Considered one of the strongest patient voices around the world, Michael Seres is involved in developing and implementing patient engagement strategies using digital technologies.
Atthe age of 12, you were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an incurable bowel condition. Could you explain us your experience and how have you became a leader patient advocate?
At the age of 16 I was told by my gastroenterologist that the only way he would treat me is if we did this together as a team. I learnt very early on that I needed to take responsibility for my health. That led me to understand more about my blood levels, the important markers and what I needed to do next to assist my recovery. In the last 5 years, post my intestinal transplant, I really decided that I have a responsibility to give back to the surgeons who saved my life. The best way I could do that was to live my life. I started mentoring patients with IBD and intestinal failure and then started talking to the new transplant patients. From there I understood more the power of the patient and the role we can play in healthcare in the future. At Stanford Medicine X we have a philosophy of everyone included which is around the fact that everyone, including the patient, has a role to play and each role has to be based on mutual respect and empathy.
"Technology has democratised healthcare"
In recent years, we have started to talk about the concept of the e-patient. How can digital technologies change the role of the patient in healthcare?
Technology has been a key driver in changing the healthcare landscape in general. No longer are we in isolation, you can now go on line and engage, learn, communicate with patients around the world like never before. Technology has broken down barriers, it has made patients realise that they are not alone and that they have a voice. In a way it has democratised healthcare. From social media to now wearables, sensors and quantified self-movement patients are groundbreakers. Take the work that Dana Lewis is doing with building an artificial pancreas, or Sara Rigarre an amazing Parkinson patient. They are shaping healthcare of the future through the use of digital technologies.
Is it possible to improve patient's engagement with these new digital solutions?
Not with digital solutions alone. It has to start with the desire of a patient to engage. They have to want to do something. Or they have to be encouraged to look, listen and then decide. Once a patient feels that the time is right to engage then digital solutions open up a whole new world. From something as simple as a Facebook group to a more sophisticated platform like Health Unlocked or PatientsLikeMe digital can really change patients lives. First and foremost it starts with the patient making a decision.
Regarding caregivers, could you give us some examples of how can they benefit of the use of digital technologies?
Often caregivers are the true unsung heroes. As a patient myself I believe that it is much harder on my family than it is on me. I see digital solutions as helping them in three ways. Firstly, simply as a way of connecting to others, shared experiences and the ability to know you are not alone. Secondly technology can often enable caregivers to receive information more quickly to assist in the care. Take our device for example. The sensor could connect to the caregivers phone enabling them to know ahead of time what is about to happen to their loved one and prevent it. Thirdly a caregiver may not be a family member or friend it maybe a system or a nursing home or a third party that is not in the same place as the patient. Here technology really can be a lifeline literally saving lives, that ability to know in the moment what is happening to their patient and to act.
Technology has made patients realise they are not alone and they have a voice
What is the role of social media in healthcare in this new scenario?
Social media is an interesting one. For me it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I have learned new things, created friendships, engaged in conferences, research programmes and used it to build solutions. Take Symplur’s hashtag programme. You can now search for any condition/community and join a conversation or a conference. It can though be a very crowded and scary place for some. There is a lot of noise on social media and that can create confusion. Who do I trust, where do I go, which hashtag do I follow, etc. That can be confusing to a beginner or a new patient and we must be cognisant of this.
You have founded 11Health, a connected medical device company. What kind of projects are you developing currently?
Right now we are very focused on sensor technology around medical bags. How to deliver an improved quality of life for patients whilst at the same time deliver real time and relevant data to the healthcare profession so that they can make decisions to prevent things happening. Our technology really focuses on looking at the ability to reduce readmission rates by teaching the patients to self manage. We are currently focused on stoma care but shortly will be moving in to other use cases. We like to say we turn dumb bags into smart bags using the data to deliver a continuum of care for the patients.
In your opinion, which connected health devices will be essential the next years?
Whether we like it or not devices, like everything in healthcare, have to show cost savings to really be adopted. We cannot shy away from the $. However it is those devices that truly deliver relevant and continuous value to the end user that will succeed. So many devices and apps get discarded because they stop delivering value. As a patient myself I know that I won’t use one if I see it as an extra in my daily life without getting anything in return. In addition I believe patients just want to get on with their lives so devices that work in the way every day technology works, have the same intuitive feel and user experience will gain traction. I also believe that we are in danger of delivering data overload to doctors so for me it is about delivering the relevant data in the right way that can be viewed by the doctor where they need it to be viewed.
11Health focuses on reducing readmission rates by teaching the patients to self manage/em>
You are one of the keynote speakers of the Health 2.0 Europe conference in Barcelona. What do you expect to teach and learn in this event?
I am very humbled to have been asked and look forward to the event. Health 2.0 is a place where I always learn something new. This year I am looking forward to not just hearing about the future but about some successes today, technologies that have been deployed and are showing results. It is always easy to just focus on tomorrow but my life is also today and Health 2.0 manages to build that balance perfectly between a look into the future and example of great tech for today’s world.
Michael Seres, the founder and CEO of 11 Health and Technologies Limited, was diagnosed with the incurable bowel condition, Crohn's Disease at the age of 12. After over 20 operations and an intestinal failure, he became the 11th person to undergo a small bowel transplant at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, UK, which included becoming a stoma patient. Additionally, Michael is also a 2-time Cancer patient. In 2013, Michael founded the health tech start up 11 health and has developed sensor technology for ostomy patients.
He started blogging about his journey through Bowel Transplant and his blog now has over 100,000 followers. He uses social media to develop global online peer to peer communities: covering over 20,000 patients. He is now the patient lead for the main UK health twitter chat #NHSSM, a member of the NHS England Digital Services user council, a published author and a professional speaker. He is the inaugural e-patient in residence and an executive board member at Stanford Medicine X. Michael helped implement the first skype clinics in Oxford Hospital and is an ambassador to the Doctors 2.0 conference.
By Jose L. Cánovas