27 Mar 2018
Matt Eagles is our Head of Patient Engagement at the Havas Lynx Group. Last year, Matt told a fascinating tale of living with Parkinson's and his experience of healthcare at WIRED Health, completely blowing the audience away. This year, Matt attended WIRED Health to learn from his fellow speakers. In this blog, he shares his experience of this year's event which was focused around the changing paradigm of healthcare.
Once again the team at WIRED have excelled themselves with an event more than worthy of being staged at such a spectacular venue as The Francis Crick Institute.
The undeniable take away from the whole event was a need and genuine desire to ‘change the paradigm’. How we think about ourselves and our own health and how we treat others both now and in the future is crucial to better outcomes.
What surprised and shocked me the most was that despite all the incredible scientific and technical advances we see in areas such as oncology, genomics, surgery, data collection and AI – only a small number of people across the world are able to benefit from these innovative solutions due to issues of access concerning geography, population size and limited resources. This is often due to economic mismanagement from those in government who don’t regard the Health and Wellness of the population as a priority.
HON. Dorcas Makgato, the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Government of Botswana, delivered one of the most colourful and positive keynotes during the morning session. Her beaming smile and wonderfully colourful attire matched her desire to “treat all” in a country where 25% of the population live with the HIV virus and where there is a robust primary health care system, government investment in health has jumped from 5.1billion pula to over 8billion pula in just three years. Driven by these bold steps, Dorcas, a staunch Liverpool FC fan, quoted the famous words known to every football fan worldwide “you will never walk alone” and admitted that without collaboration, ideas and resources made available from other countries, her mission would struggle. But thanks to her overwhelming determination and desire, her beloved Botswana is turning itself around with the focus on prevention of the disease.
Andrew Bastawrous of Peek Vision kicked off the afternoon session with some startling facts. 36 million people in the world today are blind, but 4 in 5 of these cases are preventable. He has created a low-cost, smartphone-based ophthalmic tool built to deliver eye care in some of the most challenging places in the world. In Kenya, where access to healthcare professionals is severely limited, the telecoms networks are surprisingly strong and mobile phone use is much more prevalent than one would imagine. Retinal imaging is crucial to identifying many different diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, enabling teachers in classrooms who have no medical training or background to be able to check individual pupils at risk. This is crucial to not only preventing disease but for also enabling much better health outcomes.
I was looking forward to seeing the presentation from the AI Doctor, Claire Novorol from Ada Health GmbH, and I was not let down. I have been aware of Claire’s work since she attended the Havas Lynx MHCP focus group in 2016. At the focus group, Claire highlighted key challenges and opportunities as to how we can build better healthcare systems in the future.
Two minutes in China. One point four minutes in Pakistan. Forty five seconds in Bangladesh. These were the shocking stats given to us by Dr. Novorol about the amount of time allocated to each patient in the three aforementioned countries.
This highlighted the massive strain on resources in these countries as doctors’ battle desperately to deal with the ever increasing amount of patients. In addition, it emphasised the desperate need for a solution. To ease the burden on already stretched resources to help both HCP’s and patients alike to identify, understand and manage their own systems by providing an AI-powered health companion which also offers options for treatment. This in my mind is crucial not only to increasing health literacy in countries where the general population is rapidly increasing, but also empowers patients to believe that they too have a choice and can make positive decisions that directly impacts on their own health outcomes and that of their families.
I was then delighted to see another friend and partner to Havas Lynx, Prof Shafi Ahmed. There is absolutely no doubt that he is one of the most charismatic, influential and yet incredibly humble guys in the world of healthcare. Not only is he a brilliant surgeon but his ability, desire and sheer enthusiasm to pass on his skills to others is unlike anything I have ever seen before. His skills as an educator are admired all over the world and the forward-thinking tech that he is pioneering is breath-taking. Never have I witnessed such strength, and his delivery, always with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, is infectious as he virtually transports you into the operating theatre with absolutely no need for you to pick up a scalpel. Not only does Shafi change the paradigm in surgery and healthcare, but he has raised the bar far beyond what many people could ever imagine.
One of the most engaging keynotes for me as a lover of wildlife, and a speaker you wouldn’t perhaps associate with human healthcare, was a fascinating insight into the life of a quite remarkable veterinary surgeon from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Romain Pizzi. Renowned for travelling to inhospitable places to operate on endangered animals from rare snails to bears requiring keyhole brain surgery to giant pandas and gibbons requiring metal frames to mend broken limbs, Pizzi’s adventures were jaw dropping and the outcomes on the whole remarkably successful. However when asked what he would like to happen in the future, he left the attentive audience temporarily shell shocked by his reply. His explanation made perfect sense. He wanted to stop travelling and stop operating on these animals to reduce his own carbon footprint and let the skilled local vets in each area deal with their own indigenous wildlife.
To finish the day was the incredible Jess Mills. I have been lucky enough to meet Jess just the week before when I chaired the Havas Lynx Switched Oncology carers focus group. Her powerful presentation demonstrated how she plans to change the paradigm in cancer care. I don’t mind admitting Jess had me in tears with her story. Her love for her mother Baroness Tessa Jowell, who was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in May 2017, and her desire to campaign to get access to cancer care regardless of social status or financial power, came across so, so strongly that it humanised the whole patient-carer-advocate debate. Jess proved beyond doubt that the ability to love someone, care for someone and advocate for those who perhaps don’t have a voice is one of the biggest drivers of change in positive health outcomes.