Rise of the patient expert - an interview with Michael Seres

Liz Inskip | 22nd February 2017

This issue of Perspective magazine focuses on the changing role of the expert in healthcare, and what that evolution means for the industry. 11 Health is a connected medical device company currently working to change the lives of patients using stoma bags. Founded by Michael Seres in 2011, the ostom-i was developed as a direct response to Michael’s own desire for a better stoma bag.

Content Marketing Manager Liz Inskip interviews Michael about his company, how patients are changing the role of the expert in healthcare, and the systematic barriers to innovation in healthcare.

You’re the founder of 11 Health, a company your website describes as “born in the hospital ward” – can you explain what you mean by that, what drove you to form the company?

11 Health never started as a company, it was a hack to solve a problem I was facing in the hospital ward. I was the 11th person in the UK to undergo a small bowel transplant, and was given an ileostomy as part of the surgery. So when I woke up, I had a stoma bag, and it needs to be emptied regularly to report output to the doctors and nurses. Too much output could mean kidney problems or dehydration, too little could indicate a blockage.

The problem was that the task was incredibly unpleasant; the bags leak and spill. Emptying the bag manually was time consuming and difficult as well. My goal was to solve the issue I was having, to test the solution on myself, and show healthcare providers how it could help others.

This issue of Perspective magazine is about the changing role of the expert in healthcare. 11 Health is technology developed by the patient and for the patient. How has the role of the patient as healthcare expert changed in recent years?

Healthcare traditionally is very paternalistic. It’s the way they’ve been trained - they operate on you, they give you meds, and off you go. It has changed, and the role of the expert has changed as a result of the internet and the ability for patients to be more knowledgeable about their conditions. It’s not always good, but it’s driving change. You can see this in the e-patient movement (‘e’ for empowered, enabled, and engaged). It was started by patients as a way to take more control over their data and healthcare.

This is especially true for patients with long-term conditions; they’re becoming partners in healthcare. It’s now a relationship between the patient and wider healthcare team. I’m a partner in my healthcare. I’m not more important than my team, but I am equal value.

There is a movement now toward mutual respect, empathy, trust, and value. Everyone’s function is treated equally – I will never operate on myself, but the decision to go into surgery is something that I would discuss with my doctor and we would take that decision together. At the moment, I’m having a problem with my anti-rejection meds. I had a three-way conversation about my options with my two surgeons, and we decided on a way forward together. That is the changing role in healthcare: patient partnership.

Equal value and equal importance is the future of healthcare.

Read the full interview in the 2017 Trends issue of Perspective magazine.

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