In the view of many doctors and nurses, remote guidance is still seen as a thing of the future. However, the Dutch Slingeland Hospital, which is a part of Santiz, has been guiding chronically ill patients from a distance for years. Luscii spoke with Malou Peppelman, a program manager of innovation at Santiz. Who is Malou? What is her role? And why has her hospital soared so far forward in terms of experience?
Some children dream of becoming a firefighter. Yet, you thought: ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be an innovation manager’?
‘Ha ha, no. After my pre-university education, I had various interests. Healthcare appealed to me a lot, but I also liked maths and technology. That’s why I opted for technical medicine. After graduating, I obtained my PhD in Nijmegen on non-invasive techniques for skin disorders. As a postdoc, I then worked for a while at the Radboud Hospital. Working closely with healthcare practice, collaborating with companies, and implementing innovative technology; it was useful, fascinating and educational. Afterwards, I wanted to broaden my horizons. I had management ambitions, but I also longed to be involved with innovation in healthcare. I got talking with Santiz hospitals. They were in the process of setting up an innovation structure in Doetinchem (Slingeland Hospital) and Winterswijk (Queen Beatrix Regional Hospital), and saw a great role for me to play in the process. That’s how I became an innovation manager’.
And what exactly are you doing now?
‘I have a connecting and a facilitating role. Whenever doctors or nurses are faced with obstacles, I put them in contact with the right person to arrange a solution. That can be internal, but also external. For example, the medical service centre NAAST undertakes the first triage of the patients we guide remotely. And Luscii provides the digital technology. In the region, we are working with a pilot for a personal health environment (PHE). That is a website or an app, through which you can actively get started with your health and well-being. You can manage medical data, but can also share the information with, for example, the doctor or district nurse. As far as that is concerned, it is important for me to have a good network. In addition, I have a more strategic role. I initiate and lead various projects and am chairwoman of the innovation steering committee within Santiz’.
You are quite far ahead when it comes to digital innovations. Is it difficult to keep healthcare professionals connected?
‘A technical innovation is never implemented just like that. There is an idea behind it. It has to be the solution to a bottleneck. For example, we don’t use telemonitoring for the fun of it: it is there to benefit the well-being of the patient. The complications do not lie in the technology, but in the alteration of work processes. That is often the biggest challenge. It begins with explaining effectively why change is needed and then facilitating in helping others take the first step. Initially, we try to get the enthusiasts involved. They are then in the best position to get their colleagues on board. Here, a vast network is important, too. After all, I have to know who the enthusiasts are’.
How do we keep healthcare future-proof?
‘We are struggling with an aging population in the Achterhoek. This causes pressure on the system from two sides. Together with our partners, we are looking for local solutions. But for that, decompartmentalisation is necessary. Administration wise, we are now on the right track with the PHE. But at a financial level, every organisation still has to stand on its own two feet. Here too, solutions are sought based on solid regional cooperation. Steps are also needed at capacity level. If an alarm from a patient arrives at the service centre, the nearest district nurse must be able to get there. Whether he or she is from organisation A or organisation B should not really matter. After all, together we have to organise healthcare in the region as efficiently as possible’.
That pressure on the region, with the aging population: does that explain your head start when it comes to innovation?
‘Santiz has anticipated the challenges of the future at an early stage. And the fact that the pressure has rapidly increased has certainly helped. We have the ambition to make healthcare more sustainable and bring it closer to home. We achieve this by making healthcare proactive instead of reactive, and we use various digital and technological solutions in order to fulfil our goal. The right care, in the right place, from the right caregiver is subsequently an important principle. Those who really need to be in the hospital are very welcome. If it is not a necessity, then we organise care outside the hospital, for example, with telemonitoring. We invest in self-control for patients and look closely at the qualities of our employees. The direction for remote guidance, for example, lies with nursing specialists. They are well equipped for this and thus create space for cardiologists and pulmonologists to dive deeper into their own medical specialisms. Everyone should be able to be at their very best’.