A Glimpse of the Future, and Why You Should Just Start Today

#Startuptruth: I wasn't going to post today, but I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Entrepreneurship is all about ups and downs; facing your worst doubts; and questioning yourself. The startup mentality has helped me understand our thinking in medicine; with our careers; with setbacks and triumphs in life beyond med; and how universal this all is in any journey we're on. 

I've been having a hard time lately. I couldn't work during most of my locum as my hands were so painful and pinched, it was excruciating even to hold my phone or turn a tap, let alone typing up admissions, inserting cannulas and all the other stuff that happens on the wards. I'm pretty sure everyone at work thought I was a softie who couldn't take it (which was a joke; it was busy, but there are way busier and harsher places to work as a doctor!). Luckily I called in sick for the rest of it rather than pushing on through the pain and potentially causing permanent damage. And even then, I hated doing it, because there's this huge stigma in medicine that when you call in sick, you can't just rest in bed; you mentally have to gear up to get well as soon as possible, so you can resume your work and offload the weight that everyone in your team must be feeling because you're unwell. (It was good news that another locum was found quickly.)

So that fear has been playing along for the last few weeks. What if I could never use my hands again? What if I could never play piano, because it was hurting so much when I played even simple things? What if I couldn't type- and most of our work these days involves a significant degree of typing, especially with EMRs, Excels and all being so prevalent now? What if I could never work again?

That led to a huge cry episode the other night. (You weren't expecting that, were you?) You see, I love my work in medicine. I really enjoy it and love seeing the changes in patients from just the tiniest roles we play in their lives. 

But I've longed, longed for so long to share music with the world; to play piano and other instruments and write my songs properly; to produce and touch people through my words and sounds. And even if it never takes off, just the thought of never being able to play piano for myself, ever again, is devastating, like death itself. 

The Medical Startup has been really "meta", as one journalist humorously described it (thank you, Zelwan!), because while I've been interviewing founders; writing up conferences; sharing insights into the medical life to help you on your journey; and creating things in the background; it also has been a way for me to learn about startups; to reflect upon my own startup journey; to teach myself resilience; to face my darkest fears; and to become stronger, more confident; and hopefully, leave something beautiful and helpful for you guys to be inspired by, no matter where I go in life. 

I've finally got the confidence. After three years of blogging, after nearly a lifetime of doodling song ideas; after nearly five years of teaching myself about the fashion industry; as time passes by, it's increasingly apparent that I should have done things yesterday.

Within two hours, I accomplished stuff I'd been dreaming of for years. 

I launched my music YouTube channel, "Louise Teo Music." Just one song. A piano cover of a Prodigy song. (The Prodigy and Keith Flint are inspirations. I was really cut when I heard of Keith's passing.) It already has significant views and Likes and comments (none of them forced from friends or family!). Maybe not significant to you, but huge for me. It was easy to do, it was fun, and I can’t wait to do more.

I launched my Incredible Wearable Instagram, which is a project I've had in my heart for possibly longer than The Medical Startup. It is a small step, but a huge one in my heart. My soul is free. I am no longer bogged down by "what if" and "I should have." Now, it's about being present, and what I can do in the moment. 

And I wrote yesterday's piece on fashion and sustainability, and Legacy Summit.

I am so happy, because it took me countless hours over the years to figure out that I didn't need permission from anyone in or out of medicine to write about fashion and launch my YouTube. I just needed to let myself do it!

I have so much coming up for you. An eBook on locuming. An eCourse on getting started with stuff. Podcasts for both The Medical Startup and Incredible Wearable. And lots, and lots, and lots of music practice, preparation and producing! 

It's true that we should try to focus, and cut out the unnecessary in life, in order to get things done. So I'm going to do that. By cutting out my self-doubt, which is incredibly draining, soul-sapping, and unfortunately, can affect others, even though I don't mean it. 

Thank you if you've read to here; I am going to be blogging more than Instagramming with The Medical Startup again, which is something I've missed!  I would love it if you followed Louise Teo Music and Incredible Wearable on Instagram; and The Medical Startup and Louise Teo Music on YouTube (nothing on The Medical Startup channel yet, but there will be soon!). 

And I hope this post helps you if you've been too scared or stuck to do something you've held dear to your heart, too. Please start today! You won't believe how liberating it is and how much confidence you'll gain, and how much you'll learn. 

Fashion and Sustainability: How Can Medical Workers Get Involved?

Next week, I’m excited to attend LEGACY Summit, presented by Ndless: The New Normal and Fashion Revolution.

LEGACY Summit is a Responsible Fashion Summit. It will have huge talks and workshops on sustainability; ethical work practices; the health issues of the textiles and fibres we wear and consume; and the impact of fashion on our planet. Whether you’re a startup, a consultant for McKinsey (who’ll be there too!), a student, or a curious industry outsider wanting to learn more, it’ll be fantastic to attend and meet great friends sharing the same interests.

It’s incredible (and btw, heads-up for my new project below!), and I can’t wait because it’s something I don’t really get to talk about with other doctors except as a consumer.

Living in Cairns last year, everyone was very conscious of sustainable living and recycling practices. The Great Barrier Reef is on our doorstep, and Banana, Sugar Cane farmers and Daintree rainforest residents and visitors coupled with the proximity to cyclones and the isolation of rural living meant that locals were very conscious of how we could save the planet, one small step at a time.

That includes being one of the first cities in the world to promote paper straws at their bars. Kids running projects like Straw No More on Instagram have done huge things to promote international awareness. Locals were alarmed that international tourists would be served canned drinks on board the Reef ferries; and then find that plastic straws included with the cans were often dumped into our beautiful ocean!!

Coral bleaching from global warming was also a frequent topic in the Cairns Post, and even the changing lifestyle habits of crocodiles were discussed in the media as a potential consequence of global warming. (Hint: the risk is higher in the summer, or wet season in the Far North. But really, just don’t swim in the waters up there, and beware the yellow signs warning of crocs!)

Anyway, as healthcare workers, and as a doctor, I frequently find that I’m having to explain myself when I tell even close friends that I like fashion.

Yes, I love getting dressed up, I love understanding my style choices, and I LOVE understanding the impact of textiles on my own body when dressing for humidity vs frigid temps (and that’s been a frequent consideration when flying between Cairns and Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania in winter!).

But I also love global health, and the fact that the whole world, from Hong Kong Tatler to Calvin Harris to our supermarkets, is talking about sustainability. (Medical Pantry is also inspired by this!)

I think it’s silly and ignorant to dismiss fashion as frivolous. We could spend all day talking about the body shaming issues that have led many to believe this. But as the planet’s largest industry, as clinicians and healthcare workers (and social enterprise startups!), it would be amiss of us to not acknowledge fashion as an important topic that can be worked on by doctors, nurses, physios, dietitians (plant-based fibres, anyone?), podiatrists (think of the great sole materials that can be made from fabric offcuts! Think of Allbirds shoes and other cool startups!), and others in medicine and healthcare.

At any rate, our patients care. It would be wrong to not acknowledge that.

Tickets are still available for Legacy Summit. Other ways you can get involved in the conversation:

1) Attend talks like those at VAMFF (on this week!) and other local fashion festivals

2) Participate in Fashion Revolution

3) Form a blog. Yep, I’m putting together a new blog and podcast, Incredible Wearable, that will explore the intersection between fashion tech, sustainability and health. You can start by following @incrediblewearable on Instagram.

4) Advocate with your College if you’re a member. The RACP has a portal for Climate Change resources for Doctors, including links to The Lancet studies.

5) Open your mind and heart to the possibilities when you don’t silo industries and topics into separate categories. Garment workers in developing nations working in factories with poor ethical practices suffer the health consequences of these practices. Healthy eating for the planet is also an important topic that’s related. EAT Foundation is a recommended resource to get involved with.

6) Global Ideas and other global health events and forums, and webinars, and ecourses, and MOOCs (see our Resources page!) are all great ways to get involved and learn. Once we grow together, we’ll have stronger voices to advocate for all this.

What are your thoughts? How are you involved in sustainable fashion?

The Australian Startup Aiming For Zero Waste In Healthcare

Globally, there’s been increasing awareness - and action- regarding sustainability and climate change.

Healthcare is no different.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the tonnes of unused, sanitised medical supplies found in well-stocked hospitals and clinics in the developed world?

The pristine cannulas and IV drips. The instruments in the operating room. Even the surgical gloves.

Melbourne anaesthetist Dr Martin Nguyen studied this with Hospital Sustainability expert Dr Forbes McGain and their team, and was perturbed by the findings that, in one week in Melbourne, 23% of waste generated from six operating rooms was recyclable. Was it feasible to recycle this waste? The study showed that, yes, it was, both financially and with infection control integrity.

This brought Martin back to his journeys on medical missions trips, where, he says, “in isolated pockets of Vietnam, I noted these communities were in desperate need for medical supplies, but did not have connections or the resources to reach out.” Furthermore, “we discovered (through our research) that there were unused items thrown out into landfill. This practice upset many staff who were avid reducers and recyclers at home, but had to be wasteful at work. They were keen to collect and donate these supplies, but did not know where to send it to.

“This is where the inspiration for Medical Pantry came from. The Medical Pantry sits in the middle to match the needs of undeserved communities with the generosity of the givers.”

Since inception, Medical Pantry has successfully donated high quality, unused clinical goods to communities worldwide, including in Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Led by Martin and a team of eager volunteers, goods are readily donated from hospitals and clinics, and are given to recipients usually via clinicians on missions trips and other aid ventures. Goods can also be used locally; wildlife sanctuaries have benefited, along with local businesses in Victoria’s Western Health district; local clinics may run short, and mechanics find the unused, sterile kidney dishes useful! However, Martin envisages a future where tech enables donors to match recipients’ needs directly online, saving further costs, time and resources that can then be put to use expanding the reach of their work.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

“Our ultimate goal is for the Medical Pantry to not exist at all - for there to be no waste from the healthcare system,” says Martin. “But, while there is waste, the Medical Pantry will find a second life for medical supplies and stop it heading to landfill. I hope in future, this will be a national program with collection/distribution centres in each major city in Australia. I believe the data collected will raise awareness and feedback to those in healthcare to help achieve zero healthcare waste.”

Currently, Medical Pantry is in the running for up to $100,000 in local government grants to help with more permanent warehousing, distribution and storage. (People with Victorian addresses can vote for Medical Pantry to receive funds in this grant, until 5pm, Monday 17 September.) However, to fulfil its dream of recycling goods in other cities and expanding its reach, it will need more funding and support beyond this grant. It’s amazing what impact local work can have on global health.

To reach out to Medical Pantry regarding funding or other support, please visit medicalpantry.org or facebook.com/medicalpantry.

All images in this article courtesy of Medical Pantry.

Best Reads This Week, September Edition

We’ve been quiet for awhile! Hello again :)

It’s great to be back!

We’ve got a lot happening at The Medical Startup- thankyou for bearing with our site facelift as it happens.

For now, entertain yourselves with a roundup of some great articles we’ve enjoyed from around the Web this week.

  • Beth Comstock’s a CEO- and an introvert. Tips and strategies at Girlboss.com.

  • Clinical trials are underway for novel early-stage cancer screening through a simple blood test. (The article’s from January but still relevant!)

  • Our friends at Lysn have been listed as one of the top 5 Mental Health social enterprises in tech to watch, along with other inspiring startups. Check out the full list at Social Change Central.

What are some articles and resources you’ve enjoyed recently? Share your finds below!

What It’s Like Attending Your First Hackathon

First published June 5, 2017

 

No matter your level of experience – or self-perceived lack of- hackathons are a great way for you to get started in tech.

At hackathons, you meet others interested in a good cause or tech solution for a pressing problem. Think “build a tech product in two days” and you get the idea. They’re usually themed; for example, Healthhack in Melbourne last year; the internationally-run Hacking Health (in Brisbane this year) and even food hackathons and fintech hacks in various cities. You’re usually presented with a problem to solve, either in advance of the event, or at the start of the event itself. Run as competitions, prizes and opportunities are usually on offer, ranging from prize money to course scholarships and introductions to advisors and mentors.

I’d bookmarked a ton of hackathons across Australia that kept cropping up at the wrong time; so it was a nice surprise when I Googled “hackathons” while visiting New York, and found out about AngelHack’s “Women in Tech Demo Day.

 

The Flatiron District, Saturday morning! Pic: The Medical Startup

 

I didn’t know what “Demo Day” meant. Basically, it means the event’s been announced some time ago, and you work on your project solo or with your team members in the weeks or days leading up to the event. This differs from more traditional hackathons, which may run for, say, 48 hours, and working around the clock to build that prototype with your team, even at 3am.  I’d signed up to Demo Day the week before, and with my NY schedule already packed, thought, well, no harm in just rocking up and observing if that’s all I can do!

But actually, AngelHack are good at knowing how randoms like me stumble upon opportunities like this. Using Slack, they created streams for each Women in Tech DD (#WITDemoDay) in each city (they also had Washington, D.C and Dallas events that year), so attendees could connect and form teams online, and work on their demos together to present on the actual event day.

There was also room for those who turned up on the day and decided to form a group while at the venue, which is what I ended up doing.

#WITDemoDay. Pic: The Medical Startup

Getting to the venue was exciting enough, being a Big Apple tourist. Held at sponsor Capital One’s offices in the Flatiron District (iconic enough for its own blog post really!), there was mingling amongst women and men of various ages and backgrounds throughout the event. Students, developers, graphic designers moving into code, project managers, professionals from other industries breaking into tech, and the random who flew from Australia (I got a few stares!) were all there. Very refreshing to see men at an event promoting opportunities for women. After an intro and warmup activity (and finding another Aussie!), we formed new groups or got into the ones we’d already arranged prior; and set to work on a tech solution for involving more girls and women in the tech world.

 

Food, glorious food  Pic: The Medical Startup

By the end of the day, wireframes and working prototypes for websites, apps, and even social media companies had formed. I’d made new friends, heard some very inspiring guest speakers, and gotten to soak up the fun atmosphere. Maybe it was the 39-degree heatwave outside, but it didn’t feel ultra-competitive- certainly, other groups had been preparing for weeks or days, and people wanted to win the $20,000 General Assembly course scholarship and other prizes, but for my new group who were talking about Pokemon Go (which was hot at the time), we were just racing the clock to present a simple prototype in time.

 

The 2016 winners of the Women in Tech Demo Day, NYC! Read more about them at Forbes by clicking on the image. Pic: The Medical Startup

Throwing yourself into a foreign situation like that forces you to quickly get comfortable being uncomfortable. Some of us were enrolling in beginner’s coding classes; others had graduated from computer science degrees and now wanted to use their skills in the real world. Still others had genuinely never typed a line of code in their lives, but wanted to see what it was like. And then it was also interesting experiencing hints of a startup culture in a different country, particularly a world business capital like New York. You learnt a lot in eight hours.

The presentations were really enjoyable. The winner turned out to be the Aussie I mentioned earlier, who presented HerReality, a virtual reality solution for educating girls about careers in tech through the eyes of the narrator. One of the other prizewinning teams was a group that had formed on Slack that same week and met for the first time in person that day! Women@Forbes writer Leah Ginsberg was one of the judges, and was so impressed by the finalists that she wrote about them later on. Imagine forming your team and attending your first hackathon, winning your first prize that same day, AND getting into Forbes! Wow.

I hope all this inspires you in some way to take a chance and try a new challenge. Whether it’s attending your first hackathon or another tech event, it’s great to stretch your boundaries and get a head start on tech terms and startup lingo- and pitching practice. (Not the baseball kind.) (Couldn’t resist.)

AngelHack’s Carlye Greene with guest speaker, entrepreneur and consultant Roopa Unnikrishnan. Pic: The Medical Startup

In the medical world, you can immerse yourself so deeply in medspeak that you forget how to dial it down and share your knowledge with others outside of med. It’s the same with code. I’ve since been to other events where, at pitching time, the audience struggles to understand the real-world application, the one-sentence pitch to non-coder investors and stakeholders, that is buried beneath the tech jargon. I think people are starting to mix more, however, and the cross-pollination of experiences will bring more cohesive events like Women in Tech Demo Day together.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a medical event. I learnt a lot and had a great time. And you could argue that improving tech education for girls could help a future nurse, doctor or other healthcare worker use their valuable tech skills throughout their careers!

This year’s AngelHack/Capital One Women in Tech Demo Day is coming up this month; check it out and register at womenintechdemoday.com. Also visit Angelhack.com for other hackathon opportunities around the world. 

This may ring a bell for Aussies who have been to Girl Geek Academy events– if you haven’t, register nowthey’re run by an awesome team and are branching into the States.

Also check out hackathon.io for lists of other hackathons around the world.  

Breaking The Boundaries You’ve Set Yourself: Thoughts and Events To Inspire Your Tech Journey

First published May 28, 2017

 

How do you learn about tech as an outsider?

For awhile, before The Medical Startup became an idea, I was toying with creating something in tech.

I was a full-time doctor in a Melbourne hospital, spending all my spare time studying for fellowship.

When you’re at that stage in your career, you’re usually facing another four to six years of focusing on fellowship full-time.

I was surrounded by peers who were working towards the same goal.

It was all we knew at that time. We’d forgotten what life was like pre-training, it was deemed a “waste” if you paused for breath, and it took a long, long time to learn to breathe above water again.

So it seemed impossible.

But when you start to act towards those “strange” goals, the world opens up beyond anything you’d imagine. 

Attending events and online webinars helped tremendously. I was surrounded by others who were teaching themselves, too.

I started learning how to adapt to new environments, even more new than running a Code Blue at 3am.

I started learning the lingo of life outside of medicine.

And the love of learning I have for medicine sustained me through this journey, too.

So here’s a thought for the next time you’re thinking, “I can’t do this” or “It’s impossible, I have no background in this area.”

Think laterally about what you’re telling yourself.

Is it really impossible?

 

You’re not just a doctor.

You’re a woman in tech.

You’re not just a nurse.

You’re a father of three.

You’re not just a clinician who sees patients one by one at scheduled appointments at your clinic.

You’re facilitating their wellness beyond their current condition. How they are at home, at work, at the shops and their daily lives.

You have to stop thinking of yourself as a single job description. 

Otherwise, when you’re stuck, how will you remember who you are again?

Think about those who have the courage to uproot countries and settle in a new culture, starting from scratch with their careers again. Often, their degrees aren’t recognised at their new home.

Or think of those who graduate from one degree, then use their determination and self-belief (even when it’s down) to apply to study post-graduate medicine or another degree.

Don’t underestimate yourself.

We’re all learning, after all.

And that shiny, suited person speaking up on the big stage? They had to start somewhere, too. 

This is literally just a random post after reflecting on recent events and conversations. You have to normalise curiosity and your hunger for knowledge. 

Thinking about it, there are a ton of events coming up around the world that may help you along your journey; I’ll list them below. Perhaps you’ll find some of them useful, too.

A couple are med tech, but most are actually more general and will help you learn the vibe and get comfortable in the tech and entrepreneurship worlds, too.

Who knows what new friends you’ll make, and what skills and knowledge you’ll bring back to your usual lives? You’ll almost certainly realise that you already know more about tech than you thought you did.

Be inspired.

Let me know in the Comments or by email if you have been or end up going to any, and how you enjoyed it/what you took away from it. I’m also speaking at an AMA leadership event tomorrow, aimed at junior doctors but hopefully useful for others, too.

Below:

  • The Sunrise Conference” by Blackbird Ventures in Sydney. One of Australia’s most renowned tech venture capital firms. (Last year it was streamed online; here are a couple of tips we took from some of the talks.)

  • The Melbourne Accelerator Program Launch Party 2017. Last year, two Melbourne digital health startups founded by doctors were part of the program. Nebula Health and CNSDose have both benefited hugely from MAP, with Nebula now partnering with hospitals and surgeons, and CNSDose breaking ground as part of Texas Medical Center’s Innovation program.

  • General Assembly, a tech education company running coding bootcamps, one-day workshops and even two-hour events across their centres in Australia, Asia, the US and UK. Visit generalassemb.ly to find your nearest centre and see what’s available. I’ve found their events very helpful.

  • HIC, Australia’s premier health informatics (digital health) conference, run by HISA, the Health Informatics Society of Australia. It’ll be in Brisbane in August, and I’ll be presenting as part of the UX (User Experience) workshop, along with others interested in digital health. I really recommend joining HISA, HiNZ, HIMSS (including their APAC branch), COACH (Canada) or other organisations as a way to get access to valuable resources, networks and skills for eHealth.

  • COACH, Canada’s annual health informatics event early June.

  • HIMSS Asia-Pacific Summit, in Singapore in September. (As a member of HiNZ, you also get full automatic membership to HIMSS Asia-Pacific.)

  • HiNZ, which we wrote about last year; it’ll be in Rotorua this year.

  • The Global Ideas events in Melbourne, inspiring global health innovators with skills including tech and human-centred design thinking. (Read about founder Dr Lloyd Nash’s journey here.)

  • Vogue Codes, an Australian event running in Sydney and Melbourne in August aiming to inspire more women to take up careers in STEM. Speakers include the founders of ClassPass and Shoes of Prey as well as female members of Australia’s startup and tech communities. Being a woman in STEM who loves fashion and the arts, (even if I don’t look the part!), this event really speaks to me, knowing that although society places us into simplistic career boxes (“Medicine!” “Science!” “Engineer!” “Designer!”), we’re much more than just a “science person” or “arty person” 100% of the time.

  • Vivid Sydney’s Ideas program, coming up this week.

  • Girl Geek Academy, an Australian organisation aiming to educate 1 million girls and women in tech by 2025. It also has events in the US.

Doctors, You’ll Never Be Good Enough- And That’s Okay

First published May 12, 2017

Like many in the medical world, I’ve been deeply saddened by the suicide of a Brisbane gastroenterologist, the father of four children, the husband of a loving wife.

I don’t know them personally, but am touched by the email that his wife wrote and son sent online- which has triggered a flood of goodwill from his patients (the Facebook comments on the CourierMail post are so heartening) and from other health professionals and members of the public, who, like me, may not have known him personally, but felt devastated by this very unnecessary loss.

So what can we do? How do we stop others from thinking the only way out is suicide?

What’s the worst that could happen if you choose NOT to die?

 

Your patients may be looked after by other colleagues, or will find other specialists.

 

Your family will be concerned and worried about you, but they will be happier that you’re taking time to recover.

 

Your colleagues will most likely be concerned about you too, not mean-spirited. (If they are, why choose to work with them or choose to listen to them? What do they know about who you really are?)

 

Maybe part of it is our fear of delegating responsibility for our patients to others when we’re too crushed or sick to continue. Handover is so complex- even more as a consultant in private practice for many years. You would have built strong relationships with some of your patients who’ve grown with you; with your staff; with your routine. You would know their test results and the dates of their treatments off by heart.

 

And of course, when a patient dies, it is never easy.

 

Just because you’ve dealt with a patient’s demise or deterioration over and over again during the years, it doesn’t mean your feelings will be bulletproof forever.

 

And then, you also may fear delegating the responsibility of your struggles to others, to psychologists, to counsellors, to psychiatrists, or to a friend who’s a listening ear.

You’re good at curing patients. Why can’t you cure yourself?

You’re feeling enormous responsibility. Why burden others with that terrible weight?

 

There’s so much blame in medicine. We constantly want to be better. It’s the mark of a true professional, a craftsperson even in other professions. You want to better yourself.

 

But even doctors are only human.

 

Maybe we think it’s the absolute end, there’s no way out if we step back for a few days, weeks, months, years- it’s too terrifying at that moment to deal with the enormity of a future you don’t know.

 

We try too hard to control our futures and our patients’ futures, but as doctors and health professionals, and even startup founders, even we can’t control everything.

 

Maybe it’s time to recognise that and embrace it as something positive we can learn to live with.

But don’t do it alone.

Please seek help, no matter what your journey is.

Condolences and respects to Dr Bryant and his family. 

People may look like they’re doing okay on the outside, but are actually screaming for help inside. Please be kind to each other and ask directly, “are you okay?” 

Some useful sites/resources in Australia if you’re seeking help or contemplating suicide:

– Lifeline

– BeyondBlue

– Mens HelpLine

– Mindful in May

– R U OK? suicide prevention

– Victorian Doctors Health Program (please reach out even if you’re not living in the state, people are always happy to suggest other resources)

– your GP

– a psychologist

– a counsellor

– the AMA, which has other links to Drs4Drs which lists resources for Doctors in each State/Territory, and other sites; and the Australasian Doctors NetworkAustralasian Doctors Network which advocates for doctors’ health.

– Online video calls to a psychiatrist (you’ll need a GP referral but it is bulk billed)

– Lysn, a provider of online video calls to a psychologist

– your work’s Employee Assistance Program (many public and private companies including public hospitals in Australia, possibly in your country too, offer this free confidential service through external providers. The RACP also offers this, and probably other fellowship colleges do, too. Don’t be afraid to ask your HR or Workforce managers about this; it’s your right as an employee, and they are human, too, and know everyone goes through stuff.)

Feel free to list other resources you’ve found helpful below in the Comments. 

 

How Can Facebook’s Spaces VR Program Help Patients and Consumers?

First published April 20, 2017

Overnight at Facebook’s F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg officially announced the launch of Facebook Spaces in beta. Using the Rift platform and available on the Oculus store, purportedly all that’s needed is Oculus Touch and an Internet connection.

 

Essentially, this means Facebook is adding virtual face-to-face interaction. This is a huge win for patients and healthcare consumers.

There are several ways in which we think virtual reality through Facebook will help patients, consumers and clinicians.

Patient communities are a burgeoning interest in healthtech. The Mayo Clinic Connect is an online messaging and education platform where patients and carers can chat with others suffering the same or similar illnesses. Australian app CancerAid is also building patient communities and sharing the burden of cancer with the millions affected by cancer worldwide, through their app for iOS and Android. Imagine the potential for communities to virtually “talk” with each other.

 

Patients can create avatars and share vivid experiences with each other, including their Facebook photos and 360 degree videos. Imagine taking a 360 video of your community hospital’s dialysis unit in Chile with your smartphoneand sharing that in real time with your friends in Norway.

 

facebookspaces1.jpeg

Screenshot from Facebook Spaces Oculus’ launch video.

The potential for healthcare education is huge. Facebook Spaces includes a drawing function, meaning that potentially, clinicians could educate patients and families in a more hands-on way, without needing to be in the same room as them. Of course, this helps students and clinicians train for procedures and study for exams, as well.  This could come in handy for rural and residential communities who may not be able to travel to the city for care so readily. Hospitals, clinics and education centres producing educational video content (such as the Royal Children’s Hospital) could potentially integrate their videos into Facebook Spaces, and nurses and staff could help teach with the added drawing function inside the virtual classroom. Imagine teaching a patient about what to expect from a hospital visit through a virtual tour on Facebook Spaces. (Or through our anaesthetist friend’s made-for-VR video!)

 

Facebook Spaces also adds another potential dimension to telehealth. Using Facebook Messenger, video calls can be made, including outside of Facebook to the “real world”. We imagine chatbots for Messenger like Amelie, the mental health chatbot, will have incredible functionality here, where the user’s virtual avatar can consult “face-to-face” with the chatbot counsellor. Sometimes it’s easier to chat to someone you can’t look directly in the eye, and we can imagine people who are too uncomfortable to talk to a face-to-face counsellor or who can barely get out of bed when in a bout of depression may find it easier to start with a chatbot. (One of Amelie’s functions is to guide the participant to further help, rather than replace a professional psychiatrist or psychologist.)

And from a global health perspective, users will be able to virtually “travel” with chatmates and experience different environments. This could help with disaster resource planning, for example sharing VR videos and 360 photos of earthquake – ravaged zones with aid organisations to help their planning for resources and deployment. Similarly, can you imagine how design of healthcare spaces will be impacted? Oculus’s YouTube video above shows a user sharing photos of the apartment she just bought. Again, the virtual tour aspect of public buildings and clinics can help plan for better patient care through architecture and design. Imagine sharing 360 pictures of your Emergency Department layout with other EDs around the world at conferences; or performing emergency simulation training through VR tours and demonstrations.

Are you an app developer or health tech startup founder? Now you have a whole new avenue of possibility to think about when integrating social functions into your product.

Of course, cautions about security and encryption of call content apply here, but just imagine the potential…

Got any ideas for how you will use Facebook Spaces in healthcare or for leisure? Comment below and please share this article if you enjoyed it. Sign up for our mailing list if you’d like more updates like these. 

You + Career ≠ Self Worth

First published March 19, 2017

 

It’s devastating to hear of yet another young doctor suicide in Australia.

As the papers report, the 4th known in 6 months; probably many more unreported.

That doesn’t include the statistics for other healthcare professionals in Australia, or of those who work within healthcare; and of course, those from non-healthcare professions, too.

We don’t know the victims personally, and we’re not going to pretend we know their story.

But we know our own stories.

The pressure of our careers and perfectionism in the age of Instagram is higher than ever, and we want to remind everyone:

Your career is not your value as a person.

We know it.

And we can give advice on how things can change in the healthcare profession.

Because, this may not surprise you, these exact same issues crop up in the startup world, too. 

 

The same exacting degree of impossible high standards. 

Being the top one percent of the cream of the crop. 

Feeling like you have to beat and compete with that top percent of the cream of the crop. 

Congratulating yourself for pushing through 100 hour work weeks or more without a break, week on week.

Being made to feel ashamed when you try to enjoy your Sunday off but have hours of lectures to catch up on.

Being told by senior bosses and advisors that “we’ve been there, we’ve done that, we’ve pushed through insane hours at the risk to our health and our relationships, too.”

The thing is, thirty years down the track, the seniors in various professions may have neglected to realise the impact that social media and digital devices have on all industries and their workers.

We’re constantly surrounded by information overload.

Our email inboxes keep filling.

Those Tweets keep flowing in.

Our patients demand the best, and we are doing our best within our limited neural networks. 

Peer pressure scorns you when you haven’t published enough papers.

Your brain and body work best when you have enough rest.

We have to accept that we can never know everything. 

We’re not perfect.

And despite the external factors set to validate “success,” we have to remember we’re able to set our own internal values. 

We’ve been in the undergraduate medical class where people sneered at Mindfulness and Resilience training.

We’ve been there when we were too scared to call in sick despite being sick with gastro, because we’re worried our colleagues will think we’re too “soft” or faking it.

We’ve seen colleagues return to work when they’re still having gastro, risking hospital outbreaks, because they are the only Registrar on call that weekend in a major city hospital, and their bosses don’t get paid for stepping in for them.

You feel pressured to return to work before you’re well, too.

Yet other colleagues make it difficult for the workplace to trust your cohort, because when they call in sick, they’re pictured at festive events the same day they were meant to work.

We’ve been told we’re worthless by Directors of Training, despite studying and working at the cost of seeing loved ones when they needed us.

We’ve cried through weekends off because they were never really “off” when you had to study, study, and study for fellowship.

We were told by Colleges and work paraphernalia to look after yourself and seek help.

When we tried to do more sport or see friends, we had the opportunity cost of less time for study group.

We were told we didn’t want it badly enough, and we knew that was bull.

Yet it’s never enough.

There’s always going to be someone who says you’re too “soft” or worse.

You have to learn to tune them out.

You have to know what’s important to yourself.

What happens if you do achieve that goal you’re seeking? Will it really make you happy? Or will it more likely unlock another list of far-reaching career accomplishments you’ll need to add to your LinkedIn?

You have to accept that the only thing you can be perfect at is being YOU. 

Being the one who your aunts and childhood friends call on your birthday.

The one who gets to hold your nephew.

The one who gets to laugh at your partner’s jokes.

The one who bakes the best cake in the family.

Who were you before you started your degree?

What interests did you enjoy along with medicine or your profession?

What did you do to relax?

If the answer’s “Nothing!” to all of that, you can still start something now.

Did you ever talk to anyone outside of work about your problems?

The strongest thing you can do is find someone.

Your problems are NEVER too small to share with someone who cares or is trained to help. 

Lifeline, Beyond Blue, a counsellor, psychologist, a GP, the Victorian Doctors’ Health Program– they’re all there to help you.

Most major workplaces including hospitals, manufacturing factories, corporations, and so forth- have an Employee Assistance Program or similar where staff can access free, confidential counselling sessions.

You can go to the other side of town or chat over the phone, and not let it be known to anyone in your workplace or fellowship college.

You may not click with that counsellor or listener immediately, but persist – or try someone else. It’s not personal. The counsellor relationship doesn’t have to be perfect immediately.

Try something new. The brain loves novelty. Attend an acting class. An illustration class. A free yoga session on the beach. Be anonymous. Challenge yourself to step out from what you know. That one-hour break at the new yoga session could be exactly what you need to feel reinspired.

Call a friend you haven’t seen since school. It’s amazing how similar our paths are, despite differences in uni degree (or lack of- and it’s incredible what lives people can build for themselves without a college or uni diploma!). The same stressors. The same feelings of lack of self-worth in any industry.

A key reason why we started this blog was to inspire others about healthcare and entrepreneurship. Because those skills and these stories of real people who have hit rock bottom before career success, can be used by you, too. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re medical or not.

At the crux of it, you’re doing whatever you do because you want to do good.

And doing good (and being well enough to do this) involves taking risks.

You’re thinking like an entrepreneur if you take a risk and decide to take time out from training.

You’re thinking like a startup founder by deciding to apply for a paid Biodesign Fellowship overseasinstead of following the PhD route the majority are taking.

You’re a risk-taker if you decide to apply for a Google prize through your PhD.

You’re creative by founding a cancer app combining clinicians’ and patients’ needs instead of waiting a few years to finish training before starting to make an impact.

And you’re a champion if you’re learning to deal with your fears

Both the medical and startup worlds must learn to be kind to their own. 

But while they’re learning how to do so (and it’s really not that hard to be nice), refuse to be a victim. 

You are in control of your actions.

Be yourself. Be passionate about being your best self, in medicine or any tribe you’re connected to.

And allow yourself to receive kindness from others.

You’re not alone.

Help can be found in Australia from many sources including Lifeline (13 11 44), BeyondBlueBlack Dog Institute, the Victorian Doctors’ Health Program, and your GP. Please comment below if you have more resources to share including outside Australia.
There is also a
donation fund set up in honour of a recent doctor-suicide victim.
Thank you for reading this. 

How Can We Be Leaders Through Healthcare Technology? Day 3 of HiNZ and the New Zealand Nursing Informatics Conference

First published November 7, 2016

This week, we’ve been inspired by the many speakers who have made career leaps: from clinician  to academic; from clinician to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) specialist; and even from accountancy to the public service in healthcare. Here are some of their insights from Day 3 of HiNZ, and the concurrent New Zealand Nursing Informatics Conference:

1) Videos of nature scenes played via app, with or without music, can help reduce pain perception and level of anxiety in the perioperative period. Professor of Nursing, Margaret Hansen of the University of San Francisco,  was inspired to investigate the power of visualisation in dealing with pain, after experiencing a severe illness herself. Her feasibility study, performed as a randomised controlled trial, has shown these promising effects, and will lead to further study- perhaps even in Virtual Reality!

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Prof Margaret Hansen of USF demonstrates one of the app’s Nature videos at the NZ Nursing Informatics Conference 2016. Pic: The Medical Startup

2) “We need to collaborate with our international colleagues,” said Lucy A. Westbrooke, who is the New Zealand ambassador for the International Medical Informatics Association – Nursing Informatics (IMIA – NI). From her diverse career in nursing, leading to executive and chairperson positions in New Zealand health informatics and telehealth, she described some of the various international meetings and opportunities helping to achieve this goal.

 

3) “You don’t design systems for the most technologically agile; it has to be for the users,” Dr Simon Kos, Chief Medical Officer of Microsoft advised. Having experienced healthcare both as a clinician and as a software engineer, Dr Kos gave insights into the future of medical education with virtual reality through Hololens. 

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Dr Simon Kos, Chief Medical Officer of Microsoft at HiNZ 2016. Pic: The Medical Startup

4) Finally, NZ Ministry of Health Director General Chai Chuah posed the question: What kind of leader are you (in healthcare)? “Today’s global leaders understand and lead the art and science of disruptive change,” he said, acknowledging the combination of both art and science in medicine, technology and healthcare.

Leadership isn’t always about being the first to present an idea, or the first to use a new technology. Leadership can occur at an individual level. As an example, guiding a patient to a tech solution enabled by a District Health Board (DHB), such as A.Prof Robyn Whittaker has done with her project with Waitemata DHB. Her research findings from a messaging reminder service for behaviour change showed that patients benefited from this service. Or coordinating an entire Australian Territory’s telehealth services, as Michelle McGuirk does in the Northern Territory; or encouraging a patient to keep an app-based symptom journal.

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A/Prof Robyn Whittaker, Medical Doctor and Digital Health lead at Waitemata DHB presents her Behaviour Change Messaging project findings. Pic: The Medical Startup

You can view sessions from 2016 and 2015 at HiNZ.org.nz with membership. Catch up on Day 1 and Day 2 highlights as well.

We thank HiNZ for providing media access to the conferences and opening our eyes up to these incredible experiences.