MEDICAL DELTA BRINGS TOGETHER SOUTH HOLLAND STAKEHOLDERS IN CARE INNOVATION
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‘We have enormous knowledge potential, but we can definitely work together even more effectively’
Medical Delta wants to realise sustainable healthcare with technological solutions. The organisation is a collaboration of stakeholders from South Holland who are at the interface of health and technology. ‘We have a truly unique knowledge potential in South Holland with three renowned universities, two university medical centres, four universities of applied sciences, governments, companies and healthcare institutions. But we can definitely connect that even more effectively,’ according to the new managing director David de Glint.
‘If you no longer marvel at something, then it’s time to think about doing something else,’ says David de Glint. That certainly means he isn’t quite done at Medical Delta just yet. De Glint was appointed managing director of the Delft-based organisation in September 2021. He has a background as a programme manager, secretary and board member at various organisations, including Bouwend Nederland, FOCWA, the Reinier de Graaf hospital and TU Delft (where he still works). ‘I have truly been amazed every single day since joining Medical Delta,’ he says. ‘A great deal is happening at the interface of health and technology. More than I thought possible.’
PIVOT IN LSH ECOSYSTEM
Medical Delta was founded by the three universities (TU Delft, Leiden University and Erasmus University Rotterdam) and the two UMC’s (LUMC and Erasmus MC) in South Holland in 2006. The Hague University of Applied Sciences, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and Leiden University of Applied Sciences have all joined since 2016. More and more government authorities (including the Municipality of Rotterdam), companies, healthcare institutions and other parties are now involved too. ‘We see ourselves as a pivot in the life sciences, health & technology ecosystem in this region,’ says De Glint. Our goal is to realise sustainable care with technological solutions. This will allow us to improve healthcare whilst keeping it accessible and affordable.’
There is a very obvious need for this. An aging population means that the demand for, and costs associated with, healthcare is increasing. ‘It goes without saying we all want to live in good health for longer too and ensure diseases can be detected at the earliest possible stage, which puts more focus on health and prevention. We also want to allow the elderly to live at home for longer and have people rehabilitate and recover at home after an illness or operation. And all of this while there are an ever decreasing number of people who can provide care. So that requires a transition,’ according to De Glint. ‘Technological innovation can provide an important contribution to this. It’s crucial for the technology to fit in with healthcare practices and that it’s been proven to be effective. Medical Delta works from a scientific foundation, within which scientists from different disciplines work together. With each other, but certainly also with the healthcare professionals and end users who’ll be working with the solutions in practice.’
This interdisciplinary approach is what characterises Medical Delta. The organisation focuses on fifteen scientific programmes. More than 350 scientists (clinicians and technologists) work together on specific issues. De Glint provides an example. ‘Doctors at the Erasmus MC are working with engineers from TU Delft to make cardiac arrhythmias more measurable, ultimately allowing for this ailment to be treated more effectively. They do this in the Medical Delta Cardiac Arrhythmia Lab. We use the latest imaging techniques in our Medical Delta Cancer Diagnostics 3.0 scientific programme, combined with machine learning, to come up with a faster diagnosis and to allow us to predict the course of cancer more effectively. This follows on from daily practices, which clearly show that different patients with the same type of cancer can respond to a specific treatment completely differently. Erasmus MC, LUMC and TU Delft are working together on this research.’
LIVING LABS: CRUCIAL LINK
The ten Field and Living Labs represent a crucial link in Medical Delta’s approach. The labs test promising technological solutions provided by companies, healthcare institutions and scientists in real environments with healthcare professionals and patients. This can include both products and processes. Companies and universities of applied sciences play an important role in this process. ‘The role of universities of applied sciences is sometimes underestimated, but they are good at translating matters into practice and therefore come up with concrete results and insights.’ The labs have a social and economic impact. ‘We can instantly help citizens with healthcare solutions, whilst we also develop the students’ knowledge at the same time. We effectively contribute to our region’s economy as a result of our direct links with the business community. The labs also bridge the gap to research at Medical Delta’s academic knowledge institutes.’
IMPORTANT ROTTERDAM PARTNER
One of Medical Delta’s living labs is Medical Delta Living Lab VIT for Life. This focuses on keeping people with an increased risk of lifestyle-related complaints healthy. The Rotterdam derivative is VITR. The Municipality of Rotterdam, the Knowledge Centre for Healthcare Innovation (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences), Erasmus MC, wmo radar and SmartVitaal all work together on apps within this derivative, which ultimately serve to encourage healthy food choices and sufficient exercise. Another living lab within which Rotterdam parties have joined forces is Medical Delta Living Lab Geriatric Rehabilitation@Home. This living lab is focussed on the development of eHealth applications which promote home rehabilitation of the elderly. ‘We are really making excellent use of Rotterdam’s ‘can-do’ mentality,’ says De Glint. ‘The Municipality of Rotterdam is an important partner for us. And I really don’t think I need to explain that Erasmus MC, Erasmus University and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences have an absolute wealth of knowledge and expertise at their disposal.’
FROM COUNTRY LANE TO MOTORWAY
It’s abundantly clear that collaborations are needed in order to continue moving forward. And yet this could still be done better in South Holland, according to De Glint. ‘Our region has a unique knowledge potential with all those huge, fantastic organisations. But we could definitely do a better job of connecting these organisations. Collaborations continue to “work” to a large extent. There are quite a few effective collaborations, but things can always be done better, smarter. It’s up to Medical Delta to transfer all those innovations from the country lane up to the motorway. I expect we’ll be able to do that. You can already see that companies, labs, knowledge and educational institutions, care organisations and governments are jointly taking innovations further in initiatives like the ZorgTech Innovation Programme, which we also participate with. There’s a real need for collaborations and there is a great need for valorised, new solutions. Plus the intrinsic motivation is certainly tangible everywhere.’
MEDICAL DELTA CONFERENCE WITH MARCEL LEVI
An important instrument for better collaboration – in addition to the research projects, living labs and the recently launched Talent Acceleration Call grant scheme – is the physical bringing together of stakeholders. This happened during the 2021 Medical Delta Conference on Tuesday 2nd November. The theme was MedTech Solutions for a Healthier Tomorrow. This was discussed at the TU Delft campus during a panel discussion led by Astrid Joosten. An important part of the programme was for the nine newly appointed Medical Delta professors who gave their inaugural lectures. Hundreds of healthcare innovators also gathered to listen to keynote speaker Marcel Levi (NWO Chairman) and to meet each other at the information market and network drinks. ‘We’re really pleased this was able to physically take place,’ De Glint concludes. ‘It’s certainly not a common occurrence for all stakeholders in the field of life sciences, health and technology to get together.’
Would you like to find out more about Medical Delta? https://www.medicaldelta.nl/.
Date: 4 March 2022