Murray Newlands and I met at the Traveling Geeks’ Cambridge trip on July 20th. On the day, PKB was one of the Cambridge high technology start-ups chosen to present by East of England International. Murray has a great blog with lots of interesting in-depth interviews so it was a great pleasure to be included. I hope you enjoy reading the full interview: patient-centered care and participatory medicine.
Tell me about your Company?
Patient Knows Best: We help health care providers provide patient-centered care. High quality care today requires sharing data about the patient from multiple parties, each of whom contributes a little to the patient’s well-being, but each of which is also bound by confidentiality laws. We allow each of these parties to put their data about the patient into an encrypted workspace that the patient controls and which is already integrated into the NHS secure network. The patient can then share these data with all the people he / she needs help from, including relatives, and health coaches. By putting the patient at the center the quality of care goes up and the burdens of data security go down.
How any lives per year do you think your company will save?
My company will not save any, but the clinicians using our software will save even more lives each day. It is them who do the hard work of caring for patients every day and we hope that we can help them in this task.
But if you look at the book “To Err is Human”, the classic research from the Institute of Medicine (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309068371) 100,000 patients die unnecessarily each year in US hospitals alone. And a large number of these deaths is because the right information about the right patient was not there at the right time with the classic example being the doctor who was not aware that the patient was allergic to their medicine.
Our mission is to help clinicians help their patients by having the right information, and we are proud to play a role in saving lives.
How much money per year do you think your company will save?
We like to think of the raising quality rather than reducing costs. But we do save money. First, there are the obvious costs of transferring data as clinicians do not have to keep on asking the same questions from the patient, nor do they have to retype all the data, nor do they have to transport paper all around. Moving electrons is always cheaper than moving atoms.
But the real money comes when a nurse looking at a patient’s sugar results, sees a recent rise and makes a phone call. That early warning prevents the emergency visit that would have followed and cost £2,700 of care for the diabetic patient. And it is about reducing outpatient appointments by 25% as we know from the millions of patients who receive care online from clinicians in the VA system and Kaiser Permanente in the USA. These reductions not only save clinicians’ time, and thus the costs of care, they also improve satisfaction for patients as the care is more convenient, and allow the patient to see the best specialist rather than the nearest generalist.
All of these improvements are possible when you have a safe environment for sharing data online and we provide these benefits through our system.
What and or who is standing in the way of progress?
I am pleasantly surprised to say: no one! So many doctors and nurses have been wanting to make use of technology to improve patient care but they just did not know how nor did they think they had the time to do so. When we tell them that we have software that integrates with their existing workflow but delivers to them patients who are more useful in each consultation – patients that really understand their illnesses and help the clinician deliver safe care – they are relieved and delighted.
What do Healthcare professionals do that you wish they wouldn’t?
Some of them think they are responsible for the patient’s health. They are not, the patient is, and the patient must be. That is why the switch from paternalistic medicine – where the doctor is in charge and the patient obeys – to participatory medicine – where the patient is part of the clinical team – is good for patients and for clinicians. This not just about patient rights, it is about patient responsibilities, and we provide the tools that allow patients to take on these responsibilities.
Where do you see growth in the social media field?
In health care there we just at the beginning. We called our company Patients Know Best rather than patient knows best for a reason: you might argue that a patient does not know more than their doctor, but I will guarantee you that a room full of patients know an incredible amount. You see this on web sites like Rareshare.org where the clinicians are logging in to learn from the patients as they exchange tips and advice on how to deal with symptoms.
What else do you do to improve the world?
I love teaching: I get so much joy from seeing understanding suddenly flash across a person’s eyes. It’s why education is one of our company values. We aim to teach the patient about their illness rather than just document it for them. And it’s why our web site is mainly a wiki – http://wiki.patientsknowbest.com/ – that lists the best practices of working online with patients. There is no advertising, just hundreds of papers analysed and explained.
Education is an end in and of itself and is important to me in everything I contribute to.
What do you do that is green?
Our advisory board includes Dr Rachel Stancliffe, Director of the Campaign for Greener Healthcare (www.greenerhealthcare.org), and we have received Carbon Reduction grants because using our software reduces the number of face-to-face clinic appointments and all the travel associated with that.
Internally, we are completely paperless and we insist on this with everyone we deal with. One example is the managers of health care institutions with whom we sign contracts. Sometimes you hear managers complaining that clinicians are not adopting technology. But those same managers use paper contracts. We sign everything digitally using EchoSign and we teach the managers to do the same. We tell them that they should make the adjustment for the same reason that they are asking their clinicians to make the adjustment to providing care online. Change is hard and everyone has to do the the hard work together but the benefits are great for the environment and for patients.
What is one thing about you that not many people know?
I wrote my fifth book during my honeymoon.
What’s your favorite book?
That’s so unfair, I love reading and cannot choose! I will say that I always carry my Kindle, and that includes hundreds of books so I can read the one that suits my mood. Can I choose the Kindle?
What is on your iPod?
I only have eyes for my Google phone. But that has a ton of podcasts and I love Social Innovation Conversations and IT Conversations as podcast series from the Conversations Network (www.conversationsnetwork.org). I donate to this group as they produce such intelligent and informative content.
What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace, forums, etc)?
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org is the easiest way to spell my email address
Company: Patients Know Best
What events do you go to?
I get invited to a lot of health policy ones of course because Patients Know Best is at the leading edge of participatory medicine and patient-centered care. But I love being in Cambridge because there are so many lectures about so many topics that I can turn up to every day.
How do you prefer to communicate?
I am guilty of overusing my Google phone for email.
Who would you recommend, and why?
Go for 10 people plus
Buthaina Fakhro: my mother, for her pioneering artwork combining the Western technique of stained glass with the richness of Arab history
Ahmad Al-Ubaydli: my father, for his thought-provoking columns (check out http://blog.mo.md/2008/10/18/amazon-kindle-in-arabic/)
Omar Al-Ubaydli: my brother, for writing the coolest PhD thesis “Diamonds are a dictator’s best friend”
Richard Smith: our chairman and former editor of the British Medical Journal, who I remember from my medical student years for speaking so inspiringly on behalf of patients
Dawson King: awesome technologist who we managed to recruit as our CTO
Sarah Greene, Charlie Smith and Jessie Gruman: for their great work in setting up the Journal of Participatory Medicine
Esther Dyson: she’s just cool and has been involved in everything cool in technology for so many years
Jeff Bezos: because he wakes up every day and thinks “How can I build something that Mohammad will buy”. Amazon’s books, MP3 music files, Kindle electronic books, EC2 cloud computing… the list goes on and the man rocks.
What is one thing people can do for you?
Ask your clinician for a copy of your medical record: not only will you be fascinated by what you read, you will help your clinical team and begin taking control of your health.