Health Valley is a network organisation in the field of healthcare innovation and operates mainly in Eastern Netherlands in particular. We identify issues in healthcare, bring public and private parties together, and accelerate innovation using technology. We do this by creating the right climate in the complete ecosystem. And what is actually an ecosystem? Recently, the word ecosystem has been popping up more and more in various places recently. Originally, it comes from biology: “A collection of communities of plants, animals and micro-organisms can form a whole that is constantly in motion. Moreover, in this interaction, the non-living environment, the abiotics, plays an important role.” Among other things, climate (=abiotics) has a major influence on this with factors such as light, rainfall, shade, soil moisture and acidity. An ecosystem is not a closed system, and the different ecosystems are related to each other. How does this translate to the meaning of an ecosystem in the healthcare sector? And then, actually even better, an ecosystem within which meaningful innovations in healthcare take place. There are different parties that are collectively part of the healthcare ecosystem, with each party being important. These include residents/citizens, industry, knowledge institutions, healthcare providers, health insurers and government (municipality, province, government). However, an ecosystem does not only consist of all individual parties: there are influences from the environment, such as the drive and ambition of individuals. Within an ecosystem, the dependence on the individual and his/her drive is very high. Changes in this can lead to discontinuity. Also, the areas of policy and organisation (e.g. new councillors and members of parliament every few years) also contribute to this discontinuity and hence disruptions to the ecosystem. This has recently been nicely described as “the secret of the long relationship” by care+welfare.


I think it is good to clarify what we mean by an innovation. This is also one of those words that recurs in all sorts of places. Literally, innovation means “renewal”. In practice, the definition of innovation is not so unambiguous. Many entrepreneurs still think of innovation are still thinking of new inventions, but that is usually wrong. If you improve a product or process, you are already innovating. Innovativeness arises when employees are able and willing to look at their own work from a certain distance and ask themselves: can this also be done smarter, faster, better? Innovations arise in companies that have good innovation capacity. A company’s ability to innovate can be measured by its willingness to change, its ability to change and its change competence. Willingness to change means, for example, that the company not only talks about changes, but also actively implements them. Ability to change also means the availability of sufficient time and resources for work aimed at innovation. Change competence describes the knowledge available in the company, e.g. on innovation techniques. In addition, the momentum of an innovation is important. The potential of a beautiful application can only be exploited if clients, patients and employees see the added value of the necessary change. And then when they actually (want to) use the digital innovative application. Innovation can only come about if the company has the willingness to change, has the ability to change and has the competence to change (right momentum). Failure to meet any of the three conditions can lead to resistance, fear or frustration towards innovation and change in the enterprise.


At Health Valley, we work together to bring all parties, needed within the ecosystem, together and preferably work from the needs of the citizen. How can you connect to the needs that exist in terms of care and well-being? Not every brilliant idea from companies and knowledge institutions will simply be accepted and embedded. Take example, the company Moovd, whose technology enables more clients/patients in a day. Very nice for the patient that this shortens the waiting list, but the practitioner is paid per day, where there is no “reward” for helping multiple patients. So who is going to pay for this? The entire ecosystem must therefore be ready. What else does that mean? In general, an ecosystem consists of different people with different backgrounds and usually different interests. For an ecosystem to function well functioning, it is important to look for the common goals and interests. In this, parties can reinforce each other and ensure growth and development. Innovations often arise at times when several parties are working on the right momentum, working together towards a common goal. Willingness, curiosity and openness are important qualities in this respect. Furthermore, momentum really matters: forge the iron when it is hot.


Health Valley ensures that parties meet each other, get connected at the right time and connected and challenge each other on different themes. We do this among other things by organising webinars, workshops, master classes, boot camps, challenges events and symposia. This allows companies to connect, develop themselves and grow and land innovations in the right place. Accelerating meaningful innovations, in this way, contributes to improving the quality of life of our residents. For instance, we bring young entrepreneurs eager to validate their product into contact with healthcare providers, allowing the innovation to actually land in the healthcare system. In addition to the healthcare ecosystem, we are dealing with the immediate ecosystem of the individual citizen, where factors such as environment, work, income, biology (genetic background), and education play a role. How can you ensure that, from each smaller ecosystem, access to care is well regulated and equal? But that is an issue for another blog… The same goes for a common message within the ecosystem that people no longer think from disease and behaviour, but from vitality and well-being. This requires a fundamental redefinition of the issue of what health and quality of life is. This is where we as innovation managers at Health Valley to contribute to this by connecting the right parties and to inspire them to think about this. Another common factor in it all are the pennies, the money, or funding. This is also mentioned in the so-called “quadruple aim” where patient experience (patient experience), public health (population health), healthy and vital health personnel (care-team well-being), and cost reduction (reducing costs) play an important role. Who ultimately pays for an innovation? This is an issue that arises with any innovation, and especially innovations that respond to prevention of disease and as such contribute to improving quality of life. To be continued.