THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

We talk with Dr Minesh Patel, Partner at the Moatfield Surgey in the UK, and ask – how come they are so good at delivering healthcare for the common man?

Why is it in the UK NHS, that there are good surgeries, and not so good ones, and well, rank awful ones? Why are some standout – and others not so? If human nature is a common denominator, why are there not a set of standard rules, a sort of “go to guide for repairing a surgery”, a recipe book for getting it right, that we all can apply, and that’s job done? And if human nature is indeed the common linking factor, – does this explain why some surgeries are so terrified of change? And others embrace it.

At a time when “innovation”, and “digitalisation” are this year’s buzzwords, can these be imposed by some higher authority – “look, here’s some money, go and start this or that process?” – And if that is the case, then why do we not all have standout surgeries?

The answer is that my human nature, is not your human nature. In short, the success of a surgery, depends on the individual, and the mix of individuals, in each case. You’ve got to “want” to be innovative, to deliver excellence. The only question is whether this is nature at all – or nurture, can we “learn” to be innovative?

Minesh Patel hesitates as he answers this one. In his case, there was never much choice. His father was a doctor, his own daughter is a student doctor, so this is a family tradition so to say, The choice of working in a hospital, or running a surgery, was the freedom to improve and innovate given within a surgery, but it was a journey, taking in improving PCT performance, being Chair of a CCG, leading the clinical strategy development of a developing iCS, before settling and developing the Team at Moatfield, in East Grinstead.

Minesh readily admits that he cannot change or improve everything. Sometimes, the structures themselves do not lend themselves to change. And health inequality from one region to another, one person to another, is a life reality. Having said all that – is there a “process”, an attitude of mind, that is the difference , and what would be the roadmap for other surgeries to follow?

“The answer is little steps, all the time”, answers Minesh.

“At Moatfield, we have a daily huddle, we analyse all of our processes, and we act quickly. Our new website took just 4 days of re-tooling. We are not afraid to act if we believe in something” Minesh uses the word “innovative” a lot. 3 years ago, he became Chair of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), which he says has brought him into contact with a lot of like minded and talented people around the country, both within other surgeries and other providers, who are beacons of excellence, and who are learning from each other. It’s a case of seeing “what are the neighbours doing”. so to say. But it is also visionary.

Although we are talking about the daily routine, there is a focus also on the wider picture, why can’t we do things in a different way.

We are getting ahead of ourselves in the discussion.

As if on cue, I look at my watch – we have been talking for 29 minutes. “I’m really sorry!”, Minesh says…. “I have a patient call in a minute”

HAS HEALTHCARE CHANGED FOR EVER, BECAUSE OUR LIFESTYLES HAVE CHANGED FOR EVER?

We chat with HIMSS Global Clinical Director, Charles Alessi, about where healthcare is going for all of us, and what will be the key changes. It’s a wide ranging discussion…

It’s an obvious question with no obvious answer, because our original assessments of just 10 months ago, may well be incorrect.

Charles Alessi looks intently at me across the screen, we are on FaceTime, – he is dressed casually in a pastel coloured polo shirt, sitting in his relaxed lounge area of his home in south west London, there are rows of books behind, a sort of academic university professor ambience and it reminds me of my own one/one sessions all those years ago. As a former Chair of the UK’s National Association of Primary Care, and as an advisor to WHO – Charles is well placed to be talking about the problems of our time.

And COVID per se, may not be one of them. “There have always been pandemics,” he says. This particular COVID-19 is really a child of the 21st century, perfectly suited to our super connected societies where global travel between dense population centres  is as common as a daily commute” Charles is more referring to our personal ability to survive and manage ourselves in lockdown, or rather – survive the absence of face/face proper contact, and the distance management that is the glue that holds us all together and allows us to cope.

“Starting the day at 08.00am, from my living room, with a call to Tokyo – and then a 10.00 call to Berlin – with London time zone calls in between – and then the 17.00 call with California – all whilst sitting in my own arm chair and not having moved an inch – is not what our bodies and brains are designed for. We as humans, need the travel time, to adjust, to refocus, to wind down between sessions, so to say.”

So no – our Lifestyles have not changed for ever. We will inevitably return to the travel to meetings, as soon as it is safe to so do – because we are becoming disorientated without doing so.

Healthcare on the other hand, has indeed changed, and we cannot put the genie back in the bottle. It is obvious that telehealth, or telemedicine, and the remote monitoring of our conditions by clinicians, makes sense, and reduces costs. And where all of us are moving towards a single version of truth of our own health. And yet, this democratising of healthcare – Charles argues – has not happened. And so we have systems and processes designed to fix individual instances, but where in times of a pandemic, are forcing whole decades of instances into just a few months or even weeks. How can we possibly cope?

The key to where our health processes should be going, is at the beginning, where we stop being a binary society, – assuming we are all “well” – until we flick the switch one random day and find we are sick, we have a lump, a pain, whatever. And then we go to places called hospitals to fix the issue.

Our focus now should be the age of precision early management of our individual health. At a time when you and I as individuals already know from the data on our wrist, what is wrong with us even before the doctor ever speaks to us, we are now in a position to manage where our own health data and symptoms, and what Charles calls “non communicable diseases” , can take us, for our own good.

I was expecting somehow a medical discussion and yet this was not it. This was a look at where society is going, and what are we doing as society. But you and I as individuals, are society.

I always remember being late substantially for a meeting. I called ahead, as if my excuse – “I am in traffic!” – was good enough.

“But you are the traffic”, was the response.

COVID; Analysis of Key Commercial Benchmarks

We look at the past twelve months and ask – if everything has gone wrong, was that simply because of COVID, or were the downsides always there, it’s  just that Covid was the excuse  of choice? Or are there new trends and behaviours come to the surface that we never considered until now?

Looking at the obvious – you can  say that 2020 was the death knell of Events and Conferences. Major companies globally are in trouble and have not been able to rediscover a new secret sauce as to why you and should even  bother to attend an online event. As long as COVID continues, it is doubtful whether many will still be around with their current offering, thru to the end of 2021. In our discussions with vendors, we have yet to find any vendor that is satisfied that being part of a virtual event has has offered them any benefit at all. Criticisms range from “ this is a scam”, to the more polite “ it’s not the fault of the organiser, they are doing their best”  etc.

It is made doubly worse  by the lack of interest from so many delegates.  Worst in our discussions, were anything to do with the UK NHS. Even those that attend workshops have almost nil interest in pursuing a discussion after they have gone offline and  in almost all cases there is no way for a vendor to progress a discussion. Much better are the Financial events; there is a clear monetary and commercial objective  – but even then – online workshops that we looked at – were sparsely attended, the vendors themselves outnumbering the delegates.

This situation is made worse alas by the naivety and astonishing optimism of the conference organisers themselves, who routinely do not bother to answer emails from apparent interested parties, preferring to have a voicemail, saying “we are working from home”.  Or those who publish and write to us with sentences such as:”We bring people together and excite them with truly life-changing experiences. Creating the ideal environment for doing business, learning about new trends and innovations, and cementing relationships. Discover our unique mission, vision and values.”

This is not what people are saying to us.

At least some organisers are trying tho. This one in Liverpool, sent us a nice paragraph:

It is all down to simplicity and not trying to recreate a inperson conference. It is impossible to recreate an inperson event so why not shake things up and cater for what you have in hand. By having more focused sessions and pre arranged 1-2-1’s rather than a networking area sponsors, delegates and speakers have a much more comprehensive experience’
The trouble is – this  is alas not our experience, as well intentioned as it may be.
In short – the market exists on two levels; established vendors who just want to support their brand. They are not so dependent on  people coming to see them. Or at a deeper level – the vendor who has something new to say – in which case, the conference has work to do to keep the delegate focussed and  on-message. One thing is clear; the lack of face to face contact will continue for longer than we care to admit.
Looking  at our work habits, what is clear is that we all accept, employers and employees, that work is a thing we do, rather than a place we go. The problem is, that the novelty has worn off. What started as a great experiment, working from home – an increasing number of people have told us that six months in, they are much less focussed, and that work expands to fill the entire day. There is no “me” time.  We frequently receive emails at 23.00, from companies and even prospects, wanting our attention.  This is damaging to both our work performance and our personal health.
The good people at the property rental specialists Knotel company in London, who we have spoken to,  tell  us that corporates are looking in increasing numbers for short term flexible packages and locations.
All of which is good, for them, but we expect to see as the vaccine kicks in, a gradual return to the heady days of returning to an office to work. It has to be like this, for reasons of sharper contact with one’s colleagues, as well as the dependence on infrastructure, theatres, social gathering, that we all need as human beings. The only question is one of size; just how many people will indeed retreat from corporate values, and decide they actually like to earn less but are happier in themselves.
Moving on…..as of today (at time of writing I have just received a News Item that we have a Brexit deal, that will deliver us more or less half of what we already had anyway – clearly good news….) – this is a good moment to take stock and see which markets are now relevant, or have changed.
Talking to my colleagues in La Rochelle and Toulouse, and Paris, France; this is not a market that is worth exploring for the time being. The South West France in particular is in deep depression. The empty streets, the 20.00 curfew, has demoralised the french psyche.
Similarly, the failure of COVID free expression in Sweden, has created a sense of uncertainty among an increasing number of areas of Sweden, particularly around the Goteborg area. There are no such hesitations from the south of Sweden, or Norway.
Two things are of interest; there is a new vigour in the UK, to going and doing things. What was unmitigated disaster some nine months ago, has now manifested into something more positive. Similarly, my colleagues in Switzerland are saying “2020 was our best year”, from technology services to  consumer drinks. However – this growth has all been domestic. We would like to see more outreach from Swiss companies internationally.
Ultimately, it will in both  the consumer/delegate, as well as vendor and organiser, to increase their appetite for being serious and implemting change. That thread is the common denominator  of both avenues.  It will be interesting to see in twelve months time, which industries and geo areas have risen to the challenge.,

 

 

Coronavirus in Hull.

At a time when the North East city of Hull has become one of the highest rate of COVID in the Uk, – Amelia Grace, leading young blogger in East Yorks in the UK, gives a first hand assessment of where it is going wrong – and where does that leave the uk?

Coronavirus has been a common part of life for close to a year now. It’s plastered all over the news, it’s a massive topic of conversation and it’s all anyone seems to talk about. What do you think about the pandemic? Has the government handled it in the right way? When will we have a vaccine and will it have an impact? Will life ever be normal again?

These are some of the things I’ve discussed with people and I have wondered since March and the first lockdown.

More recently, the government has tackled the situation with a tiered approach, categorising places into medium, high or very high in terms of covid alert level. I’m a resident of Hull, a city in Yorkshire which started off in tier 1 and entered tier 2 just before the whole country was thrust into a lockdown on 5 November. Now, we have the most cases out of the whole of the UK and are set to enter tier 3 once we are released from lockdown. What went wrong in Hull?

Complacency. In my opinion, that is how Hull’s cases have suddenly projected so high. Starting off in tier 1, many of us were holding our breath, waiting and expecting to be moved up to tier 2 because our number of covid cases were closer to that of towns and cities in tier 2. Since tier 1 has the least amount of restrictions, people could still meet up in groups of 6 indoors and outdoors, visit cafes, restaurants and shops and basically live their lives in a fairly normal fashion. The fact Hull spent so long in tier 1 meant some of its people became more relaxed as you would if you were in the bottom tier and abandoned their more cautious attitude towards the virus. From my perspective, I typified this stereotype, spending much of my time in September and October, meeting up with my friends and family in a mixture of indoor and outdoor settings. Towards the end of October, I did start to get more anxious about having to isolate or catching the virus but it didn’t stop me from carrying on with life as normal.

Then all of a sudden, we were in tier 2. But it wasn’t all of a sudden. The truth was Hull had needed to be in the middle of the three tiers for a while. The citizens of Hull turned to outdoor gatherings as opposed to indoor ones and had their Halloween and Bonfire night parties before the 31st October when we were still under tier 1 rules. Was it a little too late though? The cases were already rising and had been ever since September. Alas, we will never know because the day that we moved into tier 2 was the day Boris Johnson announced a lockdown for the whole country. We spent less than a week enduring those tighter restrictions trying to get everything done for Christmas before we were locked back up in our homes.

Could the problem even be tracked back to March? Evidence shows that the first wave of the virus didn’t hit people in Hull nearly as badly as it did in other places. After the first lockdown, I could only name people who I had a very distant social connection to who had contracted the virus. Now, in November, I can name many. My teacher. My classmate. A member of my church. The personal connection to the virus that wasn’t there previously is now in full effect and it’s frightening to know that people you’ve seen recently have experienced the virus. It causes you to worry for your friends and family in a way you didn’t in the first wave and it proves it’s authenticity. It’s real. And it’s not going away.

The virus has affected me in a personal way as I am now isolating for two weeks after being in contact with someone at college who has contracted the virus. All things considered, it may be a blessing in disguise with the rapidly growing amount of cases in Hull. Even before our year group was sent home for this reason, some of my friends were already isolating due to being in contact with the virus. It has been spreading for a while and the hope of the city is that this lockdown will serve to break the chain in terms of infections and stop more people from overwhelming the NHS and ultimately dying from it.

Some positivity that has shone through all the bleakness is the way that the local media have handled the second wave as of recent times. Look North, our local news for East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire, have covered stories where they have spoken to people with the virus and hospital staff. Their aim is to spread awareness about the virus and the effects it can have and it is so refreshing to see this sector of the media using their influence for good. Instead of scaremongering or downplaying the virus, they have presented it as it is and are trying their best to help with the worsening situation.

Can Hull turn it around? Only time will tell. With this current lockdown and the tightened tier 3 measures this city could potentially face in December, it looks achievable. However, after the cases in Hull fall again, another area will assume the top spot of the most covid cases in England list. This cycle will continue over and over again until one day we beat the virus. Hopefully, that day will come soon.

 

ARE SHORT STORIES THE WAY FORWARD, INSTEAD OF BOOKS?

The announcement today by The Washington Post, that it is making available its “important election information” free to all readers – should be a wake up call, to anybody who has doubted that the age of giving away your advice, information, expertise online – for free – is already over.

The question is – what are the key markets where this can benefit you?  The answer is not so much in the Content, but in the ease of accessing said Content, and seamlessly paying for it.   Up to now, the market has been addressed by the more corporate players – market leader being The Futureshapers (www.thefutureshapers.com) based in London, whose readership is up to  six figures of serious corporate decision-makers.

But there are newcomers on the block, and leading that entry is Uppsala, Sweden based EXODOX, (www.exodox.link), whose simple link and payment process, is a natural gateway for the personal reading market, in particular, their focus on upcoming authors and bloggers. It is a clever way of maximising revenues for the authors that are published. Articles cost just a few pence or euros to read – but social media gives them great outreach.

Typical examples are: https://unfuckwithable.blog/goodness-grace-great-thoughts-on-fire-chapters/1-perfect-just-as-you-are/ – and more UK based – the recent “the Libraries” (www.thelibraries.co.uk).

The choice is interesting because neither platform require any subscription. You pay only for the specific info or article.

In corporate terms, this is a simple and great way to get brand visibility over a sustained period;  and air a personal level, a great way at pretty much little cost – for authors to get their name out there before moving to the larger book publishing houses.

 

 

NEW DEVELOPMENTS FROM SCANDINAVIA

We are well used to Scandi businesses being ahead of the rast of EU and even globally in key verticals of healthcare, IT development and so forth. But what about general management?

We interview Steffen Conradsen, CEO of the Calm Water start-up in Denmark, and ask him – since his reticent beginnings and company launch just a year ago – well – how has it been?

It’s a stupid question. I am sitting in the empty bar area of the Copenhagen Towers. I am struggling with my mask. The day before, I had my first COVID Test as I sauntered through CPH Airport. It took less time to queue and take the test than I would normally spend in line at my local supermarket.

These are not normal times. Steffen is silver haired, smiling, and saunters towards me, he is comfortable in his own skin, and we find a seat at the adjacent coffee bar. Steffen has seen crises all before from his time as VP at Ericsson Denmark. If anybody knows how to launch a Consulting firm offering crisis-management in troubled times it is he.

Clear Water Consulting was not born out of any mid life desire to launch a new business. It was a simple choice of expediency. The downsizing of Ericsson in Denmark, left Steffen with choices – one of which was – where is the work/life balance now, and how best to offer his consulting skills.

And at a time over the last six months of continual crisis for so many large and small companies, in a variety of vertical disciplines, this has already turned out to be the best moment, rather than the worst.

Steffen leans forward and sips his cafe latte. We have moved on from the preliminary pleasantries. What he says is; “these COVID times are not going anywhere any time soon. If companies want to stay relevant in this new world and very different environment, then there has to be a process, a strict methodology – to cope with what will be unexpected situations, quite apart from the need to define what is a go to market plan for the next 12 to 60 months.

Clear Water has a pre-defined process that he has set out graphically, as well as list the four of five key points that govern his thinking. The strategy is explained in English. It is similar to Danish thinking, and their approach to life, the being very methodical and clear, and with no deviation. Reading the corporate blurb, there is little by way of philosophic al and conceptual discussion – apart from on the last page, where Steffen talks about being relevant in society.

Steffen continues; “Sure, things have been tough, but Clear Water is already profitable, and demand is high”. We are meeting mid-afternoon, and Steffen has already had three meetings around the Copenhagen suburbs .

I am expecting to see him any time soon passing through London – but was if to prove a point – Denmark goes into lockdown the day after I return to the UK.

Steffen Conradsen can be contacted at; +45 2812 7445

 

Is it time we change the way we reach out to our clients? We have some better ways to boldly go…

It is a simple truth rarely understood, that if you are going to start sending out and relying on, written communication, to keep in touch with your customer-base; then at least make  it easy to read, and interesting.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?

The recent months of lockdown have seen a plethora, an avalanche of offers of Seminars, Webinars, online Discussion, in our inboxes every day, and all of these announcements have two things in common.  They are worthwhile and could well be helpful.  And they are absolutely boring and do not reach out to grab us and hold our attention.

Which is why the attached Image that accompanies this Article, is so key. It is a standout piece of graphic art commissioned by one of clients, The Futureshapers (www.thefutureshapers.com) – that our Team member, Ben, designed – with the aim of saying “look, it is time to go in a new direction, out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to do that, if you want to stay successful in 2020… and of course beyond”.

There are two keys to this new process. First, your technical quality of delivery, be it a graphic (as above, say), or an Article, .. or a Video Interview, whatever… has to be spot on. It can seem “rough around the edges” but that in itself needs care to deliver that level of insouciance. And it has to be different.

That is because life itself is now different, for all of us. People are questioning what they did the things they did before, and coming up with new ways of working, and of keeping in touch.  Which means that – whatever is your size of company – you too have to recognise that, and act accordingly. Sometimes, you are too close to your own business, to see the broader or more varied options.

It is very rare that  in these pages we talk about our own business – but at ProfoMedia, we focus on original communication, and we can deliver this for you. Our numbers are on our Contact pages, do take a moment to call and have a chat.

 

Shall we forget about 2020? Not at all.

We take a moment to take a pause, and ask;  is it that we have two choices: either we accept that this year the cards were just stacked against us, and we   accept the doom prophesies. Or we don’t.   This article is a sequel to our earlier comment about humans and recessions. Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.

It is fashionable to be pessimistic these days. God knows we have enough right to be.  According to the mainstream media, the “economy” will tank both this year and next. But in the same pages, we learn that in the UK, house prices have reached their highest level since, well, the last time they reached that level. It’s all very confusing.

So conventional wisdom is to assume the worst.  Put what little money we have under the mattress. And do nothing.  In doing “nothing”, we create the very downturn and recession  we have been guarding against.  For some reason, we just love bad news, – and we pay the consequences for that.

The answer – is to do “something”. In fact, it is to do more than “something”. It is to take the view that you carry on as you had originally planned. Surprisingly, if you are that single minded and determined, things are likely to work out.

So what is the secret, of doing “something”?  There are five simple points of understanding.

First – by doing nothing or firing your people – you will not return  to the same place that you left; you will have less people, less experience, less competence, and your market will have less money. It’s a spiral; to the bottom.

Second – your pipeline is your future success. Cherish it, go after it. Silver linings will come back sooner rather than later.

Third – be innovative. Life indeed is not the same as it was. But it is unlikely that there is no demand for your solutions and competences. You just have to phrase it a different way.

Fourth – change your outreach. Forget sending emails, we all get too many, but do invest in video, Seeing is believing and virtual meetings do work.

And Finally – things never were easy. But as we come out of the darkness of COVID – now is the time to reap the rewards while others are still asleep.

RECESSIONS ARE NOT CAUSED BY VIRUSES. RECESSIONS ARE CAUSED BY HUMANS.

We look at the concept that battening down the hatches in difficult times, is good for our corporate health, and ask; maybe it’s not so good for our health… We give an alternative RoadMap.

My good colleagues in our Insurance Clients, show me the data, and it goes something like this – those companies who abandon their marketing and sales ship in any ensuing storm – will lose around 23% of their revenues that year. And it will take them a further two years to recover.

I do “get” that the above scenario is tempting. Our Press and Media do not get our attention by publishing good news stories. The constant doom and gloom which populate all of our news feeds and Inboxes, gives the end of the world impression of reality.

Except that it is not reality. Our experience over the past two months, in monitoring our corporate colleagues and clients, is that it is a true case of “be careful what you wish for”. Maybe you haven’t thought this through…

The fact is that, how you proceed now – is a choice that you yourself will make. Your reaction to events is the same as any other business decision.

So…. This is how it is.

If you persist in treating your sales and marketing facility as a discretionary spend as opposed to an essential lifeline, then you cannot be surprised if your revenues shrink in the immediate and long term.

What we have found is that those companies that continue to go develop their business, do continue to build up their pipeline, and continue to get new business, come what may. We have seen an increase in Meetings, and very little difference between face/face meetings; and Virtual Meetings. Surprisingly, there is actually quite a positive buzz. Our own clients tell us  they have continued to win new projects.

The evidence we have, is that those companies who suddenly stop – will not be perceived as “serious” when the sun comes out and all this darkness goes away.

So what is the answer? We have a RoadMap which you might like  to consider:

1. Keep your marketing and direct sales efforts alive. People do understand the global situation, but they still want to see you and hear from you.

2. Don’t let your people go. The good people will not be there for you when you come back.

3. The longer you leave things, the more difficult it will be to ramp up again. This is because there will be exponentially more competition not necessarily in your space, but in the availability of your customer to see you.

4. Your excuse of using this period for “planning” – does not fly. The same pressures will soon apply as before, when you restart – expect that you will be in a worse state to achieve the results you need to get. You still have the office rent to pay, after all.

5. Remember that your key asset – as we are frequently told – are your people. They will indeed continue to be that – but you have to do your part too.

We Are What We Eat

We catch up with Nutrition Consultant Olga Preston, about how what we eat, impacts how we behave.

We are not talking about getting tetchy in the morning, – although that may be the case. This is serious stuff. We are at the sharp end of solving and reducing symptoms of, serious mental health issues, by understanding, analysing, and even rejecting, the food that we have queued for at the supermarket just a few days before.

And it’s not that Olga does not have experience of these issues. As a former nutrition specialist with the Brain Bio Centre in Putney London – and now branching out on her own, with her own portfolio of patients, Olga is convincing as she talks to me by phone.

“You know that sugar makes you anxious?” She says.

I didn’t know that. Neither did I know that my favourite pasta carbonara is also less than ideal.

“You need some chicken and steamed vegetables”.

I demurred asking her about my glass of Chardonnay in the evening. But what is clear is that, once you get beneath the recipe and menu level of conversation, there is an increasing awareness by all of us at a community level, that by just changing a few things in our diet, we can reduce the mental issues that also seem to be on the increase. And these are the issues that conventional medicine, with its dumbing down side effects, seems powerless to handle.

Apparently, NHS GPs do not normally refer patients who they feel have mental issues, – to a Nutritional Therapist Nutritional Therapist, despite the latter qualifications.

Olga’s patients are referred by private clinics. She specialises in children issues, particularly autism and ADHD, with a small reserve area for adults with depression and psychosis. She will shortly have a separate facility at the ION Clinic in Richmond. We talk about other influences, the use of Music to stimulate people with brain issues, etc, and what she says is that people are now comfortable and accepting that there are different therapeutic tools, to do different jobs.

Olga is an an accomplished Seminar speaker – and I don’t want to delay her any longer. I think about grabbing a large sandwich at the train station, but apparently too much bread is not great for me either.

Olga can be contacted directly at; olgaprestonnutrition@gmail.com