Points to Ponder (#HIMSSEurope20 – Day 4)

Inspiring speeches and provocative statements marked the the fourth day of plenary sessions at the virtual HIMSS Europe 20 conference.

From the always quotable inspirational remarks by Erik Gerritsen, Vice Minister for Heath, Welfare and Sport in the Netherlands to bold statements about the role of nursing in digital health by Dr. Pamela Cipriano, 1st Vice President, International Council of Nurses and  Dr. Crystal Oldman, chief executive for The Queen’s Nursing Institute in the UK there was no shortage of eloquence.

But I would like to feature comments from two less prominent speakers who nonetheless challenged attendees to think more deeply about both the role of digital health in care and also patient advocates.

Sergiou (l) and Dr. Serra during HIMSS Europe digital session

Both Dr. Guillem Serra and Theo Sergiou spoke at a session on community based care. Dr. Serra is a Spanish physician and CEO of MediQuo, an app with more 600,00 downloads designed to allow physicians to contact their patients by video, telephone and/or SMS. Sergiou has been a cancer patient since an early age and at 19 years old  is now a member of the NHS Youth Forum and a patient advocate.

First Dr. Serra (abridged):

When I used to practice medicine, I used to talk to my patients a lot using WhatsApp. I think that the success stories in the digital world are based in human interaction. We can see it in Instagram and WhatsApp and Facebook and even in TikTok. All of these success stories come from communities, they come from relationships. They don’t come from replacing users with chat bots. I don’t like the idea that the face-to-face visit should be copied in the digital world. I believe that the the relationship between doctors and patients in the digital world should be quite different. When I’m talking with my patients in the digital world I’m not doing the same thing that I’m doing in a face to face visit. We launched MediQuo to be the replacement of WhatsApp in health care; to be an easy way for patients to talk to doctors and have immediate access. Patients don’t have problems every day, or every week, or even every month (but) to be successful in the digital world, you have to engage the users every day, every week, every month. So we created the communities. They have the same rules of WhatsApp but are managed by health care professionals; peer to peer communications between patients that share the same interest as you, anonymously. And with this, we multiplied our engagement in the app today so that today 20% of our users who come to talk to doctors actually join these communities.

From slides by Dr. Serra

And Sergiou discussing patient advocates:

I would say I’ve kind of been indoctrinated into the healthcare mindset. So I won’t be the best person in about a year’s time to sit and be a patient advocate. I will still have my patient experience but I’m slowly become a professional. (It should be) like schools in the UK have governors, who are parents and they constantly change to keep that fresh, unique current experience there… Throughout COVID it has shown how it used to be where the only way to engage patients was to get them angry. That’s why a lot of patient advocates are very angry people. It was so much effort that only the people that were truly angry were the ones getting to the finish line. Whereas now, I’ve learned that this is changing and you’re getting a lot more people with a variety of experiences.

You may agree of disagree with some or all of the above but the speakers have raised issues worth pondering – much like every other presentation we have heard this week.

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