Transforming Healthcare Globally
Episode 481

Shafi Ahmed, Chairman of Health Summit at Webit.Foundation

Transforming Healthcare Globally

Pushing the boundaries of technology to improve health, resources, and outcomes on a global scale

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Transforming Healthcare Globally

Episode 481

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LinkedIn

Recommended Book:

A Suitable Boy

Transforming Healthcare Globally with Shafi Ahmed, Chairman of Health Summit at Webit.Foundation transcript powered by Sonix—the best automated transcription service in 2020. Easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Transforming Healthcare Globally with Shafi Ahmed, Chairman of Health Summit at Webit.Foundation was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast, where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the podcast. Today, I have the privilege of hosting Dr. Shafi Ahmed. He’s a Professor and a multi-award winning surgeon, teacher, futurist, innovator and entrepreneur. He’s a 3x TEDx and international keynote speaker and is a faculty at Singularity University. He’s chairman and co-founder of the Global Innovation and New Technologies Conference in London and chair of the WEBIT Health Bulgaria. He’s a laparoscopic colorectal cancer surgeon at the Royal London and St. Bartholomew’s Hospitals and has been awarded the accolade of the most-watched surgeon in human history. As a dedicated trainer, educator and Associate Dean of Bart’s Medical School, he was awarded the Silver Scalpel Award in 2015 as the best national trainer in surgery. He is currently serving as an elected member of Council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, where he is the Director of the International Surgical Training Program. He’s an honorary visiting professor at the University of Bradford, where he delivered the Cantor Lecture of Technology in 2017 and the public lecture to open the Digital Health Enterprise Zone. He has been awarded honorary doctorates and very privileged to have him on the podcast today. And the topic here is expanding and challenging your thinking. Shafi, thankful that you’re here with us.

Shafi Ahmed:
It’s a pleasure. Thanks for hosting me on your podcast. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Saul Marquez:
So, Shafi, tell me, what is it that got you into health care?

Shafi Ahmed:
So I guess when I was growing up, I was very interested in science and mathematics and I guess the natural evolution for me was to think about career in healthcare. You know, we had illness in the family. I was thinking about living impact. I was thinking which career would give me the most reward back in return and health care and medicine tickler appeared to me on a number of levels. So I think it was my inquisitive nature of science and also the fact that you’re helping humanity in some description. I think all of those things fell in place as I was thinking about which career to pursue at that time off of high school studies. So I’m very pleased I made the right choice.

Saul Marquez:
I definitely would say that as well. The impact that you’ve made and and really the first time that I had the opportunity to to see speak was when I attended a Singularity University, the exponential medicine series in San Diego. Floored by the work that that’s being done by that organization. And your involvement there is of no surprise would love to hear what you believe, Dr. Ahmed, is a topic that should be front and center in health leaders agendas today.

Shafi Ahmed:
So I think we have a number of issues to deal with the most interesting problem I’ve come across, which I think need to be solved, is this whole aspect of digital transformation but to really impact most people on the planet. And what I mean by that is that we have in common, we have a lot of innovators, we have got inventors, and we have those at a high level because they are at the forefront of change. But my question really is, if we’re going to evolve healthcare using technology and different interfaces to make health care more equitable, accessible, and affordable, how do we changed the mindset of people who need to be on that journey with us — thankless patients, including most clinicians, students, trainees, people in other allied health confessionals, how do we change their mindset? How do we move them into this different world we live in? And next 10, 20 years, of course, health care will be different to what it is today. Yet we’re not ready and we haven’t redesigned the curriculum, the agenda, the kind of broader piece of education to ensure that we create a workforce that’s relevant for tomorrow, today. So that’s kind of, I think, the key message for any health care leader to give. How does organization change, evolve, digi-transform itself? But more importantly, take that workforce on that journey with them, otherwise becomes a hollow victory.

Saul Marquez:
You know, that’s such a great call out Shafi. And I feel like it’s almost a natural tendency for for us to want to be consistent then and not really change much in health care. And so what types of things do you do you suggest folks think about as they as they prepared to change tomorrow’s workforce today?

Shafi Ahmed:
Okay. So let’s let’s take the example at the very beginning. Let’s take medicine as a career. Now, I’ve been through convention medical school training in London. I trained at King’s College Hospital. And if you look at medical schools, a moment that really evolved to redesign their curriculum for today’s modern doctor. So if you’re going to create what I call the digital doctor, the person is going to be in the workplace next 10, 20 years. Have we done enough to redesign the curriculum around them? We have a new generation of people now, they’re younger, they’re agile. They’re mobile. They want to travel. They’re digitally native, if you like. They’re very they understand things about whether we live in is more connected. But yet the curriculum itself, if you look at most medical schools, hasn’t evolved. It’s still based around teaching people basic sciences and clinical sciences. And what you’re doing, I fear, is you’re taking human beings who have a huge broad set of skill sets they bring to medical school. We’re producing is a one-dimensional human being because you haven’t evolved and changed that curriculum for many years. I wonder those in medical school. I’m the associate dean at Bart’s Medical School. Happy for a long time. How do you challenge this kind of dogma, tradition, both in education, health care, practice? So I think that’s the first thing to think about. How do you challenge what’s out there ready? How do you change your perception? How do you have the initiative to change it for the better? So that’s one example where I think medical school curriculum is not fit for purpose. It’s still in five or six years too long. And you think does it take five years, for example, to find a doctor? I don’t think it does. I think we can redesign healthcare and treat people a short amount of time so I can explore that later. So I think that is the fundamental question to ask ourselves, why are we stuck with dogma tradition while we’re challenging ethics around us, making it better if we need more doctors did more to improve health care of the nation. We think differently.

Saul Marquez:
You know what? That is a very fascinating idea and is health care training too long for physicians and wow, that’s something I leave to the listeners to think about as well. But as you guys can hear, Dr. Ahmed is really known for for pushing the boundaries and making us shift our thinking in the things that we believe should be and why. Why are they this way? So as we discuss the length of education or different things that are new. One of the things that I like to highlight, Shafi does an extraordinary job of showcasing the things that he learns and shares them right away. I feel like as a mark of a true leader, you’re very involved with virtual reality, augmented reality in the way that you approach your practice. I’d love to hear how you’ve made a difference with some of those technologies.

Shafi Ahmed:
Yeah, thanks for that, Saul. It’s very kind of you to say that. One of my kind of roles is to push that boundary, bring that technology, not just by thinking about describing it and talking about it. It’s implementing it. And that’s the hard part because the healthcare has to implement technology today at pace. So the first thing I’d say about that is that you think the cycle of adoption in clinical practice. It requires innovators. Of course it does. It then requires this kind of period of validation before you translate. It’s the old fashioned way of doing a clinical trial. And a randomized clinical trial is the gold standard still to this day. But I argue that’s archaic, it’s too slow, too cumbersome. Either way, the technology is accelerating so rapidly that redesigned the whole to look implementation to be much more rapid. So my thoughts around this is that we have to implement at pace to innovation and validation and translation almost need to work in unison together at pace. Redesigning the way we adopt change, redesigning clinical trials maybe, accept the risk and mitigating as far as possible to do so as fast as possible. So that’s kind of my background. But I do. So things I have done, for example. So I think we did challenge the way we educate people and the way we practice clinically. Let’s take education first. The moment we have come from a long way in the back, from the books of paper onto e-learning platforms. Now for me, both virtual, augmented reality or accentuated reality as umbrella terms are new platforms that we can use to facilitate trading education. At the same time, these facilities allow us to practice clinically better. One things about the doctor patient relationship that we have the moment be set up for the work. It’s too expensive. Face to face contact said to unite or whatever. It’s just too expensive. We can’t afford it no longer. We have to think about how we access healthcare professionals. It’s going to be virtually. It’s going to be AI interfaces. It’s going to be avatars. It’s going to be different ways. Is telemedicine the Hollick present systems I’ve expected or those is my own body to holoport. I’ve done. But you’ve had two operations remotely, for example, telemedicine operation. So I can really scale up the way we teach people on a global scale. There’s a show that we can use to do today by thinking differently, implanting fast and mitigate risk as far as possible. So my role I see in the kind of forefront of healthcare innovation is that translation. Yes, we have ideas for how do you innovate in a big hospital like mine, advanced health. The biggest trust in the UK had with the NHS system that can be archaic at times. How do you persuade that organisation to be more nimble and agile and to understand and to move and help and support your innovation? And that’s why I think I’ve kind of tried supporting as far as possible. I think people have enjoyed those experiences that I’ve come across as showcasing how we can use that technology today.

Saul Marquez:
Without a doubt. And it’s it’s your approach is brilliant. And I feel like a lot of a lot of physician leaders out there, you know, struggled to get their voice heard nowadays in larger and larger systems. Right., you got mergers and acquisitions happening left and right and the physician voice tends to get lost. What message would you give to the physicians listening today, Dr. Ahmed and how they could be heard?

Shafi Ahmed:
Yeah, thanks for that. I think the physicians themselves at the forefront of sound practice, they are the leaders. If you look at actually at reports, you realise the hospitals that are run by clinicians only supported leadership by clinicians do better because they understand the technical side of things. They begin to understand the business side of things and they add that value. So that’s the first instance. Actually, clinicians can make good leaders, both in clinical practice and in kind of the business side of an organisation as well as leadership. Secondly is to empower yourself. So I think human beings are interesting and doctors are fascinating. And of course, because we will have this ambition to keep improving. So what are the things that we find every 5 or 10 years? Cause it’s almost as though we need to re-invigorate ourselves, do something different. And what will not be able to do is actually challenge our minds every 5 or 10 years. We’ve become stale. That clinical practice, the endless things over began by repetition because it’s safe, it’s comfortable. So you they make a piece of income, you do your work, good outcome, etc.. That’s what we need to do with individuals 5-10 years, actually. Okay, let’s sit you down. What’s next for you? How to develop you as a person? How do you develop? Your role had become a better leader. What can we do to participate? Help support that? And the hospital itself. The leadership should go to every clinician to say, okay, 5 – 10 years, let’s sit down with you. Think about your next 5 – 10 years. I think you get more out of people that way. We’re not because we’re driven just by business oriented approach. I’m basically it’s going to be monetization at the end, a profit, etc.. I think if you’ve reinvested people, you’ll get more out of them and perhaps you’ll make the health care much better for a lot of people. It will also help retain their interest, their passion for much longer. We’re getting burnout. We’re seeing people leave the profession. We’re seeing youngsters at the moment who don’t want to actually go ahead and do medicine spike into medical school career. The UK, for example, we see 30 percent of doctors leading the fashion shift. Ask yourself why that is. It’s no longer to say it’s just because the way it is. It’s okay. How we manage it better. This is going back to my fundamental question. How do you get the best out of individuals and organization? That means empowering them. Go back on a regular basis to facilitate, support their learning and the development as a human being, but also as leaders in the environment. Given that challenge and the aspiration to do better. So that is really  a key part of organization to sustain its ability to invest in its potential and its workforce.

Saul Marquez:
And like that, it’s a it’s such a great thing. And you hear that. If you watched them, was that saying help them grow or watch them go right?

Shafi Ahmed:
Of course. Yes.

Saul Marquez:
And so as we think about all the things that you’ve done in your career, Shafi, you’ve been at the forefront of of surgery, technology, reform and in education. What would you say is a setback that you had a mistake that you learn most from that you could share with today’s listeners?

Shafi Ahmed:
I think there’s many things. We make mistakes, of course, in clinical practice. You make mistakes. You learn from your outcomes. And that decision, of course. And that’s what defines me. I’m a surgeon first and foremost. On top of that, I do the Entrepreneurship Innovate and Educate. Bottomly I’m a surgeon first and foremost. So when we look at pathways where mistakes in the past with outcomes with our prayers go wrong, for example, it’s a real learning curve for all of us. What about surgeries? It’s very humbling experience. I find that when you have a complication that’s unexpected, we haven’t really thought about properly or it’s been just an error. And it happens, of course, all our lives. You get back, reflect and say, okay, we’ll have to change. That happened. Impacted and maybe a better outcome. That’s the first thing. Then there’s, of course, in my business side of things is making mistakes with startups. Yellow startups, you start with businesses and you realize there’s a whole process around that. And when you fail and of course, you fail you. How big? I actually learned a lot from those failures, but okay. What is it that we did designed properly? Was the question answered? What was solution? Was it a purpose? Did we have the right team around us make it work? Do we have the skill sets? Do we have the right motivation? Was it about the marketization of a product, for example? And so reflects a lot of those things. Okay. Well, actually, I have learned a lot from failure startups and other experiences to make myself strong, but possibly up to support others now in that venture. Naturally, if you work hard enough, think about the problems as they arise, I could predict some of the problems. Then you’re more likely to make it a success. So I’ve learned both in clinical practice, both in leadership and from my startups. But how you manage failure and how to accept failure and you challenge yourself and move on.

Saul Marquez:
And now I appreciate that. Share a lot, Shafi, and there’s a bit of reflection there. There’s thinking ahead. And, you know, to what extent do you leverage mentors and people that can help in the process?

Shafi Ahmed:
I think it’s important to have a good team structure and have a mentorship what’s is available. And when I am when I may have difficulty, I’m having a problem. I have lots of mentors in every part of my life, whether it’s my clinical practice. And I’ve come I’ve been trained by a very experienced senior and the surgeons who are still will phone occasionally for advice. No, I have no problems signing up for advice. I think if you don’t ask for advice, we don’t ask for help support that becomes dangerous. And I’m humbled enough to accept that I need that support sometimes. In business and my startups in education, I admit, have mentors who again, I would approach regularly just make sure that I’m thinking in the right way. Just a really more about signing my thoughts to ensure that all I’m doing is holistic, it’s rational. And it’s so. And also it’s about being, I guess, more pragmatic about what you going to be achieving and perhaps not underestimating ability and ensure that you’re being sensible and actually realistic about what’s achievable. And I think those are things that I think ground people to ensure that they’re not getting carried away with their work.

Saul Marquez:
That’s impeccable. It’s. So how about the other side of the coin? Shafi, what would you say is one of your most proud leadership experiences in healthcare?

Shafi Ahmed:
So one of my passions, Saul, is the whole issue and global health. I find myself worrying about how do we help the world as a whole. We’re more connected. Look at this whole industry 4.0. Health 4.0. And now we’re using new term. I heard a few months ago the World Governments Summit called Globalization 4.0. . So globalization 4.0 is new terminology for the World Economic Forum. What impresses me is that how does tech enable people around the globe to do better healthcare and education? So my work, as you seen so is about getting an education. I can teach thousands and tens of thousands of people use Google Glass for virtual reality or social media to share my knowledge. Matt Kyla’s worked because people connect it. So I run to MIT, called the International Search Training Program at the College of Surgeons over the last three years. So CMOs have how can we help support learning programs across the globe? And I’ve traveled I’ve spent my life in the airplane the last three or four years. I’ve been over 35 countries, Saul, working with universities, colleges, with governments, health ministries, to really think about the challenge we have ahead. The challenge is simple for me, the global issue around surgery is this. The last commission produces report about four years ago. It reported that five billion people Saul did not have access to safe and affordable surgeries. Two-thirds of population cannot access simple operations that you and I take for granted things that caesarean sections or management fractures or even the appendectomy. It’s simple things that will change people’s lives and save lives. So my thought was how? But that’s the problem. What other solutions is it me to teach people globally on a scale using PR and they are rather real to platforms? This is about the Face-To-Face contact. It’s what I’ve done. I’ve actually made connections with 56 institutions around the world. We’ve set a program of training to take the people from those countries who highlight and targeted to have some certain skill sets. It could be neurology, could be neurosurgery or plastic surgery. We bring them to the UK. We train for two year period in that area they want to be trained in. So was back in the communities in rural parts of the world, so they can impact change for millions of people around the world. I’ve appointed now over three and fifty surgeons from over 50 countries around the world to train to support the infrastructure in those countries. What I’ve seen with that is that it’s fostered this whole generation of new surgeons who have trained on a global scale and they consider themselves global citizens and also will support their systems back home and probably around the world. I’ve seen different health cases and how they work, taking the best, best elements of that. We have learnt things in practice and also to work with governments to evoke change around the world. So I think that global health, what I’ve been involved with has been real passion and it’s helped me not be too. And I was too much worked in those countries. I worked in war-torn zones, Saul. I’ve done a seven year program in Gaza, in Palestine, which is the place to get to Right.. So when I went there back about five or six years after the last war, I was asked set up a program of sustainable training education across that region. I’ve been to seven missions now some programs, and now we’ve finished phase one at a sustainable solution of taking education and making sure the the specialists gets what they need. And I’m just back. Embark on phase two, a December. That’s an ongoing programme. Had we assist and support refugees, people in war torn zones, using my technology, my skill sets in a way that we can help the population improve its health, resource and outcome. So that’s been, I think, one of my challenges, though. So I think I’m very happy with the outcome from those work.

Saul Marquez:
Well, I think it’s it’s brilliant in the way that you’ve sort of thought about this on a global scale. And really, the the thing that really impresses me is, is this idea, right, you just assume, hey, you know what school is this length? This is how long a physician trains so far. And it just that’s just the way it is. Why can’t we challenge that like you have, Shafi, on a global scale to help these remote countries that have problems with access to get there. And this idea of a virtual classroom to scale education is just, I think, a wonderful thing. And it sounds like it’s already improving patient lives out there. So are there doctors that have graduated from this already?

Shafi Ahmed:
Yes, of course. And I looked at a lot of them and they they say they graduated. They impacting and. Yeah. And I keep in touch them on various levels and what they will do because they’ll improve. They will then re educate people around them, improving the standards, the local systems and the leaders, the innovators, the leaders, they’ll go back in. They can change in their countries. Then there’s one guy who had trained. Who went back to rural parts of Africa? That was the only surgeon for about 1.5 billion people in one specialty. Imagine having certain skills to help support what he’s going to do now. Teach about leadership, about the health concept, about where they are on the road, much about the surge itself. Go back and hopefully share those experiences with his colleagues and raise the standards. So it’s a particular effect I think will have major effect the long term.

Saul Marquez:
And if you think about what that meant, let’s just say three hundred years ago. You know, you would have to get on a ship and take people and resources there to today where you could get on an airplane and you’re working 15 years from now, Shafi, I think you’re just getting on it virtually. And I think that’s outstanding and a great way to not just talk about it, but to do what you believe is going to change the way that we practice medicine today. So I want to give you a lot of credit for that.

Shafi Ahmed:
That’s very kind. Thank you, Saul. Thank you.

Saul Marquez:
So as we near the end of our interview today, Shafi, we got a prompt lightning round, followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners. You ready for that?

Shafi Ahmed:
Yeah, go for it. Ready? Yes.

Saul Marquez:
All right. What’s the best way to improve health care outcomes?

Shafi Ahmed:
I think you have to look at yourself every process, every pit work individually we did together as a resolution and try to improve every process. And I always ask the question about who wants to be mediocre in life. If you want to be mediocre, then actually you shouldn’t accept no change. If you want to be an adopt to the change and the big thinker, you’ll challenge every process in front of you. That’s all that we can do together that improve the outcomes.

Saul Marquez:
Moment. Nobody wants to be mediocre. If you listen to Outcomes Rocket, you don’t want to be mediocre. Challenge process, my friends. And what’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Shafi Ahmed:
I think one is complacency and one is to lack humility. The two things I think in life that if you have humility and you know the And be realistic about what’s around you. You work hard. I think you’ll be successful in those the key things about human beings and the health care professionals. That keeps keeps our sanity, I guess. Above all else.

Saul Marquez:
Love that. And how do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Shafi Ahmed:
Excellent question. I think what you need to do, need to invest as I said before in humans, in people in your workforce is invest in education. Invest in people coming to talk to you about what’s going on. Make sure we have innovators, inventors at the forefront of your organization to want to change and bring the right people. Had the right skill mix in that realization to sure that you maintain relevance. They pushing the boundary that what you’re accepted today is not accepted tomorrow to us. What we’re do is, okay, make a profit. We do well and that is working well. It’s not enough. We will have our Kodak moment and we’ll be out of business as I think about the future. So how do you maintain that relevance? How to innovate and constant innovation in a realization to show where the forefront? If you do that, the money will come. You’ll make good profit, of course, because you are the forefront of that change.

Saul Marquez:
Brilliant. I love that. And what’s an area of focus that drives everything in your work Shafi?

Shafi Ahmed:
I think at my stage where I’m a bit older now, I guess more mature after working for 26 years is standard practice. I think it’s about impact. My life really is now. But how do I live, impact the world? What can I do to leave knowledge for many people around the world? How do I leave my skills I have acquired which are useful for other people to acquire? And how do I even impact whether it’s just the UK or global level? I see myself more on a global level and traffic, but how do we improve the lives of many rather than the few? And had we learned experiences from other parts of the world and share those experiences? I think that’s the beauty of whether we live in. There’s lots of amazing stuff going out there. Lots of innovation happening. Most of the world place you can’t dream of actually how to bring then share that as a resource. That’s kind of what I want to do.

Saul Marquez:
Well, you’re certainly doing just that with really the work that you’re taking on globally and even locally in England. I’d love to hear what your favorite book is?

Shafi Ahmed:
It’s a has. An interesting question. So this might surprise a lot people, but my favorite book is a book called A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Now, this is one of the longest novels ever written. And then ..It’s fifteen hundred pages long and a half million words. But what it is, essentially, it’s a love story. It’s romance, but not quite that. It’s based in India in 1951, during the partition from British colonialism. I thought about the whole environment around this couple’s potential marriage. It describes war. It describes the futility of government, it describes the kind of process of human evolution. It’s much more than just a love story. And it’s just beautifully written. And I was taken long to get through that. I’d recommend that to anybody who wants to spend a month or so engrossed in a beautiful book that really brings out all the emotions that define human beings. That’s awesome.

Saul Marquez:
What a great recommendation. And a first on the podcast. After 400 plus interviews.

Shafi Ahmed:

I was different and that was different.

Saul Marquez:

So, folks, it is a human fabric story, love. And our wonderful recommendation by Dr. Ahmed here. We’re here at the end. The time does fly when when you have a good time. And, you know, our guests offer lots of value like Shafi today. Leave us with the closing thought, Shafi, and the best place for the listeners could follow your work.

Shafi Ahmed:
So I’m active very much on social media. I have essentially a Facebook profile that people welcome to shares open access to the public. Instagram is at virtual surgeon as it’s Snapchat virtual surgeon, Twitter at SheikhAhmed5. And I do a lot on Linked-In. Hopefully by the end of this year, I’ll be writing a book around this whole digital installation and hopefully be released by the end of the year. I’m working hard to speak and that’s the book I’ve just been describing to how to change the mindset of people around the world who don’t understand this transformation. Will make that book about everybody so that they will understand the technology and be able to have that conversation with organizations with the right knowledge base. So that’s what we get with women and I share with you when it comes out in about three or four months time.

Saul Marquez:
That is brilliant. We’d love to have you back and to hear about that book Shafi because I definitely want to learn more about how you’re doing, the great things that you’re doing, and I know the listeners do too. So with that, just want to give you a big thanks Shafi and now looking forward to stay in touch.

Shafi Ahmed:
Right. Thanks so pleasure.

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