Patient Advocacy and Speaking from Experience at C2C Connect Live: Cambridge | C2C Community

Patient Advocacy and Speaking from Experience at C2C Connect Live: Cambridge

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Patient Advocacy and Speaking from Experience at C2C Connect Live: Cambridge

“I was at the hotel one morning working at a hospital in Missouri, noticed blood on my t-shirt, and said ‘What’s that about?’” Sitting at a high-top conference table outside the Boston Common auditorium on the fourth floor of Google’s Cambridge, MA office, Michael Preston (@Preston14) of Healthcare Triangle briskly recounted his struggle to find effective treatment for melanoma. Before he was able to eliminate the cancer with immunotherapy, he explained, he underwent chemotherapy and experienced near-fatal complications. “That medicine that I qualified for because of my gene mutation nearly killed me,” he said. “How do you get genomics to reflect how a patient will interact with a medicine, not just whether or not they qualify for that medicine based on their genomic profile?”

Jonathan Sheffi

Preston had come to the office for a C2C Connect Live event for Healthcare and Life Sciences professionals in the Boston-Cambridge area. This last question is the same question Preston asked Jonathan Sheffi (@sheffi), a director of Product Strategy formerly of Google and Veeva Systems, who had taken the stage earlier for a presentation and panel. Sheffi’s presentation focused more broadly on use cases for cloud technology in genomics and clinical trial matching, but the content resonated with Preston enough that he was moved to share his personal experience with the rest of the group. This kind of personal connection to technical and business-related discussions is typical of the HCLS space, Preston said. “Something will resonate, whether it’s my grandmother, my grandfather, my neighbor down the street, or me. If you can’t bring your own perspective into a conversation with a client or a partner, then it’s too generic.”

Sheffi agreed: “Working in healthcare and life sciences, no matter what industry you work in, everyone’s a patient, and everyone knows some patients.” Before he began working in technology, Sheffi was able to experience firsthand what it’s like to serve in a patient-facing role. “I was actually a pharmaceutical sales rep early in my career, and met patients who would come up to me and would say, ‘your drug saved my life,’” he recalled. “I feel weird taking the credit, because I didn’t develop it, I didn’t manufacture it, I was just making sure that they had access and had it available to them, but there is nothing quite like meeting a patient who’s actually been impacted by your work.” Although Sheffi has held executive-level positions at several major tech companies, he has organized his career around the opportunities he sees to serve patients and meet their needs. As he put it, “I’m here because I’m excited about what technology can do for patients.”

 

Guests mingling before the event

The program at the event, which included presentations from Sheffi, Google Head of Cloud Sales Engineering Yee-Chen Tjie, Taylor Lehman, Director of the Office of the CISO at Google, and Luke Ge, an AI Solutions specialist at Intel, and a panel discussion with Ge, Tjie, and Sheffi, was largely technically focused. However, patient experience dominated the conversations that followed, which Sheffi and Preston both cited as a unique value of a community space for HCLS professionals in the tech field. “Another gentlemen talked about his parent, who had cancer,” Sheffi recalled. “He had to push for a more medically appropriate treatment option that wasn’t initially recommended by the physician.

 

“Working in healthcare and life sciences, no matter what industry you work in, everyone’s a patient, and everyone knows some patients.”

 

Sheffi was referring to Raj Tuliani (@tuliani), a customer engineer with Google Life Sciences who shared his experience caring for his sick parents during the panel discussion that closed the program. “I was trying to give my perspective as a patient advocate, as a patient caregiver,” he says. “There’s a good use case for a patient advocate to use the genetic data that’s being given as a way to guide treatment, not only from the provider perspective, but from the patient side as well.” Tuliani had wanted to be a doctor from a young age, and when he started at Google he had already worked as a senior director of technology at Anthem and at Johns Hopkins, and had also taken time off from work to be a full-time caregiver to his parents. As a patient advocate, Tuliani appreciates that Google’s life sciences products are “are all about helping everyone,” with “the emphasis on helping and everyone.”

A focus on patient experience is that much more impactful at an event where technical and business professionals are convening to share ideas and make new connections. Once the guests started opening up in the room during the prepared program, they were primed to engage candidly during the networking reception that followed. Making himself vulnerable in front of the others in attendance only made Preston more eager to connect one-on-one with his colleagues and peers. In the middle of describing the security risks his clients in the small- to medium-sized community hospital space face when they don’t have resources like a CISO, he caught sight of Lehman walking past. “I’m going to go hunt him down and talk to him more,” he said.

 

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