Interview: Roel Willems, Program Director, Healthcare Hub
Introducing Roel Willems, Program Director of the Healthcare Hub at BISCI. Roel is a passionate leader in the digital workspace. Currently at BISCI, Roel is working in the healthcare sector, bringing together various companies in the medical technology space to optimise the value chain using technology. In the interview he explains in further detail the vision of healthcare hub, challenges along the way and why he thinks BISCI will pull this off.
Emma: Hi Roel, thank you for joining me today. Shall we start with a quick introduction about you and your work at BISCI?
Roel: "I am an experienced and passionate leader in the digital workspace. I enjoy technology and understanding what technology can do for society. I constantly think about how various technologies can be applied for the greater good. In my professional career, I have worked with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies, like VodafoneZiggo, to implement and deliver solutions, found ways to improve internal processes and ways of working.
Before joining BISCI, I was working on a smart Retail Store concept. It started when I was working on augmented reality in the retail segment with wireless technologies. In Retail the trend right now is to create and implement a touchless shopping experience, like the Amazon Go-store. I had a similar idea myself and was working on a “smart cabinet”. I showed this to various business and personal contacts and a few from the healthcare sector showed interest in such a product or technology, as similar solutions in the sector are currently very expensive.
Some members from my network then asked me if this is possible for a hospital. I then began to draw up possibilities of scaling this idea and soon realized that establishing a small company on your own in a sector that is dominated by large multi nationals would be an insane idea. If you are a lone wolf in the ecosystem, your product should be top notch. I then started my hunt for a company that can help develop this solution.
That is when I met Ton Geurts, Business Director at BISCI who was also creating and working on something unique along with a diverse group of people. Seeing how our vision aligned, I soon joined BISCI.
Currently, within BISCI I am the Program Director for the Healthcare Hub. This initiative in the Healthcare sector where we work with companies that are in the medical technology space to optimise the value chain using current technology. The main beneficiaries in this are the hospitals. We go from an idea to a concept and then to a proof of concept. I still feel that part of what we are doing comes from the initial idea I had."
Emma: That is great! Indeed, the Healthcare Hub is a key project to BISCI. How would you describe the Entrepreneur in you?
Roel: "The entrepreneur in me is that I see an opportunity and I feel the need to innovate solutions for the market. As in the healthcare hub, bringing together the companies and other stakeholders make me enthusiastic about the idea of working together. And this might not always be for profits but just because it can be done. I believe that the goal should not only be to reduce cost but must also contribute for the benefit of society. Like in the healthcare hub, one of the values is that hospital staff can dedicate more of their time on patient care rather than administrative tasks of warehousing and logistics."
Emma: Could you share in more detail BISCIs work in the healthcare hub?
Roel: "Indeed, the first thing about the healthcare hub is that it is an ecosystem in the healthcare industry with the common goal of creating a unique and integrated network of organisations working together in value chains to reduce waste and increase sustainability.
We work with researchers from the Maastricht University, hospitals, technology partners, medical equipment providers, logistic service providers. We are looking into delivering a solution and at the same time building a hub to bring those companies together and jointly define a common solution. Ultimately, we are defining a new way of working using smart technology that will improve and optimize the supply chain of medical goods and supplies into hospitals."
Emma: Who’s going to benefit from this solution and why is now the right moment for it?
Roel: "When we first started this, I would be asked the same question quite often. Who’s going to benefit from your solution and why now? The ongoing COVID crisis clearly showed the world that there are significant gaps in the supply chain. Companies have started to question if “in the future a smooth flow of supply can be guaranteed?” and “how do we know that we can manufacture enough and meet our need on time?”
The benefit in the healthcare sector specifically, is that currently, there is a gap between the actual usage of medical equipment and the available data to medical equipment manufacturers. By now it is obvious that there is a gap in actual and available data. This solution can help cover that gap. Another point to note is that it is also critical to reduce waste and make sure that products are used in time. This solution can simplify the complex processes of ordering and returning and make the process more circular. These topics and comments that we hear from our customers drive this innovation.
A key factor to keep in mind is that, because of various international and EU policies, reduction in SCOPE 3 emissions of CO2 and other GHG is a priority for companies. This solution will have means to measure this as well. It is not the main goal of the project but will be a significant consequence and we can measure that reduction.
We started with a simple idea of trying to optimise and increase the efficiency in work of the hospital staff but as the idea developed, the beneficiaries are increasing."
Emma: What does BISCI bring into this?
Roel: "The entrepreneur in me wants to bring and deliver new ways of working, using innovative technologies and implement them in existing processes so people can focus on their core activities. Within BISCI we have knowledge and experience to setup this total project. We don’t focus on one specific element, but we see the opportunities of the total scope, the total Supply Chain as you will. Making use of the capabilities and ecosystem around BISCI, we truly can make a difference in the market."
Emma: How do you see your current role at BISCI in comparison to the previous roles?
Roel: "For me personally it is great to work in an environment with smart and knowledgeable people. I love that we can share knowledge with each other and with new group of people. I think it is also an opportunity for the university to work with people from the business world. Within BISCI the people that we have their power, energy and the drive to get things done is in a completely different order than a company that is focused on KPIs and shareholder value. It’s much broader than the operational management I used to be working in. In this environment, you have the feeling that you are using your experience for a broader audience and a target group, contributing more to society. Working for larger company is also great, you can achieve a lot. But working on this bridge between companies and universities is great in its own way."
Emma: I can completely agree with your answer there! Great, so how would a normal workday at BISCI look like for you?
Roel: "Right now, it is various meetings via Teams/Zoom with the partners, UM, BISCI, and other stakeholders. I am working with 25-30 people from various institutions and companies and all this needs to be aligned to make sure project runs smoothly. Most of my tasks usually is about managing the program across various companies. While parallel also working on creation of content. I do some research and reading as well every time new questions pop up which is almost every day! That’s the academic and learning part. I love this mix between content creation, talking to stakeholders and management of the project. I need to stay quick on my feet as it is more challenging. There is a high degree of self-direction, so you need the right type of personality to work in this type of project."
Emma: Proud of previous experiences?
Roel: "Combination of really understanding technology. I’m a bit of a nerd sometimes trying to really understand technology. Once I do, I have to be smart and entrepreneurial enough to show what the technology can do for a certain customer. Then adapt the technology so that customers can use that. Also, I enjoy bringing people together and make them enthusiastic about the mission and vision that we have together. This drive to get things done and have people join me on this journey is also important. Because you can manage people, their roles and outputs, but it’s much more than that. It’s about showing leadership in this area. Driving the strategy, leading and make people understand why, that makes sure we have the execution. That’s the experience that I gained in my past. It’s a combination, know as much as needed to tie those things together."
Emma: What do you find is challenging in this project?
Roel: "I think overall creating the business plan is challenging. Especially because there are many partners. The goal is that everybody wins, but what is that common win when you have multiple stakeholders? The business plan should try and add to this ecosystem a solution that caters to all the various stakeholders or target groups. So, in theory, each of those target groups, need their own business models. You will also need multiple investment models. In that perspective, the most challenging task is to convince multiple boards and is something that I absolutely enjoy as well! Now this is the business side of things. There is another critical and challenging aspect which is that with any digital transformation comes a degree of human transformation as well.
Technology can evolve and develop as much as it can, but people will also need to adapt to it. There are examples of innovations that fail because users just don’t seem to use it. We will have to think about the user process in depth. This can be complex and that is probably also the reason why projects trying to transform supply chains through technology have not been able achieve the result that it could have."
Emma: Why do you think BISCI can pull this off in comparison to than a consultancy firm for example?
Roel: "In the simplest way possible I think we can pull this off because our real purpose is somewhat different than a consulting firm. The book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek gives a good insight in defining your “why”. When people understand “why” we want to do this, I am sure they will see why we will succeed. As a non-profit organisation our strategy is to make societal impact for the long term, focused on various areas, but all with a common ‘why’."
Emma: Thank you Roel. We at BISCI are looking forward to how this hub develops in the future. It already looks very promising! Lastly, a short insight maybe into your personal life?
Roel: "Definitely. I’m happily married with three kids and live a in a small town in the west of the Netherlands. We have a lot of friends and have a lot of fun. Actively engaging in local community services, sports and activities. My roots lie in the south of the Netherlands however: I was born and raised in Maastricht and that’s why working with BISCI feels like coming home!"