In the spotlight

Innovator in the Spotlight – Jos Knaapen (Isala)

  • In the spotlight
  • News

Isala is a large regional Dutch hospital. People from surrounding hospitals and far beyond come to Isala for ‘standard’ and complex care. But providing care isn’t the only thing that Isala is doing, because innovation is another important pillar to eventually provide the best care possible. That’s why Isala is a partner of Health Valley, which connects entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, companies, and institutions with health innovation in the Eastern Netherlands. A good example of innovating into healthcare is the usage of VR glasses to ensure the patient more relaxation and comfort during treatments. The glasses were tested during the redress of plastered feet from children, which led to an 84% increase in the comfort score of these children (see picture below).

A key figure in the field of innovation is Jos Knaapen, Innovation Manager at the Isala hospital. Jos is also part of MedScaler’s Innovators Club, which is an international network of healthcare professionals that have committed to sharing their expert opinion and invaluable feedback. We asked Jos some questions about his opinion on health innovation, his work, the future, and the collaboration with MedScaler.

How does an innovation enter your organization?

“There are multiple ways in which new innovations enter our hospital. We’ve got an interesting mix of innovation journeys. One is more process-oriented: we put strategic emphasis on the transformation of healthcare, in which we co-operate with general practitioners, other caregivers, and insurance companies.

Other innovations are often a result of putting emphasis on the problems we are facing (now or in the future) and ideas and initiatives of caregivers. Those are the result of a more organic process, where the caregivers can focus on their idea or solution, and we try to deal with the complex nature of the hospital.

I think all innovations have one common denominator: they are a result of the initiative and perseverance of ambitious caregivers. However, we mainly start projects in which we know we have the potential to scale up.”

What is a good example of an innovation that Isala is currently working with?

“We are currently working on a drone that can transport blood tests with tubes to the lab, instead of transporting these tests by car or by foot. It is great to see that the Isala Hospital is facilitating these kinds of innovations. You often see that innovating in hospitals is difficult because a minimized risk environment is crucial for healthcare institutions. Hospitals are often conservative, and innovation is at odds with that, so it’s cool that we are doing this at Isala.”

What are you most proud of as Isala in terms of innovation?

“We had an intensive care period over the past year and a half, with the realization of COVID divisions and the scaling up of ICU capacity in our hospital.  Thanks to the focus and dedication of our Connected Care team, we were able to send COVID patients home with an oxygen tank because we managed to change hospital protocols. This was also possible because of the good, direct, and constant discussions we had with various stakeholders such as the different health suppliers in the region. The fact that these discussions allowed several patients to recover at home, freeing up beds for patients who really needed our direct care, is something I am immensely proud of. In the meantime, we’ve been setting up a specialist medical service center that monitors patients from home, even after Covid. This allows us to provide personal care of good quality without much effort, as we have all the data while the patient is at home. That is also something to be proud of, right?”

Definitely! I’m also curious about why you choose to become a member of MedScaler’s Innovators Club?

“I think it is important and fun to think along with the innovations in healthcare. I also enjoy seeing what happens internationally. As Innovation Manager in a Dutch hospital, I get to see relatively few international projects or innovations. It’s nice to see that happens on a usual basis now. I’m in regular contact with MedScaler, partly to let them know what kind of innovations we are looking for. This is not only for our own benefit, but also to provide insight into the demand of the field.”

For which problem would you like to see another innovation?

“Something to make the work for the nurses more easy and more fun in general. Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds, but if an innovation would be applicable, I am sure it would make a big difference in all hospitals around the world. A beautiful example is the implementation of the eHealth application the ‘Serious Game’ for most of our patients. The application is installed on all tablets in our hospital, which every patient can use to watch tv and order food for example. The application consists of many different exercises for all types of patients. You can think of exercises for both sitting and lying patients, as well as various walking routes and other functions that encourage movement. The innovative part of this application is the fact that it is a game, and patients are motivated to exercise. You can for example earn coins, which let you decorate your virtual living room with nice accessories. The game is particularly suitable for patients who have been in hospital for some time; the serious game app is not suitable for patients with cognitive complaints.”

What innovation did you start working on with MedScaler? And how is this project going now?

“We did not directly implement an innovation via MedScaler. However, I appreciate the value that MedScaler has in the exchange and testing of health innovations in practice. It allows me to assess new innovations, but also give input from the field. In fact, as an Innovation Manager you can estimate in advance which innovations will be successful and which will not, and why or why not. The collaboration with MedScaler helps even more with that.”

We are happy that Jos from Isala is part of our Innovators Club, and excited to think together about innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the future.

Are you working on an innovation that is interesting for Isala? Let us know via

Would you also like to become part of the MedScaler Innovators Club? Join here.