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Just Do It! #4: Bert Van Haarlem

This interview is the 4th in a series of ‘Just do It!’ interviews with inspiring leaders.

Bert van Haarlem is the CIO of the LUMC (Leiden University Medical Center).

What is driving you in life?

My purpose in life is to fully explore and utilize my own and someone else’s potential and possibilities.

You have a very diverse business and sector background in Information Technology, Building & Construction, Media, Wholesale, Retail, Family owned businesses and Private Equity. Why did you choose to accept the challenge at the LUMC?

For me the purpose of the LUMC combined with the value based healthcare strategy was an important motivator. I have been lucky to build my career at great companies in different business sectors. In every job, I learned new things, which have broadened my horizon. The health sector was new to me. The key challenge here is to design and implement a patient journey that puts the patient at the heart of everything we do. Unlocking and connecting data plays a big part in our unique approach. I truly feel privileged to be part of the team that wants to make this happen. The COVID-19 health crisis emphasizes the meaningful work we do here.

How did the LUMC adjust to COVID-19? How impactful was that for your employees?

The impact has been huge for our staff, patients, researchers, teachers, students and healthcare workers. The COVID-19 pandemic required a lot of effort, flexibility and adaptation from everybody. The situation also enabled us to speed up the decision-making process and getting things done quickly. In normal circumstances this would have been far more difficult, so we kind of proved to ourselves that we can change quickly when we need to. The crisis also enhanced the feeling of Togetherness and Team. We were closing the ranks and that felt good. Now, with the second wave, it’s a challenge for the medical staff to physically manage the workload and mentally for those who work from home. It becomes increasingly more difficult to connect with colleagues.

How do you deliver value in a complex stakeholder environment such as a medical institution?

It all starts with inviting stakeholders, or customers if you will, to describe and express their needs. In addition, we partner with external health industry providers, to connect our health expertise at LUMC with new technological solutions. This allows us to co-design healthcare improvements in the patient journey. Our IT team plays a crucial role and act as partner of the medical specialists and nursing staff who ‘own’ the patient journey. At the same time, demographic trends urge us to be relentlessly efficient whilst upholding a personal touch. Hence, we’re looking at technology to provide certain standardized care remotely, at the homes of our patients. A key goal of value based healthcare is to provide the right care at the right place and time.

Can you describe an example how you bring the new patient journey to the next level?

We have implemented simple tools and dashboards for medical specialists and nursing staff, enabling them to gain better and faster insights in each step of the patient journey. This accelerates our ability to provide the right treatment at the right moment for our patients and better plan for next steps in the treatment process. We use the ‘Patient Reported Outcome and Experience Measure’ tool to measure the impact and result of the treatments and compare these with the expectations our patients had at the start of their treatment process. Our key objective is to continuously improve the quality and result of the patient journey. The patient comes first!

Can you tell us a bit more how you manage the culture change?

We have defined ten so called Integrated Patient Units (IPU’s) and started piloting. Our motto is to start small and grow the journey step by step, as everything needs to be thoroughly adopted. You need to imagine that trying to put the patient at the center requires aligning registration, information and communication. A complex challenge. In each step the technology provides advice what to do next in the patient journey, based on patient data (by looking at how previous (similar) patients reported outcomes and experience). The approach accelerates results and improves accuracy. Very impressive. Academic medical centers such as the LUMC are at the forefront of these developments. In short, the way we manage culture change is to have a clear plan, start with baby steps, orchestrate ownership, evaluate often and celebrate success together.

How do you give meaning to the concept of Digital Leadership?

The world is changing very fast due to new technologies. In my view the ability to adjust fast and to think from the outside-in, is key to drive innovation and new solutions. My role as a leader is to build a diverse team, connect people, encourage the sharing of knowledge and to be transparent in our objectives. Most important of all, I nurture a culture where we ask each other for help and support. Nobody can be successful just by themselves.


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