Welcome to the site of i-CHER/VUB.

The Interuniversity Centre for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) is a joint research group comprising of researchers at the University of Ghent and researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).


Coordinator of i-CHER



Prof Koen Putman

Koen Putman is associate professor and chair of the Interuniversity Centre for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He holds the following degrees: MSc in Physiotherapy and Motor rehabilitation (KULeuven, 1993), Specialised postgraduate degree in Neurorehabilitation (KULeuven, 1994), MSc in Social health Sciences (VUB, 1998) Postgraduate degree in Management (VUB, 1999), PhD in social Health Sciences (VUB, 2006) and an MSc in Health Technology Assessment (University of York, UK, 2017). He was a Fulbright Scholar and BAEF Fellow at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (Washington DC) and was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham and the University of Central Lancashire. End 2008, he became part of the faculty staff at the VUB. His areas of expertise are health services research, health economics and international comparative research.

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Academic Staff


Prof Lieven Annemans

Lieven Annemans is Senior Full Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and at Ghent University, Belgium, and is specialized in the economics of health and wellbeing. Main topics of interest are the economics of health promotion, health technology assessment, financial incentives to stimulate integrated care, and the study of all factors that can improve overall well-being. He is Past-President of ISPOR (International Society of PharmacoEconomics and Outcomes Research) and was previously advisor to the Belgian Minister of Health, as well as chairman of the Flemish health council. He received twice the Francqui Chair, a Belgian award for academic excellence. He is author or co-author of > 300 papers in peer reviewed journals and published four books on health economics, among which “health economics for non-economists” (Pelckmans Pro, 2018).









Eva Huysmans

Eva graduated in 2015 as a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In November 2015, Eva started working as a doctoral researcher at both the department of Public Health and the department of Physiotherapy, Human Physiology and Anatomy. She is working on the B²aSic project, which investigates the effect of perioperative pain neuroscience education in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Within this project Eva is working mainly on data concerning healthcare utilization and costs, return to work and pain cognitions. In 2018 Eva received a predoctoral research fellowship from the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). Eva is also a member from the Pain in Motion International Research Group. Next to her research work, Eva is working as a physiotherapist in the University Hospital where she treats patients with chronic pain.

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Carl Ilunga

Carl obtained a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology in 2020 at the University of Antwerp (UA). In that same year he joined I-CHER to conduct doctoral research. The focus of his project (BRILIANT) lies on the improvement of the quality of care of pediatric patients who suffered from a traumatic brain injury, by observing their care trajectories post-trauma. Carl also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the Erasmushogeschool Brussel (EhB) since 2014. Through his work as a nurse (in a rehabilitation centre particularly) he gained precious bedside experience.

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Eva Kimpe

Eva obtained her bachelor’s degree in ‘Nutrition & Dietetics’ in 2011. After combining her full time job as clinical dietician with her master studies, she graduated as MSc in ‘Health Care Management & Policy’ in 2018. In April 2019 she started working at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. After gaining experience in the field of qualitative health care research, Eva joined I-CHER since January 2020 as junior researcher and teaching assistant. Her current research is focused on societal and health economic evaluation of current and new radiotherapeutic treatment strategies for breast cancer.

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Emilie Muysewinkel

After her degree in Midwifery and Health Care Management and Policy, Emilie was looking for a new challenge. Because of her strong interest in applied research in public health, she started working in our research department at the VUB. Since October 2019, she is involved in a research programme on ‘the societal benefit of markerless stereotactic body radiotherapy’. Her current focus lays on answering management questions considering new and improved health care technology in radiotherapeutic treatment through the method of Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing.

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Masja Schmidt

Masja Schmidt joined the Interuniversity Center for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) in April 2017. She carries out her doctoral research within the Health Economic Evaluations of Prevention Policies in FLanders (HELPPFL)- project, commissioned by the Flemish Agency for Care and Health. Research topics include the cost-effectiveness of preventing falls in older people, mental health promotion and prevention for young people, and newborn screening for cystic fibrosis. Masja holds a degree in Biomedical Sciences (University of Groningen, 2014), and obtained a MSc in European Public Health (Maastricht University, 2016).

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Wouter Van Bogaert

Wouter obtained both a Master of Science degree in Physical Education and Kinesiology and a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy at the KULeuven. Since October 2018, he is working as a pre-doctoral researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on the B²aSic-project, which focusses on the perioperative pain neuroscience education in patients with lumbar radiculopathy scheduled for surgery. His primary research interests include health-related quality of life, as well as its associations with pain and pain cognitions.

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Helena Van Deynse

After graduating as a master in Healthcare Management and Policy at the University of Ghent, Helena joined the Interuniversity Center for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) in 2017 as a doctoral researcher. Within the REKOVER project, she studied costs associated with transport-related traumatic brain injury. In 2019, she obtained a fellowship from the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), thereby shifting her research focus towards predictive modelling of employment outcomes after traumatic brain injury (REBRAIN project).   

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Amber Werbrouck

Amber obtained a MSc degree in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy in Neurological Disorders in 2015 at KU Leuven. Together with Masja Schmidt, also member of I-CHER, Amber carries out doctoral research on health economic evaluations of preventive health policy, commissioned by the Flemish Agency for Care and Health (Vlaams Agentschap Zorg en Gezondheid). Within this project, Amber took the lead in topics such as diabetes prevention in women with prior gestational diabetes, oral care in institutionalized elderly, and exercise referral programs for insufficiently active people. In 2019, Amber started as a teaching assistant of prof. dr. Koen Putman, for the course of health economics in MSc in Management and Policy in Healthcare, and MSc in Management and Policy in Gerontology, both at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

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Administrative support



Tom Janssen

Tom Janssen is head of the administrative support and management assistent. He is responsible for the administrative and logistical support of the research groups.

Iris Van Opstal

Iris Van Opstal is management assistent whitin the central secretariat of Building K. She is responsible for the administrative and logistical support of the research groups. 

Petra Van den Borre

Petra Van den Borre is management assistent whitin the central secretariat of Building K. She is responsible for the administrative and logistical support of the research groups. 





Former Team Members



Nick Verhaeghe

Nick was a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Public Health of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). In 2005, he obtained a MSc in ‘Health Care Management and Policy’ and in 2013 a PhD in Social Health Sciences. He has been involved in several research projects in the domain of health economic evaluations (e.g. cost-effectiveness of health promotion in mental health care; health and economic consequences of a BMI decrease in the overweight and obese population in Belgium), research projects on the financing and organization of health care for several patient populations (e.g. financing of youth mental health care, financial incentives and innovative financing mechanisms for integrated care), and research projects evaluating the economic impact of diseases to society (e.g. Social costs of addictive substances in Belgium). 

Griet Van Belleghem

With her degrees in nursing, health promotion and statistical data analysis Griet has a strong interest in applied research in public health. Griet started working in our research department in February 2014 and obtained an IWT-grant. Between 2015 and 2018 she was working on her PhD concerning care prediction after a road traffic accident, which she defended in March 2019. Her focus was on predicting health care utilization with a focus on rehabilitation and pain after road traffic injuries.

Maaike Fobelets

Maaike obtained a bachelor midwifery (2007) and a master in nursing and midwifery (2010). As a PhD-researcher; she focused on health economic questions in women’s health. Her main research activities were related to the European project OptiBIRTH. OptiBIRTH is an innovative programme to encourage VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) based on different evidence based strategies. Her PhD defene took place in November 2018.

Alexis Valenzuela

With his background in economics (Solvay Business School at the VUB), Alexis developed an interest in the valorisation of research. He coordinated the PreSSUB-research project, resulting in the development of in-ambulance telemedicine solutions for acute stroke patients. The project led to the creation of an academic spin-off company: Zebra Academy. During his time at I-CHER, he was coordinating the OPTIMUS-consortium, which aims to further leverage telemedicine for the improvement of stroke care, both in the acute and chronic phases. He did a PhD in health economics (Promotores: Prof. Putman Koen & Prof. Dr. Brouns Raf), creating models to calculate the cost-effectiveness of the developed telemedicine solutions within the OPTIMUS-consortium. He defended his PhD in September 2018.





Current projects



Health-economic evaluations of prevention policies in Flanders.

Public health professionals are increasingly confronted with rising healthcare costs, constrained budgets and shrinking funds. By comparing expected health gains and implementation costs, economic evaluations can help to explicate which potential investments could be made to optimize the health and wellbeing of the population within the available budget.

The ‘health economic evaluations of preventive healthcare’  - project (preliminary project title) focuses on the cost-effectiveness of different preventive strategies in the Flanders community and region of Belgium. Using both systematic literature reviews and decision analytic modelling techniques we will investigate which specific preventive strategies are most cost-effective and should receive priority in health policy development. The four-year research project is funded by the Flemish Agency for Care and Health (Vlaams Agentschap voor Zorg en Gezondheid) and carried out at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in conjunction with the Universiteit Gent and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Contact persons of the project: Masja Schmidt - Amber Werbrouck


Cost-effectiveness of interventions preventing falls: systematic review protocol (Dutch)


The B²aSic project is a randomized controlled trial investigating perioperative back school and brain school (pain neuroscience education) in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Patients are recruited from three Flemish hospitals, one tertiary and two secondary care hospitals. Main outcome measures are pain and endogenous pain inhibition. Secondary outcome measures comprise healthcare utilization and related costs, return to work, surgical experience and pain cognitions.

Within this project researchers of I-CHER aim to provide an overview of the inhospital healthcare utilization and costs of patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Furthermore, they will investigate the treatment effects on healthcare expenditure and return to work, and the influence of pain cognitions on these variables.

The B²aSic project is funded by the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) – Applied Biomedical Research Program (TBM), Belgium.

Contact persons of the project: Eva Huysmans - Wouter Van Bogaert


The REBRAIN project aims to make accurate predictions about the probability of different employment outcomes, one year after traumatic brain injury. As prospective data collection is very resource intensive, it should be assessed whether routinely collected data can be used for the creation of personalized predictions. This project applies recent data science techniques to create a prediction model using big data on hospital stay, healthcare utilization and employment, which are linked at an individual level. Additional data collection with an extended item set enables the evaluation of the added value of prospective data as opposed to routinely collected data. The predictions resulting from this research can be applied to inform patients, but also clinicians and policymakers on how to optimize current practices regarding the trajectory towards reinstatement. REBRAIN is funded by the Flemish Research Foundation (FWO) and the Fund BENEVERMEDEX (managed by the King Baudouin Foundation).   

Contact person of the project: Helena Van Deynse


The BRILIANT project uses a large set of administrative big data to overcome the problem of sample size that causes the lack of research on pediatric traumatic brain injury. Thereby, unexplained variability in care trajectories can be addressed in order to improve quality of care for this population. This project describes the population of brain injured children with epidemiological data. BRILIANT aims to capture care trajectories in statistical models and predict them based on patient and injury characteristics. Furthermore, it utilizes a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to identify modifiable barriers and facilitators to have access to adequate care services. Thus, actions points on health policy for the assessment and improvement of quality of care can be identified. BRILIANT holds the financial support of the Fund Jeanne & Alice Van de Voorde (managed by the King Baudouin Foundation).



The societal benefit of markerless stereotactic body radiotherapy-project allows a collaboration between various research domains, such as radiotherapy, radiology, biostatistics and health economics. Primarily, the focus will be set on new and improved approaches in radiotherapeutic treatment.

The role of I-CHER in this project is to foster value-based health care and researching the impact on hospitals and society in general. Within this project, a Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing (TDABC) approach based on the model of Kaplan and Anderson will be applied in order to achieve a deeper understanding of the cost of care delivery and cost control. Furthermore, a socio-economic evaluation will be executed, accounting for the costs and benefits for health service providers as well as an analysis where the societal perspective is adopted.

Contact persons of the project: Emilie MuysewinkelEva Kimpe





Past projects



The REKOVER-project focused on the registration and societal costs of traffic accidents. The project was carried out at I-CHER in cooperation with the Belgian Road Safety Institute (BRSI). The aim of I-CHER in the project was to investigate the societal cost of injuries obtained from a road traffic injury and to focus on health service use after a road traffic injury.

Cancer screening

Health economic evaluation of screening programmes of breast-, colorectal- and cervical cancer including a systematic review and health economic modelling of screening programmes. (Flemish Agency for Care and Health, Partner:UGent)


Health economic evaluation of the European 'OptiBIRTH' project was an innovative programme to increase VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean section) using evidence based prenatal strategies, including a health economic evaluation, international comparisons of health related quality of life, healthcare utilisation, and perinatal care in general. (7th Framework programme www.optibirth.eu) (partners: Trinity College Dublin, University of Gothenburg, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, University of Ulster, Queen's University Belfast, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, National University of Ireland Galway, UniversitĂ  degli Studi di Genova, Wetenschappelijk Fonds Willy Gepts UZ Brussel - VUB).


Our mission was to generate new knowledge that leads to the optimization of stroke care in the most cost-effective way. OPTIMUS focused on three main pillars of fundamental research: (1) develop new diagnostic and therapeutic methods for pre-and in-hospital acute stroke care, (2) develop new approaches to enhance patient empowerment and medication safety in secondary prevention and (3) develop accurate models to predict stroke outcome. Additionally, (4) objective quantification of the added value of the novel diagnostic (1), therapeutic (1 and 2) and prognostic (3) approaches incorporated in OPTIMUS were obtained using health economic evaluation and Comparative Effectiveness Research analyses of novel care trajectories after stroke.

Administrative support
Tom Janssen

Phone number
+32 (0)2 477 47 20