so it’s not an issue for them, but it’s hard when you have to ask for information on the phone or when you have to present yourself for work. Those moments are very difficult.

Accepting what happened

After the diagnosis and the treatment, Paolo was left feeling unhinged. The life he had known before was gone. He had to rediscover who he was and what was important to him.

“The most difficult part is accepting what happened and to find a new drive. Both physically and mentally, the recovery was very difficult. I lost 22 kg and had to rebuild a lot of muscle mass. And I had some trouble mentally, because many of the things that I did before are now no longer possible. Everything that you worked for the past 48 years, your studies, your career … just like that it’s gone.

You have to find yourself again. At the beginning it was very hard. But I have adopted two dogs and I often go on walks with them. Slowly, I am finding myself again. It was hard at first, but now I can manage.

Confucius once said: ‘you only have two lives and the second one begins once you realize that you only have one.’ To me, this means that you really have to enjoy every moment, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.”