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Patrick Vriens: achieving sensible care with better soft skills doctors and smart apps

Published: 27th January 2023 Last updated: 30th January 2023

Sensible care means giving the right care to the right patient at the right time. That can lead to very different decisions for different people in the same situation. It is important that doctors talk to their patients and make the decision together. In doing so, quality of life is the guiding principle and expectation management is the key to the conversation. Professor and surgeon Patrick Vriens elaborates on this topic in his inaugural speech on Feb. 3. Vriens was appointed associate professor of "Quality of Life in the Medical Setting" in the Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology at Tilburg University last year.

'Measuring patients' quality of life should be a priority for every healthcare worker. Taking a quality-of-life questionnaire should be as natural as taking a tube of blood,' argues Vriens. This can be done, for example, by installing an app, which asks a short question at different times of the day, immediately after unlocking the phone, and thus records experiences more representatively than the long questionnaires in the hospital.

In addition, current questionnaires often do not measure quality of life so much as a patient's health status and its effect on physical functioning. What should matter is how the patient assesses that health status. As it turns out, questions about health status and about quality of life are answered very differently. 

Fewer outpatient visits needed

Vriens also makes recommendations for the training of surgeons in the context of sensible care: "It is at least as important that we teach our assistants to perform operations on the right patient at the right time and sometimes to refrain from those operations and only offer a hand on their shoulder. This requires skills that are often called 'soft skills.' Vriens prefers to call these soft skills core competencies.

The apps can also help in aftercare: 'With artificial intelligence programs, in the future it will be possible to recognize any complications based on the data earlier. So we can contact those patients earlier than their scheduled standard outpatient visit. The aftercare through the app is already working in such a way that fewer people need to come to the consultation.

Prof. Dr. Patrick Vriens studied medicine at Leiden University and received his PhD from Leiden University and Stanford University. He is affiliated with the Department of Surgery Midden Brabant at the Elisabeth Tweesteden Hospital in Tilburg (ETZ) as a vascular surgeon, vascular surgeon and pediatric surgeon. Patrick Vriens conducts research and has published on Patient centered outcomes in peripheral arterial disease, innovations in endovascular aneurysm surgery, surgery for infected aneurysms, chronic pain after inguinal hernia surgery and on patient monitoring apps. Patrick Vriens is active as surgical educator and advanced vascular surgery educator at ETZ . He served on the board of the Dutch Society for Vascular Surgery and has been, among other things, chairman of the Central Training Committee at the hospital. 

More information
Prof. Patrick Vriens will hold his inaugural speech on Feb. 3 in the university's auditorium at 4:15 p.m., with livestream. His speech is titled: Quality of Life. Who determines that? For more information, please contact science editor Tineke Bennema, tel. 0134668998 or at