Irish Tech News talks to Michael Seres, keynote speaker at Barcelona Health2.0 Conference.
Michael talked about where he sees health care going, and how patients will play a critical part in building the future of healthcare.
Give us a little bit about your background
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 12. I’m a three times cancer survivor. In 2011 got an intestinal transplant, the 11th patient in the UK to undergo the transplant at The Churchill Hospital, Oxford
I’ve been in the healthcare system for the last 30 years.
What does being a patient advocate mean to you?
I think we have reached a critical point in healthcare.
Patients, like myself, are living longer with complex long-term chronic conditions that cost the healthcare systems a great deal of money.
We are faced with the challenge of how patients like myself are managed in the long term.
One of the frustrations that I have is that healthcare has not moved with the rest of the world regarding its ability to use technologies that people take for granted.
An example, why aren’t basic end to end encrypted services such as whatsapp not used as a way to communicate. We use these in every day life and they could be used in healthcare. Why aren’t we adopting technologies like skype at speed and scale to teleconference between patients and doctors?
The Healthcare system is great at looking at medical and surgical advances. But it’s bad at taking technologies that you and I take for granted and adopting them in the healthcare environment. I think now is a critical point where we have to be smarter. So I am excited by that.
I think there are health challenges we face as a society. Should patients like me take more responsibility for our own health and well being? I believe that I have a duty to try and manage my health as well and not simply leave it to the healthcare professionals.
Is this unique to you?
There is a growing movement of patients around the world who are trying to change the way healthcare is is delivered and help improve the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients.
There is a movement in the US called ‘Maker Movement’ which is about patients creating solutions for themselves. The hashtag #wearenotwaiting is gaining momentum as patients like me are working hard to solve issues that we face every day.
THERE are patients all around the world doing great things. Patients like Dana Lewis who build an artificial pancreas to assist her manage her own diabetes, Sara Riggare a parkinsons patient who uses technology to manage her condition and Tal Golesworthy who invented a solution after his own heart surgery that is now saving lives.
It hasn’t been adopted at scale yet, and I think that’s not due to a lack of desire from patients to use things. I think the barriers are cultural and political. Health care moves an awful lot slower than other industries.
Tell us more about teamwork in healthcare
As a 16-year-old, I went to see a gastroenterologist. He said to me “I’m only going to treat you if you take as much care for your health as I will”. That framed for me what it meant to be a patient going forward. His guidance got me to understand how I can play a role in my care.
When I had my intestinal transplant six years ago, the surgeon at the time said the same thing. This is a relationship. We do this as a team.
— Digital Health Today (@dhealthtoday) May 4, 2017
That coincided with the role of social media and with patients becoming more aware of things. And that was the moment where I realised that I could make a contribution.
Is teamwork unusual in healthcare?
Yes. I think it’s very rare.
That bravery of a clinician to say “I’m going to treat you as an equal, and we’re going to do this together” is rare still. The challenge is how does that rare thing become more normal.
Do you think there’s much scope for others to become entrepreneurs in the health space?
Patients are every single day are solving problems. Every single day there are issues they are having to deal with and find solutions to.
— Patient Power Europe (@patientpowereu) May 3, 2017
Not all of those are scalable things. Not all of them are from people who want to build companies or big things off the back of it. But patients have to be entrepreneurs every day.
When you can demonstrate an unmet user need and deeply understand what the user wants, is where you can then utilise the patient to scale technology to become an entrepreneur.
It might not be in isolation. Maybe you do it as part of companies. There are cardiac monitoring and pharma companies that work with patients.
Maybe people like myself are slightly more rare in starting their companies, but patients will be a big part of that ecosystem now.
Can you tell us about 11-Health
11Health is a company founded from a hospital bed. I had a stoma fitted as part of my intestinal transplant, and experienced problems with bags leaking and spilling, and doctors needing data from the bags.
At that moment there was no technology to do that.
I bought some gear from eBay and hacked together a sensor.
I then realised from social media that lots of other patients were experiencing the same problems as I was. So we scaled that into a product that could help others.
That’s where 11-health was born.
We then took it to get regulatory approval, built out the technology.
We are now a team of 17, based in the UK and California. We are working with about 20 hospitals at the moment and continuing to grow, which is quite exciting.
What are your long term plans for your company?
As a patient, I’ve been connected to different medical bags for 30 years – ostomy bags, IV bags, catheter bags, food bags. For me, they’re all dumb bags. There is no technology associated with them.
I want every patient connected to a bag to be connected to technology that makes the bag smart, that can deliver data in real-time back to the doctors. Patients can live a better quality of life and doctors and nurses can manage them better remotely.
What are your favourite tech gadgets?
My iPhone and iWatch I love and use every day. I’m a big fan of the Apple iWatch, and it’s ease of use. I can use it as a boarding pass for instance.
I also have just started to use the Amazon Echo dot. It’s great for reading out my calendar, for doing a 7-minute workout every morning.
Anything else he would like to add?
Just to bring back the point, I can never understand how the healthcare industry can build solutions without involving the end user from the start. No other industry does it. Why does healthcare?
Until healthcare gets that, we’re not going to solve some of the problems there.
— Aline Noizet (@anoizet) May 3, 2017
Healthcare has had a long time to fix itself. It needs to look to outside the norms for assistance. That’s where patients can play a massive role.
How do people get in touch with you?
- 11 Health website
- Maker movement in healthcare – Doctor as Designer Joyce Lee on Twitter
- Irish Tech News’s Key takeaways from the Barcelona Health2.0 conference.
- Maker Movement and #wearenotwaiting – Twitter Hashtags for patients creating their own solutions.
- Dana Lewis, creator of the artificial pancreas.
- Sara Riggare who uses tech to manage her Parkinson’s.
- Tal Golesworthy’s Ted Talk on how he repaired his own heart.
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