Inaugural lecture by Joke Korevaar: 'Cancer Care: the Role of the HBO Professional and Technology'

Thursday, February 22, 2024

A gathering of over a hundred people convened on Thursday, February 1st for the inaugural lecture of Oncological Care Lecturer Joke Korevaar. Titled 'Cancer Care: the Role of the HBO Professional and Technology,' the lecture focused on placing the patient at the forefront. Korevaar serves as the living lab leader of the Medical Delta Living Lab 'Better In Better Out.'

This article was previously published on The Hague University of Applied Sciences website.

The afternoon was opened by chairperson Sabine Siesling, a professor of personalized cancer care at the University of Twente and a lead researcher at IKNL. She has known Joke Korevaar for many years and described the collaboration as one with a solid foundation. Together, they have worked on various research proposals and projects, always with the patient at the core.

The Hague, a logical location

Director of the Knowledge Center for Health Innovation and Medical Delta Lecturer Dr. Sanne de Vries explained why the Oncological Care lectureship, based at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, is particularly relevant. The region has a high incidence of skin cancer, as famously described by singer Harrie Jekkers: 'Beautiful city behind the dunes.' While this sunny location is beloved, it also carries less sunny risks and ranks very high in cancer statistics. Additionally, cancer care is a significant focus at nearby hospitals such as HMC, Haga Hospital, and LUMC. The Hague University of Applied Sciences also offers two highly relevant programs for the lectureship: skin therapy and HBO nursing.

Insights from those with firsthand experience

During the inaugural lecture, associate professor and acting lecturer in Technical Innovation in Healthcare at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Lottie Kuijt-Evers, engaged in a discussion with two former cancer patients. The audience listened attentively to their inspiring, poignant, and sometimes sorrowful stories. The resilient women shared their experiences with disease treatment, discussing the support they did or did not receive and the assistance they actually needed. While medically they remain cancer patients, they both expressed that life goes on even after a cancer diagnosis.

One woman recounted, "As a patient, I went into the surgery relatively fit, but I knew: 'You are going to make me sick.' And indeed, after the surgery, even I - normally very fit and energetic - became very ill."

The discussion touched on the concept of appropriate prehabilitation (preparing for surgery) for cancer patients. One of the women mentioned that she wasn't suitable for a 'recovery and balance' group: being obliged to exercise in a group setting. "Give me yoga instead! I also continued to walk a lot. Back then, there were options available, but not specialized. I didn't even need to be encouraged to exercise. I would have appreciated guidance on moderating my activity. I was actually overdoing it and had no idea where the limit was."

Lottie Kuijt-Evers summarized the interview: "Tailor offerings to the individual and integrate them into the care path. Every patient is different: encourage or discourage as needed."

Technological support from the industry

The afternoon continued with a presentation by Pieter van Weijen, director of Inn4cure. Can technological support help motivate and inspire people? Or can it assist in remotely monitoring and guiding individuals? These are the questions the lectureship addresses and collaborates with the industry to explore. Pieter van Weijen explained how monitoring through devices like smartwatches can provide insights into the health of the elderly, with the goal of maintaining wellness. For example, how can eating patterns be influenced based on information gathered from a smartwatch? There are already programs like 'The Right Meal,' where information is sent to a dietitian to create a personalized nutrition plan.

Personalized approaches remain crucial. For many, personal contact during a treatment journey is important. Pieter van Weijen summarized this succinctly: "More time is freed up for personal contact. Time is gained through added efficiency. Especially with the significant shortage of nurses, this is a desirable addition."

Collaborating for innovation

To address challenges such as the 'double aging' phenomenon, pressure on healthcare, and dwindling healthcare personnel, collaboration with other parties is essential. David de Glint, managing director of Medical Delta, emphasized the necessity of collaboration to drive innovation in healthcare. Three elements are crucial for innovative solutions: accessibility, manageability, and affordability of healthcare.

Evaluating knowledge to improve lives

Elisabeth Minnemann, Chair of the Executive Board of The Hague University of Applied Sciences, praised Joke Korevaar and her lectureship: "You keep us, as the board, sharp and make clear the importance of The Hague's research." Impact stems from translating research into action; the essence of practice-oriented research.

How the Oncological Care lectureship translates this into action is framed within three research lines: Preventing and reducing late effects in cancer patients, Prevention and early detection of (skin) cancer, and Reducing health disparities resulting from cancer. A detailed explanation of these research lines and the activities of the lectureship are described on the Oncological Care lectureship website.

Inaugural lecture on the changing role of the HBO professional

In her inaugural lecture, Joke Korevaar outlined the questions she aims to investigate with her lectureship. The demand for care for people with cancer is expected to rise, given the increasing number of diagnoses. At the same time, there will be fewer healthcare providers in the coming years. The major question is how we can keep healthcare accessible and affordable in the future, and what changes are needed for this.

One of the possible solutions, mentioned in the integral care agreement, is reorganizing care, including shifting tasks. Additionally, within oncological care, there are numerous ongoing developments in treatment, such as technical improvements, and increased use of real-time image-guided interventions, possibly combined with AI models or remote monitoring.

The lectureship will mainly focus on questions such as: 'What do these changes mean for the role of the HBO professional? What new skills are required? And what is needed for these professionals to safely perform their new role and have confidence in it?'

Initial plans have also been made to expand into the field of palliative care. Not all individuals diagnosed with cancer can be cured. How do we ensure that people in this phase can still do as much as they would like? What role can different professionals play in this? And what is the place of technological support? These are questions for future research by the lectureship.

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