• Becky Sarson

What 3 School Boys Have Taught Me About Health Tech

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Those we aspire to be and who open our eyes to new perspectives, the ones we watch and hope to god we never become and the people in our life that teach us skills we had never thought to acquire.

My partner has 3 wonderful boys (who I hate calling step-sons as it conjures up some pretty scary Disney-esque stereotypes – I like to think I’m a pretty bad-ass step mum!!) And as much as I can teach them about bee-keeping, snowboarding, kite-boarding etc. they teach me so much more and have become 3 of my most powerful mentors.

Here are some lessons from the boys:


So, I was pretty sure I knew every tech-fad, game and innovation going until the boys opened my world to Fortnite. A multi-platform social game where basically the objective is to be the last man standing. Think cartoon Hunger-Games….

Charley is crazily addicted to it and spends all his ‘screen time’ shouting at the TV. Charley is 7.

We can see the impact that truly engaging social platforms have on people. From Facebook to Snapchat and now to social gaming. These are all highly sophisticated, interactive platforms that engage users for hours. These games get tested rigorously with users and in-house testers. Games will not be released if they do not engage their users. It’s pointless and damaging to the game company’s reputation.

What if health technology took this same approach? We see it in clinical trials, and the rigour placed around drug discovery and development, but once the drug is in-market it’s a scramble to develop software to put out there in the ether, just to ‘have it out there.’

“I need an app because everyone else has one” – Every agency has had this brief.

The result? Assets being developed and launched that are simply not engaging and don’t solve a need.

At Twist, we take a gaming industry approach to ideation, design and build. Test your concepts and ideas, refine, test again, build, test some more and launch with something that you are open to constantly iterating in line with the end-users needs as the markets mature.

The outcome: Truly robust innovations that last in the market, help solve a problem and engage our users; whether they are patients, carers or HCPs.

Don’t be afraid to be different

Thomas is in high school, and EVERYTHING matters. Being different is not a good thing at 13. He’s an incredibly talented footballer playing at county level, pre-academy, but would shy away from the limelight.

However, Thomas has recently begun to grow in self-confidence and is learning who he is as an individual. As a result, he’s experiencing more success, drawing more attention to himself (scary again) and as a result achieving more and growing as a person. The inevitable little crowd of people (including his brothers) following in his footsteps trying to do the same things, but he’s already done them.

What Thomas doesn’t yet know is how important being a little bit different is.

The amount of ‘stuff’ launched that is the same as other ‘stuff’ in the healthcare environment is overwhelming. Everybody develops the same thing, in the hope that they don’t get left behind. In essence though they are already behind.

We are at a revolutionary period in time, in healthcare and instead of looking at our competitors and emulating what they do, we should be looking to our customers to understand what it is they truly value and need from us.

Those that will succeed in modern pharma, and in agency will be those that believe in doing the right thing and building assets of mutual value to all stakeholders. Not piling the leave-pieces and sales aids high, bashing them out the door and invoicing ASAP.

At Twist, we have always had a passion for working collaboratively, innovating, doing things differently and doing them well. As Thomas’s life lessons continue to teach me, this is a winning strategy for long-term success for everyone – even if it is a little scary sometimes!

Know what you’re good at and ALWAYS play as a team

Felix, at 10, is a total Rockstar.

He’s outgoing, confident, uncomplicated, gives anything a go, tries hard and has banned himself from the Xbox for a month to focus more on school (not a joke, this kid actually exists!).

Felix also plays in a football team and although he’s the best on the team, never, ever glories in that fact. For him, it’s always a team effort and it’s not losing a match that frustrates him, it’s when his team doesn’t play together as a team.

Apply this to healthcare and nothing is different. The most frustrating aspect of being a patient is when your healthcare team don’t communicate and work together. We see this in rare disease a lot when patients are educating HCP’s about their care plans and requirements. Health technology gives us the ability to help patients and their support networks (whoever they are) play as a much more cohesive team; enabling better communication, sharing of data and overall clinical outcomes.

There is also a massive opportunity currently only being leveraged by a few companies, for RWE using emerging technology, to demonstrate how these improved communications and MDT enhancements can positively impact treatment engagement and patient care. The outputs of these studies will redefine outpatient care in the future.

Gone are the paternalistic days of pharma and HCPs. Patients are more empowered and educated than ever before and as a result, support ecosystems need to tailor and embrace this. Twist helps partners explore collaboration with healthcare and the innovations that could be employed to nurture and safeguard a team approach; critical to our patients’ overall outcomes.

As a final note

What the boys continue to show me more than anything is that family is the most important thing in the world. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day the support, jokes about fat guinea pigs and love that family can provide is priceless.

Carers are some of the most under-served health supporters in our patients’ ecosystem. And whether there is someone in the family that is currently requiring care or support it is likely that one day, we will all need or be required to provide this support.

Although more is being done to embrace carers and include them in these ecosystems, more can and should be done to recognise this group as a key component in all engagement programmes.

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