With hundreds of health events being launched every single day across the world, I often hear people say, “Oh, conferences – they’re just a money making racket” or “Health professionals feel they have to go to them, to earn learning credits”, or “They’re just excuses to get out of work and go out on the town afterwards”. Often when I talk to patients like me, they tell me that the topics of discussion at health conferences and such, can often be too “disconnected from reality, from a users perspective” or that they don’t benefit personally from such events . Well, after listening to all these type of comments and opinions for the last few years, I’d like to try change some of the mindsets about health events, conferences and summits.
From a patients perspective, and using the World Health Innovation Summit as an example…
A summit has been defined as bringing together people from “the highest attainable level of achievement”. A world summit brings these type of people from across the globe together in one place, and a world health summit brings together, on one platform, these people, who are working in the fields of healthcare. Innovation has been said to be crucial to the continuing success of any organisation and is defined as “the action or process of innovating” or “a new method, idea, product or process”. It showcases these innovations in healthcare, created and led by people whom have the highest attainable level of achievement in their fields, as proven by their peers, which will be showcased exclusively, together, at the World Health Innovation Summit.
In every way, the World Health Innovation Summit does exactly what it says it does.
As a patient myself; carer to my husband who had stroke at 42; and mum to three daughters whom each have had complex chronic conditions, I have seen everything in health services – from good examples of care, to not so good, to downright dangerous. I personally struggled with the self-management of our little families health needs until one day, by accident, and when caring for my dad who was on 22 medications, I developed a very simple toolkit to help me, as his carer, and him, as a patient, manage medications, health information, communication and appointments.
Little did I know, three years later, how much of a difference my little toolkit, the MediStori would make, to not just my family, but patients, families and health care professionals right across Ireland.
So what has this got to do with conferences?
Well, I have always said from the beginning, that I only take credit for the concept of my project, but I never take credit for the finished product, or in the way in which it is delivered to patients. This, I can openly say, is down to the many, many people I have met along the way, who inputted into it’s design and development. I can also say that I would never have met most of these people if it weren’t for the conferences, events or workshops of which I attended. While I was always made feel most welcome at these events, a lot of the time I often felt a little over my head or out of place, because I was the “patient”. I would regularly think that “I don’t fit in” with all the health care professionals and big pharma companies. Quite often I really wanted to comment on some of the stuff being said by the speakers, but didn’t feel confident enough to do so. Eventually, I found some other patients like me at these events and it wasn’t long before I realised that they often felt the same! So I started getting braver and in 2014, I took my first plunge – I stood up at a national conference which was being globally live-streamed; I took a mic and I put a comment to the fantastic innovator Ms. Helen Bevan. She was very engaging and I got a huge applause for my statements, so needless to say, I have never looked back.
Since this day, both I and many of the health care professionals in that room that day, connected.
I was told how hard it was for health professionals to find innovative and interested patients and carers who wanted to work together to improve services. I thought this was amazing as there were so many patients in the service, but realistically this made sense, as how could anyone ask a sick person to join a working group or a new initiative? It was really up to the patient or carer to put themselves forward. I told them how hard it was for me to attend conferences as they cost so much money and that a lot of the time, unless I was a company, charity or health care professional, I couldn’t attend. It seemed that we were all trying to find one another, to help create positive change, but had no signposts to guide us!
And so when I spoke to the Founder of the World Health Innovation Summit, Gareth Presch, I knew that he was onto something very special when he discussed a global platform for all health innovators. On this, I not only decided to support the World Health Innovation Summit, but was delighted then to accept the offer of being part of it’s international team. This summit, for me, summed up how to practically address the “Three C’s” – Collaboration, Communication and Community. It simply aimed to bring everyone involved in healthcare to one platform – to share and learn from one another, with a vision to work together to create the positive culture changes needed in health services across the globe.
As a patient, I felt I was now part of the solution, and not the problem.
So what makes this Summit so unique…for me, as a patient and social entrepreneur?
- #WHIS is a community interest company – meaning, after costs, all profits made are put straight back into the local community of which the summit is held. #WHIS is a true social enterprise!
- #WHIS is a community focused initiative – meaning there is not just one summit per year in one country – these summits can be held anywhere in the world, a number of times a year – by anyone involved in healthcare! The #WHIS team support communities to achieve this.
- #WHIS is open and inclusive for both speakers and attendees. It brings people from EVERY area of healthcare together – patients and carers, health care professionals, managers, administrators, families, businesses, social entrepreneurs, innovators, experts by experience, non for profits…anyone who is interested in learning about what is happening in the healthcare arena across the world.
- #WHIS is for those who want to be part of it – the only “credits” given are that of thanks to all involved and those who attend. The positive outcomes from #WHIS will be the learning from one another.
- #WHIS is led by an international, diverse and inspirational team of health innovators who want nothing else but to make our world a better place. Person by person, village by village, country by country. This network is already there, it’s just a matter of joining the dots and collaborating.
So have I changed any of your thinking about the benefits of going to inspirational events, like #WHIS?
The first of the World Health Innovation Summits global series kick-starts in the UK in the beautiful city of Carlisle, Cumbria, March 10th and 11th of this year. It will showcase inspirational people (including yours truly!) who have been working so, so hard to improve health services either personally, locally, nationally or internationally and who are willing to share their experiences so that a global audience can watch, hear and learn from those who have already met the barriers, challenges and successes in creating positive change in healthcare.
These people, and I, only want what’s best for patients, carers and everyone, in healthcare.
If you think you are a person who is a true collaborator and only wants the best for patients and health services personally, locally, nationally or internationally, then I invite you to join us on our journey, because in reality, we will all be users of our health services one day, and we will all have one aim – to either get better, or to help someone get better.
Looking forward to meeting you all in Carlisle,
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