Meet Jan Hurkmans: Head of Business Development in the Netherlands

June, 27th 2022
By: Nobi

What distinguishes the Netherlands from other European countries?
The Netherlands has a relatively young population compared to other countries. For example, more than 20% of Germany’s population is 65 or older.

The sustainability of our healthcare system is under pressure, partly due to an increase in the number of older and chronically ill adults. In the Netherlands, about 15% of our population is over 65 and about 8% is over 80. This means that by 2040, the number of senior citizens will have grown to 4.6 million, representing as much as 25% of the Dutch population.

We have to invest now to be well prepared for that shift.

What are the options for senior citizens?
When living at home (independently or with assistance) is no longer an option, they can move into a residential care facility. Some new care concepts are emerging in the Netherlands, such as small-scale assisted living complexes. High-quality care and personal attention are central here.

Make no mistake, these complexes are not for everyone. A particular demographic group of older adults has the financial means to pay for this attractive form of care.

What is the government doing to support the elderly?
The Dutch healthcare system guarantees good and accessible care for everyone. Health insurance companies must accept and insure everyone with the basic package. Age or health conditions cannot be a factor. Everyone pays for health insurance.

Today, it is increasingly assumed that one will stay healthy and self-sufficient with control over their own life for as long as possible. A lot of effort is put into preventing our elderly from having to use more specialised, expensive care. Care has been shifted from the hospital to the general practitioner’s office, and self-management and prevention are encouraged.

The government increasingly supports senior citizens in their (often personal) desire to live at home independently for longer. Six out of seven people over 80 currently live at home and the rest (14%) live in a nursing home. Of the total population of over 80s, about one-third suffer from vulnerability due to loss of function and reduced independence.

To maintain or further improve the accessibility and quality of the entire prevention-curative treatment-nursing and care chain, change is needed. Cost control plays an important role in government policy.

What are the biggest challenges facing elderly care besides the financial aspect?
The future of elderly care is a social issue, not just a problem being addressed by the sector. It’s interesting to note that changing expectations about ageing is the biggest challenge. We need to think differently and build a bridge between older adults, care professionals and technology.

Besides concerns about the quality, accessibility and affordability of care, the care sector is responding to the powerful call of older adults without physical limitations. Two-thirds of adults over 65 say they feel completely healthy and don’t want to be treated like old people.

Prevention and positive health will become very important in the coming years in our ageing society. More and more attention is being paid to lightening the load in healthcare. We invest in creating more vitality awareness. Expectations regarding the desire for personal attention and quality care have changed among our elderly. They do not want to be treated like they are “old and discarded”.

To anticipate future-proof care, we need to create support for smart technologies among health insurers and general practitioners. And what about property developers? It’s extremely valuable when they provide additional support for technology for end users during their project development.

Huge staff shortages mean more work for older adults’ entourage. But not everyone feels like becoming a carer. Existing carers already do a lot; they can’t do much more. New carers must first be convinced of the importance of their help. Moreover, not everyone is able to perform daily care tasks. Proximity and expertise are required. On top of that, carers are not necessarily prepared to give up their own lives – work, their own family, sports and friends – to make up for the shortfalls in care at home.

How can Nobi help to meet those expectations?
Growing old with joy and vitality, remaining socially active, living independently, with care and support when necessary. In short: maintaining a good quality of life, even with mental or physical limitations. Smart technology can help the elderly achieve this.

The problem is often on the information side. Older adults are not well informed about adaptations and health aids. They only realise they need something when they are already running up against limitations. The idea that older people don’t like or understand technology is a cliché.

In practice, we already see a completely different older person with very different wishes than years ago. They want to remain independent for as long as possible. The demand for care will therefore be different and perhaps less extensive than before. Moreover, people are becoming more digitally competent and using mobile phones or iPads more frequently. This change means that healthcare will soon be experienced differently: digitally, more quickly and thus more efficiently. This offers older people the opportunity to remain active, fit and full of vitality.

We are experiencing rising healthcare costs, huge staff shortages and more extensive healthcare needs. The need for innovation in healthcare has been evident for years. The NOBI smart lamp really lightens the load. It helps reduce the workload and gives carers, family members and stakeholders peace of mind because they are informed in real time when a fall is detected. And let’s not forget the (physical and emotional) freedom it brings to our older adults/senior citizens.

What is your focus for NOBI Netherlands in the coming years?
The reactions to the NOBI smart lamp are extremely positive. There are many opportunities in the Dutch market. We are currently in talks with care institutions and small-scale residential/care complexes that realise that their facilities need to be optimised.

We are on the eve of a shift in healthcare because fewer workers are entering the field and more healthcare professionals are leaving or retiring. Quantity currently prevails over quality.

Analogue technology is being replaced by digital technology. NOBI makes this digital technology SMART by applying artificial intelligence and machine learning. In doing so, NOBI is narrowing the gap between the growing target group of older adults and the increasing shortage of care workers. High-quality care increases because NOBI reduces false alarms and increases the reliability of alerts.

I focus on entering into collaborations in the chain in order to underpin NOBI’s added value. Together with them, we lighten the load. We reduce the workload and absenteeism and increase job satisfaction. If the care sector in the Netherlands embraces the smart lamp, we will create a support structure for new healthcare workers entering the field. Do you get the drift?

“Nobi makes working in healthcare fun again”

In view of the growing demand to lighten the load by older adults (and their caregivers) when they live at home independently for longer, we will also be serving this market next year. We foresee that this will be the largest market for our smart solution. NOBI actively works together with primary care providers.

You spoke earlier about role models. Who inspires you?
He is no longer with us, but I have always admired Stephen Hawking. He was a brilliant man who died at the age of 76 after battling an incurable degenerative neuromuscular disease. He spent most of his life in a wheelchair and still managed to make quite an impression on humanity. His life is a great example of how technology can enable you to live a meaningful life.

Sometimes I notice that the idea of artificial intelligence scares people off. Then I remember Nobi’s life-changing and life-saving potential. As a disruptor for Nobi, I will do my utmost to ensure that as many Dutch people as possible have a longer and more meaningful life that exceeds all expectations thanks to the technology that our smart lamp offers.

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