Putting the patient first: the key to healthcare innovation

3 June 2024

‘Putting the patient first’, that is definitely stating the obvious! Unfortunately, it’s still not as obvious as it should. It is still very relevant, perhaps more than ever! Especially with the technological revolution healthcare is currently going through. You can usually judge someone by their actions rather than their words. The proof is in the pudding. For the patient, only the end result counts of course.

Like many others, I experience almost daily how frustrating and time-consuming it can be to find your way in the complex structure of healthcare, especially in a vast region like Rijnmond in the Netherlands. The ongoing struggle to get the right care in time, having to adapt to inflexible systems that seem to forget that they are there for people, has often cost me more energy and time than my healthcare needs. By really putting the patient first and using smart, privacy-conscious technologies, many of these annoyances could be eliminated. This would not only improve healthcare provision and save both time and money, but it would also significantly increase the quality of life for patients and their caregivers. When we can focus on health instead of adapting to systems that don’t serve us, healthcare becomes not only more efficient but also more human. Sometimes the current system feels sickening, which is ironic and unacceptable for a sector that is supposed to promote health.

In this world of healthcare and technology, where innovation touches our lives every day, it is crucial to put the patient at the center of all our efforts. As someone who relies on 24/7 home care every day for a serious muscular disease, I experience first-hand how essential this approach is to drive sustainable and effective change in healthcare.

Why a Patient-Centered Approach Matters

The patient is uniquely positioned at the neutral center of the forces in healthcare — commercial, industrial, and governmental. By focusing on the patient, we not only address their immediate health needs, but we empower them and their loved ones, foster resilience, and deepen their involvement in their own care. This patient-centered positioning is not just a strategic choice; it is a transformational step that leads to better outcomes through shared decision-making.

Strengthening Patient Empowerment

The main benefit of this approach is the empowerment it offers to patients and their families. By involving them more intensively in the care process, we create more resilient, aware and involved citizens. These people are better able to make informed decisions about their healthcare, which in turn leads to more effective management of their conditions and potentially reduces overall healthcare costs.

The Role of the Chief Patient Officer

Supporting this, I also advocate the appointment of a Chief Patient Officer (CPO) in every hospital, as proposed by Conny Helder, Minister of Healthcare (VWS). This role is crucial to ensure that patient insights and interests are not only heard but also become a driving force in healthcare management and decision-making. It is about bringing the patient’s voice forward, ensuring that it is heard and acted upon. But above all, to make sure that within each region all processes within the care network are aligned, to the benefit of the patient, including ethically responsible data transfer.

Data Sharing and Privacy by Design

At the heart of our patient-centric approach is ethical data management and sharing, with a strong emphasis on privacy by design. This framework not only protects patient privacy, but also empowers them to maintain control over their own health information, allowing their choices and needs to truly drive innovation in the industry.


Putting patients at the center of healthcare innovation is more than a strategic decision — it’s a deep commitment to transforming the healthcare landscape. By empowering patients as key decision makers in their health journey, we strengthen their ability to effectively manage their conditions. This not only improves health outcomes but also optimizes resource utilization, leading to cost savings in healthcare.

This patient-centric approach, supported by robust privacy measures and targeted data sharing, is not just an ethical imperative — it’s a practical strategy to catalyze the widespread adoption of healthcare innovations that are both effective and compassionate. Let us commit to this vision, ensuring that our health systems are dynamic and responsive, attuned to the needs and rights of the people they serve. Let us rise to this challenge together, forging a path toward a healthier, more resilient future.


Joost L. Nauta
Ervaringsdeskundige | Spreker | Verbinder | Innovator Passende Zorg - Ervaringsdeskundige
Guest author