Innovation is a continuous journey that we need to make together

Conny Helder & Daan de Viet
Published on


Geriatric healthcare is past its expiry date. The ageing population will have a tremendous impact on society in the years ahead. And the corona pandemic reveals in a painfully obvious way the bottleneck that geriatric care is struggling with: more demand than staff. We need to take big steps to guarantee nursing care for the future. With the social change in mind, tanteLouise had changed course long before the corona pandemic. We try to slow down the growing healthcare demand on the one hand while improving the healthcare demand/employee ratio on the other. Taking a fresh perspective is the way to go. But also changing the way we think and operate. This means that healthcare organisations must increase their focus on supporting the continuum of healthcare consumers’ lives rather than gearing our offering to individual healthcare moments. This helps healthcare consumers lead their own lives with their own norms and values. Digital technologies are an important enabler in the journey towards future-proof nursing for tanteLouise.

The promise of healthcare innovation

TanteLouise’s mission is to provide the best possible care, wherever home may be. The organisation considers innovation within elderly care as one of its core activities. The assumption is that the deployment of technology and innovation is necessary to achieve our goals, both today and in the future and to serve the growing number of seniors. The current system needs to be improved. Processes can be made more efficient and effective and the current system offers room for improving our alignment with the continuum that is the health consumer’s life. As such, technology contributes to improved efficiency and quality of healthcare while enhancing work satisfaction among employees.

TanteLouise as a leader in healthcare innovation

TanteLouise combines many of its innovation projects in the ‘breeding ground’ of tantesZorglab. This is where a connection is made between practical bottlenecks and new (digital) solutions. The level of implementation differs for each project; how far has the development come and how concrete or tangible is the project? The organisation uses a variant of Vilans’ honeycomb model to clearly classify all of its activities. For each innovation, it needs to be determined whether it is in the early stages of development (new questions, exploration, experimentation) or whether it is in a more advanced stage and ready for implementation or scale-up. In our experience, the model works.

TanteLouise’s activities tend to be in the exploration phase. This malleable phase is where we believe most of the gains can be made towards the future, to push the innovation in the right direction. We determine the added value of innovations at the front end in a targeted manner and measure/research this to gather evidence. At the same time, we effectively manage towards ‘redeeming’ the added value. An example: when an innovation leads to more time gains, we try not to fill these hours with other activities. Instead, we adjust the healthcare consumer/staff ratio. Multiple innovation projects are currently underway in the feeding ground of tantesZorglab (both nationally and internationally), such as the development of the SARA robot and the SmartFloor, scaling of the Momo BedSense and scaling of the WOLK hip airbag. The latter project won the Challenge for Nursing Homes of the Future award in 2021.

“We always depart from the bottlenecks in healthcare and processes (for employees and clients). Meanwhile, we are inspired by the possibilities offered by new technologies and remain open to things that have yet to materialise.”


Innovating together is faster and better

TanteLouise initiates and organises a lot of innovation projects. But we also stay in touch with our environment to ‘keep up’ when other parties conduct innovative projects. The programme ‘Anders werken in de zorg’ [A different way of doing healthcare] is part of this, where tanteLouise took the initiative in 2018 to deploy existing innovative technology at a high pace in now over 50 participating healthcare organisations in the regions of Midden-Brabant, West-Brabant, Friesland and Zeeland. This involves sharing experiences from successful pilots as well as realising true impact that contributes to healthcare quality and helps alleviate the shortage of staff. After all, smart technological solutions are implemented a lot quicker and more successfully when we do it together. The focus remains on scaling rather than reinventing the wheel. The creed remains: doing it solo will limit the impact.

Participating healthcare organisations in a region select promising innovation for elderly care together, test them at small scale and then implement them at large scale. We learn from each other’s experiences and make sure that the innovation has the desired effect. The foundation for our success is an underlying formula based on transparency, equality, ownership and connectedness. Together, the organisations form a true movement where the right preconditions (financial resources, active programme management, continuous inspiration) are assured. As a result, the programme also acts as a perfect stepping stone for smaller healthcare organisations that may currently lack the innovative striking power to explore digital technologies. TanteLouise keeps bringing and delivering new insights together with all our colleagues. In addition to being an active participant in the ‘Anders werken in de zorg’ project, tanteLouise employees also participate in other national and international networks such as the Interreg project SEAS 2 Grow and the International Federation of Ageing, and we collaborate in regional and international innovation projects.

“All too often, players in healthcare still try to reinvent the wheel. There simply isn’t enough time. We need to actively share knowledge to accelerate and strengthen each other now.”


Healthcare innovation requires a different way of thinking

TanteLouise considers facilitating room for innovation and knowledge sharing as important elements of an innovative environment. Furthermore, it is important for employees to ask the right questions in order to solve problems or reveal new underlying questions. This also means that there is room to seek answers and continuously search for new products and ideas. New questions also lead to new research. Current limitations are not on our mind. Instead, we ask the question: ‘What would we like to achieve?’ This requires a paradigm shift in how members of our organisation think.

“Quality is not just caring for today’s clients, but also taking into account clients five and ten years from now.”

TanteLouise thereby continuously strides into the unknown while formulating a new ‘how can we’ question. We emphasise process and social innovation, where (new) technology often acts as a trigger for the innovation process. This also means that we consider process optimisation with so-called ‘demolition teams’. What waste can we identify and what is redundant and needs to be ‘killed’? Trying to solve everything with technology alone is synonymous to moving in the wrong direction. It may end up creating a technologically supported but much more expensive and labour-intensive industry. Our different approach to healthcare innovation leads to new, refreshing insights and value propositions. And the fact that we are doing this also generates energy and enthusiasm among our employees.

The journey to the next level

TanteLouise thoroughly understands that innovation is an open-ended process. There are always new ideas. But the fact that we will never be done does not justify sitting around and doing nothing. On the contrary. We need to take big steps now to guarantee nursing care for the future. TanteLouise considers this a continuous journey to the next level. And as a new level is reached, we can set course to the next level based on new developments, insights and ideas. While keeping in mind the previously described beckoning perspective. Our task is to optimally equip the organisation and our staff for this journey. And expand our expedition as we move forward.


Conny Helder & Daan de Viet

Innovation as a necessary condition for the future. That is why elderly care organisation tanteLouise organises countless innovation projects while actively participating in regional, national and international networks. Conny Helder joined tanteLouise as an administrator in 2017. She holds various secondary positions including that of board member at ActiZ. Daan de Vliet joined tanteLouise in 2018 as an innovation advisor. TanteLouise provides care to over 1,100 clients in their care centres, rehabilitations centre, hospice and nursing homes and offers specialised home care to over 3,000 clients.