Author profile picture

Four years ago, Chantal Linders, founder and CEO of the start-up GreenHabit, was still being politely shown the way out when she knocked on the door of hospitals and health insurance companies. Last year, she participated in an Innovation meets Hospital session hosted by Brainport and sat down with innovation managers from four major hospitals in the Dutch province of Brabant.

Chantal Linders, CEO en oprichter van GreenHabit
Chantal Linders, CEO en oprichter GreenHabit

There is a huge difference between then and now. “A few years ago, nobody was waiting to hear from us. They made it clear that it would be difficult to raise funding for an online intervention app. This was because we were still in the early stages, but also because start-ups in medical technology were less relevant at the time. That situation has now turned 180 degrees. Since corona, nothing is more important than our health.”


GreenHabit is an online intervention app that helps people to permanently change their lives through serious gaming and algorithms. Over a period of 12 weeks, participants go through a process in which they not only work on their physical health (exercise and nutrition) but also on their mental resilience (positive mindset, relaxation and forming a social safety net).

The way GreenHabit approaches health – not curatively, but preventatively – is new and often produces skeptical reactions at first. In recent years, Linders has collected enough data to be able to demonstrate that GreenHabit actually improves the quality of life. Of the 4,500 participants, 85 percent completed the course, compared to an average of 15 percent for the other four hundred thousand lifestyle apps.


More about GreenHabit

“Changing behavior is the hardest thing in the world to do. Our brain takes 66 days to learn new habits. At GreenHabit, we reprogram the brain in small steps until good intentions become a matter of course,” Linders explains.

The power of gamification, according to Linders, is that it makes change fun. “We write a story about someone who is going through the same things you and I are and what the choices that person made ultimately led to. Participants mirror themselves on that.” In psychology, this motivational technique is called ‘nudging’: people are subtly encouraged to behave in desirable ways.

Rehabilitation with GreenHabit

GreenHabit entered the market in 2019 as a prevention tool for employees in companies. It soon became apparent that the app was also achieving success with patients who had been discharged from hospitals. In pilots with heart patients at HearthLife clinics (2020) and with three care groups in the Brainport region (DOG, SGE and PoZoB, in 2021), 80 percent of participants completed the full course.

This is important, because in the Netherlands, 70 percent of ex-cardiology patients do not do anything in the way of cardiac rehabilitation, even though that is the advice of their cardiologists. Half of those 70 patients end up back in the hospital.  

Linders: “Because they don’t feel like it, because going to the gym is too high a bar for them, or because they simply don’t know how they can change things. When patients are allowed to go home, they often end up in social isolation. There is a gap between the care given in hospitals and to discharged patients, and that is where we come in.

In addition to a program for heart patients, GreenHabit also has a program for diabetes patients T2 (with the University of Barcelona), for women going through menopause (with HeartLife Klinieken) and for kidney patients (with UMCG Groningen).

Innovation meets Hospital

In the meantime, Linders has been working with a number of hospitals, although this has not been without setbacks. “Hospitals are huge, unwieldy organizations. As a small company, it’s hard to figure out where to start and how to make sure your idea gets to the right place.”

Mariëlle Sleumer, Business Developer at Brainport, notices that a lot of medtech start-ups run into this problem. “It is difficult for start-ups to find the right contacts in a hospital. Getting to grips with the purchasing process, knowing who is responsible for what, and who makes the decisions are all tricky matters. Another challenge that crops up is that medtech products can take five to 10 years to reach the market. That is substantially longer than for a software tool, for instance. On top of that, the whole financing structure around the healthcare system is also quite complicated.”

Mariëlle Sleumer, Business Developer bij Brainport.
Mariëlle Sleumer. Beeld: Bram Saeys

Brainport is working on establishing a community to support start-ups, as well as SMEs and large companies in the medtech sector, in dealing with these specific challenges. The goal is to raise the companies’ knowledge of the reimbursement scheme, the way hospitals work and the way hospitals handle innovation.

During the Innovation meets Hospital sessions, innovation managers from four major Dutch hospitals (Catharina Ziekenhuis Eindhoven, Maxima MC Eindhoven, Elkerliek Hospital and the St. Anna Hospital) engage in discussions with start-ups. During one of those sessions, Linders was allowed to pitch the idea behind GreenHabit. Linders: “We were given a serious podium and were able to talk to the four innovation managers of the hospitals within an informal context.”

Concrete challenges

Linders found the session itself to be still too general, as the pitches did not directly address problems or challenges that hospitals are facing. “Then all that information quickly fades into the background, because hospitals are, especially now, incredibly busy. When hospitals present concrete problems that start-ups can latch onto, then you can get more out of these sessions.”

Sleumer stresses that the sessions, as they are currently structured, are also intended to show start-ups how a hospital views a proposition and any potential pitfalls they may foresee. “So, it’s not the case that the pitches are irrelevant. But we can definitely get more out of them. Next year, for example, we are planning to issue challenges. Hospitals will present a problem and any start-up that think they can help solve that problem can apply to take up that challenge. By doing that, we’re going to see how we can make even more of an impact with the sessions.”

Click here to read our entire dossier on MedTech in Brabant.


This story is the result of a collaboration between Brainport Eindhoven and our editorial team. Innovation Origins is an independent journalism platform that carefully chooses its partners and only cooperates with companies and institutions that share our mission: spreading the story of innovation. This way we can offer our readers valuable stories that are created according to journalistic guidelines. Want to know more about how Innovation Origins works with other companies? Click here