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Wednesday / May 25.
HomemibusinessInnovation through the Eyes of Imagination

Innovation through the Eyes of Imagination

By redefining the purpose of technology and innovation it is possible to develop a more patient focused health care system.

One of my best friends suffered Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) about six years ago. SJS TEN is typically triggered by drugs, especially sulfa drugs, antiepileptics, and antibiotics which are currently the most common causes. In medical speak the illness results in severe cutaneous hypersensitivity reactions. Macules rapidly spread and coalesce, leading to epidermal blistering, necrosis, and sloughing.

I am not a doctor so in my simple, plain English it is nothing short of a nightmare and leaves most survivors with long-term, significant issues with their eyes (not to mention all the other issues). As one of her dearest friends my responsibility is to clearly know what my new purpose is in our friendship. I believe it is to expand beyond empathy, to fully apply my imagination in an attempt to understand her daily pain.

To apply empathy that reaches beyond pity, to stretch beyond caring, to feel beyond sympathy. I have worked hard to do this but only recently realised how limited my imagination has been after developing dry eye as well as the need for progressive glasses (having had perfect eyes and eyesight all my life). Acknowledging my limited imagination is probably the most important aspect of being her friend.

So we wait in hope. Hope of imaginative researchers, engineers and doctors creating new technology and solutions so that she can propel forward without the chronic, daily pain she has come to live with. I guess in the words of modern tech, we want “disruption” of her pain. But technology alone will not solve this problem as she suffers from a mental illness, which is what led her to take the antiepileptics that triggered the SJS TEN.

Wouldn’t it be great if this technology included a proactive management plan for the patient

Seeking Unique Disruption

So the real complication is a conundrum – as when her eyes are bothering her most, so is her state of mind. The knock on is as you would expect – her eyes are the last thing on her ‘list’ and visiting her specialist is something that gets avoided – all compounding her issues. My friend has had incredible care and incredible technology applied to her issues, but because of her mental illness, the results fluctuate. So I seek not only technology and innovation to fix her physical issues, but also to address the social side. How can our medical profession proactively reach their customers in a unique, disruptive way – much like we read about all the time in the world of digital disruption? How can the desolate, the isolated, the tormented be reached in their darkest moments?

What if the purpose of new technology for medical issues included, in its specification, the requirement to reach out to patients as well as heal the physical ailment? What if the onus was shared between those in need and the solution? What if all SJS sufferers left the hospital with a push technology strategy so that world-wide every innovation, every new piece of information was shared so those who are sick are found rather than the other way around? What if the same approach of rethinking the customer (used to develop the Embrace technology) was applied in the guise of communicating with the patient – directly? Isn’t the patient the ultimate customer, so why not link directly to them?

For example, my friend needs to have blood taken regularly so that her special eye drops can be made. These are absolutely critical to her health and well-being, not to mention the state of her eyes. She often forgets to get this done. Why not have a program that notifies her two weeks out to book her appointments, to send push notifications, and to include her carers? I recently took her to the ophthalmologist and she had her eyes checked via a wiz bang new piece of technology. The plan is for her to have this done regularly. Wouldn’t it be great if this technology included a proactive management plan for the patient? A simple notification could make a big difference. Doctors are always out of time but if the equipment they use considered this as part of their purpose, could they not help flip the model to one where the onus does not rest on the ill to manage their health?

On Purpose

My book, On Purpose, discusses the importance of purpose in relation to how we operate and build our technology. Knowing who the customer is and what their needs are – beyond the obvious – makes all the difference and gives us the potential to resolve the seemingly intractable issues in our world. In the words of Albert Einstein “the world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them”.

I believe we are at a time like no other. We live in a connected world. So the thinking we have done thus far has always been for a world without connectivity. So what disruption can take place to redefine the purpose of the technology and innovation we develop for health care? I don’t know the answer but I just love the question. I love thinking that my friend could live a better life if our thinking shifts so that her care is somehow “disrupted” to one that pings her rather than the other way around?

Karen James is a social entrepreneur who has risen through the ranks of the global corporate world. From building with her team a 10,000-strong community of women within a leading bank, to integrating not-for-profit leadership lessons into corporate boardrooms and growing a company from a turnover of
$9 million to $100 million.

Her debut book, On Purpose, published by Wiley, applies the same pragmatic logic to timeless questions around creating purpose and building an organisation with humanity at its heart. To read more about Karen James and to purchase her book, go to: www.onpurposehub.com