Portrait and video John van den Dobbelsteen: "Clinical technologists have the best of both worlds."

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Medical technology serves as a valuable aid in supporting healthcare professionals and automating specific tasks. The effective integration of this technology into work processes is paramount, demanding a comprehensive understanding from the staff. Prof. Dr. John van den Dobbelsteen, functioning as a medical process engineer, actively contributes to this field. He emphasizes, "We aim to liberate personnel from non-clinical tasks as much as possible, thereby alleviating their workload and enhancing job satisfaction."

As a professor at Delft University of Technology, John van den Dobbelsteen has cultivated a longstanding collaboration with LUMC and Erasmus MC. His recent appointment as a Medical Delta professor solidifies his formal position within these two academic medical centers.

You have been appointed as a Medical Delta professor. What significance does this hold for you?

"I perceive it as a form of recognition. My collaboration as a TU Delft researcher with LUMC and Erasmus MC spans several years, marked by collegiality and goodwill from all parties. This collaborative spirit has positioned me where I am today. The appointment as a Medical Delta professor serves as confirmation of this and provides an opportunity to further fortify our collaboration. It opens up additional avenues to shape and guide new initiatives, complementing our existing endeavors."

Could you briefly outline your areas of expertise?

"My expertise comprises two primary domains. Firstly, medical process engineering—a discipline aimed at advancing research on new medical technologies within the broader framework of diagnostics, therapy improvement, and patient-focused solutions. Unlike traditional approaches, medical process engineering focuses on the integration of emerging technologies.

This is particularly challenging given the increasing influx of medical technologies into hospitals, where healthcare personnel may lack fundamental training in their usage. Consequently, my work centers on streamlining this integration, particularly in the context of operating rooms. We aim to provide comprehensive support to diverse healthcare teams, including medical specialists, planners, and lab technicians, enabling them to extract tangible value from innovative technologies.

Hospitals see an increasing influx of medical technologies, where healthcare personnel may lack fundamental training in its usage

Secondly, I serve as the director of the Clinical Technology program—a collaborative initiative involving TU Delft, LUMC, and Erasmus MC under the auspices of Medical Delta. This role entails overseeing both the Clinical Technology bachelor and the Technical Medicine master's program, responding to the evolving landscape of healthcare by fostering the education of future healthcare professionals."

What does the future hold for the Clinical Technologist profession?

"Historically, hospitals have featured roles with a medical-technical orientation, such as clinical physicists supporting specialists in radiotherapy or biomedical engineers designing new technologies. However, the implementation of innovative technologies with consideration for healthcare processes poses a unique challenge. This often results in insufficient practical integration of technological solutions.

Clinical technologists have the best of both worlds. They can bridge the gap between technology and practice.

Clinical technologists, in my view, serve as a bridge between these worlds. While there is still work to be done in terms of societal acceptance and the recognition of their role, these professionals, graduating or completing their Ph.D. now, are proving their significant value. They stand as crucial ambassadors contributing to broader acceptance of their profession."

How does your role as a medical process engineer benefit operating room personnel?

"In specially designed research operating rooms, we employ cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor all activities. This approach allows for the automation of administrative tasks, such as the automatic recording of registrations and steps taken. By predicting and responding to upcoming steps, our goal is to minimize non-clinical tasks for staff, thereby reducing their workload and increasing job satisfaction. We aim to offer comprehensive support to personnel, facilitating the delivery of safe and efficient care."

What contributions does Medical Delta make to your work?

"Collaborations across diverse universities demand considerable effort. It is often more expedient to conduct research and publications within the confines of one's discipline. Interdisciplinary collaborations, on the other hand, require enhanced communication and coordination. Medical Delta, as a premier platform, excels in shortening and strengthening these lines of collaboration, providing substantial added value.

For instance, in navigating the complexities of new European legislation, such as the 'Medical Device Regulation' or MDR, which places increased responsibilities on developers and doctors, Medical Delta facilitates coordination among colleagues and UMCs. This ensures compliance with the legislation. Another noteworthy example is the Clinical Technology program, jointly supported by three institutions—an achievement for which Medical Delta deserves commendation, as this program would not have materialized without their involvement."

To what extent can transdisciplinary collaboration strengthen your research?

"While the inception of Medical Delta emphasized high-end, high-tech solutions for healthcare, the most significant societal challenges lie in sustaining the entire healthcare system amidst significant staff shortages. Transdisciplinary collaboration, in my perspective, necessitates a focus on research and education aimed at addressing these broader challenges. This includes supporting professions such as nurses and OR assistants, who represent the frontline of healthcare.

For the transition of care, we must ensure that patients visit the hospital less and are treated thereFurthermore, for the transition of care, we must ensure that patients visit the hospital less and are treated there. As Medical Delta, we have placed relatively little focus on primary care in terms of medical technology development and processes in healthcare provision. We need to move a little more from specialist care to other care lines.”

How is it to initiate collaboration with someone from an entirely different discipline?

"Initiating collaboration across disciplines was a relatively seamless process for me. Having earned my PhD at Erasmus MC and engaged in fundamental research on eye-hand coordination, my work naturally aligned with the challenges posed by minimally invasive surgery. This convergence sparked substantial interest in collaboration. Over time, I learned to speak multiple languages, enabling effective collaboration with both medical and technological researchers. Experience plays a crucial role in navigating diverse professional worlds."

What elements are lacking in your collaboration to achieve your goals? What message would you like to convey?

"The progress we are achieving within Medical Delta is a testament to the commitment and efforts of individuals who build bridges and overcome hurdles. However, there is room for improvement in terms of facilitating collaboration among institutions. Existing barriers related to knowledge-sharing, intellectual property, ICT, and practical matters hinder seamless collaboration. While there is progress in breaking down these barriers, I advocate for a swifter pace of change."

Whose work from another discipline or institute has genuinely surprised you, and why?

"I have had the privilege of establishing fantastic relationships with numerous individuals. Gert-Jan Kleinrensink is particularly noteworthy. Recently retired, he served as the head of the dissection room and skills lab at Erasmus MC. Twenty years ago, he played a pivotal role in establishing my first connection with the world of surgeons. Throughout the years, he consistently demonstrated how easy collaboration can be when approached with an open mind. He stands as a genuine example of fostering connections."

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