The future of healthcare is not about being sick, Prof. Dr. Koen Kas believes. Having spent many years in life sciences in both research and as an entrepreneur, Koen now knows that getting and staying healthy isn’t about just developing medicines and med-tech: optimally, health requires a tincture of delight, Koen advises in his breakthrough, innovative book, Your Guide to Delight.

Healthcare must go beyond traditional user-centered design, Koen’s experience has shown, and aspire toward design-to-delight. The concept of “delight” in healthcare, such as we experience in hospitality, grocery stores, and entertainment, is elusive.

I’ve observed this, too, in my own work in retail health and consumer-facing healthcare and wellness projects, especially as patients in the U.S. increasaingly take on the role as payor and, thus, healthcare consumer. You can explore more about the role of experience for health consumers in this Health Populi post.

Koen believes that the healthcare industry can more effectively engage health citizens across the care continuum, from wellness and prevention through end-of-life care, with a dose of “delight.”

Koen, like me, is a fan of the visual arts: for the title and plotline of the Guide, Koen takes a cue from Hieronymous Bosch’s iconographic painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, shown here. Note the book cover’s digital health-tech personae of some of the myriad characters imagined in Bosch’s canvas.


See Adam wearing Google glasses and Eve next to a digital twin, health devices, remote health tech and skin-worn sensors. Koen’s vision is a health-future combining genomics and omics and data streaming from devices, married to traditionally-generated health metrics like lab tests and EKGs…mashed up for the purpose of highly personalized care that anticipates our risks for getting sick.

The delight is baked into the products, the services, the experiences.

A few months ago, I had a delightful opportunity to first meet Koen face-to-face in my town of Philadelphia, where we spent time exchanging perspectives on the evolving patient-as-consumer in the midst of an un-delightful healthcare system, whether in Europe or the USA.

Yesterday, I had the next delightful meet-up in person in Koen’s city of Antwerp, where we had a walking meeting yielding over 12,000 steps, according to my Fitbit Versa watch. On the walk, we exchanged ideas on people, technology, living a good life, and how to make healthcare better for patients and providers. Our conversation was inspired through the morning’s Antwerp tour as we visited two cathedrals; the port and Zaha Hadid’s truly delightful faceted-diamond-ship building in the harbor; a cafe near City Hall on a stone path street; public sculptures celebrating Antwerp’s most famous citizen, Peter Paul Rubens, and the folkloric hero Brabo; and, the botanical gardens planted with abundant herbs and wildflowers, over which a Microsoft innovation center looks.

Over our 12,000 steps, we discussed employers and worker health, breweries and health engagement, grocery stores and pharmacies, the power of lipstick and cosmetics for wellbeing, the benefit of pets and gardening for health, digital twins, genomics, prescription drugs and their limitations, self-care, the mother as caregiver, art and religion, our mutual love of great libraries, Big Data and the right data.

Having read Koen’s books and spending time with this digital health futurist thinker-doer-and-maker, I know that he is my personal Gardener of Health-Tech Delights.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Here’s a photo of Koen and me in the plaza in front of Hadid’s amazing building, which you can see from the photograph was ingeniously engineered to sit atop an existing, traditional harbor office.

As I reflect on Koen’s and my wide-ranging conversation, I realize Hadid’s creation synthesizes the very ingredients that Koen and I believe are crucial for reimagining healthcare for the better: build on what’s good and what’s already working well; bring the best science and engineering thinking to the question at hand; and of course, leverage clever and artful design for delighting the human experience.