- 1 year ago
14 September 2022
When it was suggested to young occupational therapist William Downey that he would do well in sales, Downey thought it an interesting idea – and worth a shot.
It was perhaps an unusual career move for the young Londoner, particularly given he was in his twenties and embarking on the early years of his chosen career, but almost a decade later Downey has not looked back. Yet he is no longer in sales, and no longer in London.
William Downey arrived in Australia just as the pandemic was starting in February 2020, brought in by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) MedTech for a specific role. With his background as a healthcare professional, the company that started Downey on his sales journey had moved him into a new area focused on customer solutions, and the Australian affiliate was eager to secure his know-how.
Downey is now the company’s ANZ Customer Solutions Partner, leading a small team out of the global healthcare giant’s Macquarie Park headquarters. His job title aptly describes what he does every day – devise solutions for J&J MedTech’s customers.
“The best thing about my job is going to a hospital group and asking them what problems they are facing, and how we might help them solve those problems?” Downey tells MedNews.
“I see a variety of challenges. Beds are always an issue, while sometimes a hospital may want to have greater efficiencies in the theatre, or they feel patients need better education. Whatever it may be, we step in and partner with them to devise a solution.”
It is a role Downey clearly loves, his face lighting up when he talks about how satisfying it is to help clinicians and patients achieve better outcomes from surgeries. For J&J MedTech, it demonstrates how the company is prepared to think differently about doing business, looking for ways to add value that make a real difference for patients.
New app a first for Australia
Now two-and-a-half years into his Australian role, what is undoubtedly Downey’s greatest achievement is the rollout of a new app that connects patients with information about their surgical journey. Called Care4Today, the app was initially launched in the UK in 2017 but has since been refined, now a polished product making a big difference in Australia.
While just 150 patients used the Care4Today app in 2020, last year this increased to more than 1,000 patients. In 2022, it is on track to grow exponentially with 12 hospital groups nationally signed on. The backend is managed internally by J&J MedTech while the information is approved by clinicians. Patients are invited to connect to the app by the hospital, keeping the clinician-patient relationship at its heart.
Bariatric surgeon Dr Roy Brancatisano said he had been using the app for more than 12 months, describing it as “extraordinary” and saying there is nothing like it in the market.
“It is a tremendous interface and use of technology to connect the patient to the clinic,” he said. “In weight loss surgery, the more we can connect with patients, the better their outcomes and quality of life. By having the app on their phone, they can refer to it whenever they want.
“We’ve found it improved their compliance, accountability and education, and ultimately improved their outcomes in terms of weight loss and lifestyle adjustment. It’s been a tremendous advance in our aftercare program, just using this piece of technology J&J helped us with.”
Dr Brancatisano said while a lot of generic apps allow patients to measure steps or monitor their weight, “this is specifically related to our weight loss surgery patients”.
“Nothing else like this exists in the market, and the next stages are very, very exciting as well,” he said. “It will connect the patient and the clinic with the doctor and the GP, but for now, we are definitely seeing the difference. Patient response is very, very good.
“They enjoy that the information is at their fingertips while for us, we can track the consent information and whether they have read it and understand it, so it improves the consent process. That is really important.”
Competing with Dr Google
While Dr Brancatisano believes the app to be a game-changer in terms of helping patients receive and understand information as well to get the best outcome, Downey says it gives clinicians a tool to help them direct their patients to the right information.
“In the age of Dr Google, information is everywhere and patients are looking for good quality information. J&J MedTech built Care4Today as a safe-gated source of quality information,” says Downey.
The service is provided free of charge to hospitals that purchase J&J MedTech products. Patients commencing a surgical journey are given a unique code that puts them on a select patient pathway, providing information for each stage of their patient journey.
Whether it is simple tips such as accessing hospital parking or a reminder from the physiotherapist as to what exercises they should do, or from the dietician as to foods they should eat, the app provides a one-stop-shop that caters for each patient’s particular needs both before and after surgery.
“Whether it is educational videos or simple-to-use checklists on how to prepare for surgery, the information is approved by the patient’s own doctor and is specifically designed to support the patient and get them home earlier and healthier,” Downey said. “It helps them get the best outcome from their operation, while it also gives them peace of mind that the information is coming from their own doctor.
“For the hospital, they can be more efficient while clinicians have more time to focus on delivering care, knowing the basic patient information is available in the app features.”
Solving healthcare sustainability
Downey says it also helps clinicians with patients who want to get home faster and recover in a familiar environment, with remote patient monitoring just one of the many assets of the app.
“Care4Today provides the opportunity for patients to recover at home but also caters for those patients who need to have an extended hospital stay. The app helps healthcare professionals to enhance their patient’s experience and outcomes from surgery. If patients have a positive experience, then everyone is a winner.”
Downey says Australia faces a “catastrophic health burden by 2030” due to the growing problem of an ageing population and chronic health issues such as diabetes and obesity, with predictions that joint replacements will be unaffordable by the end of this decade. Care4Today is just one part of J&J MedTech’s ongoing efforts to ensure a sustainable healthcare system.
“If we can move patients out of hospital and into a home environment where they are more comfortable and recover faster, then we are helping to relieve some of that health burden,” he says. “Better surgery for a better world.”