Last week, it was officially the week of healthcare and well-being in the Netherlands. The conference Zorg en ICT 2019 and the Health Valley Event 2019 were both dedicated to the challenges in healthcare, now and in the near future. My wife Inge was at the first conference, and I was at the second. Inge enthusiastically told me the story of Randall Moore who managed to reduce the number of hospital visits significantly in the USA, through digitisation of healthcare (the virtual hospital). An example of an ambitious and creative physician who implemented a transformation in practice.

At the Health Valley Event, I myself was impressed by a similar story of the Dutch physician Sabine Pinedo who set up Vital10 together with her husband. This is an initiative to use measurements, e-Health and gaming, in order to make everyone much more aware of the role of preventive healthcare. In the same opening session of the Congress, I found it shocking that when Dolf Jansen asked Minister Hugo de Jonge why VAT on fruit and vegetables had been increased, the minister replied: “We have compensated this through income tax”. While in his speech, the minister talked a lot about prevention and stressed that, together with e-health and the digital transformation, prevention is the only way to keep good care in the Netherlands affordable in the long term. In that light, it seems to me that it would be wiser to go for 0% VAT on fruit and vegetables!

“Ethicists and technical philosophers should stand alongside the engineers and care professionals to supervise the processes.”

In another session, the discussion was about the role of ethics and engineering in healthcare. Imagine participating in a trial with care and community robots in your care facility with mentally handicapped people, such as the Paro seal. And that after three weeks as researchers you decide that the trial is over and that the robots should be handed in. And what if your clients have emotionally connected with those robots? Can you then remove them? In retrospect, has the trial been ethically responsible? My colleague Peter-Paul Verbeek of the UTwente argued that the ethicists and technical philosophers should stand alongside the engineers and care professionals to supervise the processes. Technology is developing so fast and is too variable to only share your reflections beforehand or afterwards. Guidance is the keyword.

The Health Valley Event ended for me in a beautiful conclusion: ‘our’ doctors Dirk Kunst and Cindy Nabuurs from the Radboudumc won the Health Valley Bridge prize 2019 with the RoboSculpt bone surgeon robot from our company Eindhoven Medical Robotics! It’s great to see your first customer promote your product like this.

Are you looking for a new challenge and would you like to help realize this new industry for our region? Then check www.emrobotics.com and email us at [email protected]! This way, it was not just a week about the transformation in healthcare, but a step towards a new future.

About this column:

In a weekly column, alternately written by Maarten Steinbuch, Mary Fiers, Carlo van de Weijer, Lucien Engelen, Tessie Hartjes and Auke Hoekstra, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. The six columnists, occasionally supplemented with guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions for the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all the previous episodes.