An Interview with Head of Partner Management, Joe Ashley
Learn more about Joe's experiences at Medbelle and his outlook for the future of healthcare and our ever-growing surgeon network
You joined Medbelle over four years ago; how has Medbelle changed since those early years, and have the values of Medbelle also evolved?
I think the way Medbelle has changed is that over the years, we have developed such a deep understanding of the healthcare system as it currently exists. We have been able to integrate ourselves into the patient pathway, with the people and entities involved, hospitals, clinics, anaesthetists and most importantly, the patient themselves. That’s how Medbelle has changed and improved our knowledge of the system. The values haven’t really changed that much, our aim has always been to improve secondary care and the patient experience that’s still what our core goal is. The way we work with consultants has evolved, we want to develop partnerships with each and everyone and put clinicians right at the centre of everything that we’re doing with the technology we’ve built.
In your years of experience within the healthcare industry, what does the future look like and what part does Medbelle play?
I’ve been here for nearly five years, and Medbelle will turn six this year. Now five years in healthcare isn’t that long, nothing much has fundamentally changed, however with the pandemic, we’ve seen how it’s affected the NHS and the UK. I think that has really started to shape healthcare as an industry and more and more patients are going to be driven towards private care because of the increased waiting times of the NHS. The mismanagement of funding by the government has had a big knock-on effect on the care the NHS is able to provide. So as there is an increase in the number of patients choosing private healthcare, it is imperative that there is someone there that always has the patient’s best interests at heart and that is exactly what Medbelle is here for.
The shift from receiving your care from the NHS and then seeking out private care is very difficult to navigate for patients. It’s what we’ve been doing for the past five years, supporting patients and helping them throughout their experience, and this is the really crucial role we’re going to play. We need to think about how care is delivered and this is one of the key things that Medbelle is focusing on.
In private healthcare it shouldn’t just be about money, it needs to be about patients getting the best possible care at the right time and at the right place and consultants are going to be massively important in enabling this. Medbelle is going to change the incentivisation structures, we need to push away from this idea of profit and utilisation of hospital capacity and focus on the patients getting the best possible outcome for the money they spend.
How does your department help to empower the wider team to reach new heights and achieve Medbelle’s ambitious goals?
Within the supply department there are two different teams, there are the Partnership team and the Operations team. The Operations team are pivotal to the smooth running of a patient’s journey, they are there to make sure there are no hiccups and if they are, they are resolved quickly and seamlessly without it negatively impacting the patient’s experience. They are vital to the day to day running of Medbelle. They are also the main point of contact for our clinicians; it’s important that they build those relationships, really cementing that bond of partnership. Working closely alongside the Patient Care Team, they are tied to the experience we’re providing our patients, without the Operations team we don’t have the driving force behind the mission we’ve set out to achieve.
Then you have the Partnerships team, who do the important job of going out there to try and expand and build our consultant network, consistently adding the highest quality consultants, be it in orthopaedic, ophthalmology or cosmetics. So we’re able to see and help more and more patients, spreading our offering geographically and keeping us expanding in different areas. The partnership team are key in enabling our goal of “simpler, smarter and more accessible healthcare for all”, we can only do that if we have the right consultants in the right places.
Can you tell me a bit about the Medbelle Surgeon Network and where you envisage it’s future?
We pride ourselves on having a level of extremely high-quality surgeons. They are leading associates within their fields, and they all have to hold substantive NHS posts, and we’re always looking for the very best in terms of patient feedback. The network is that we’re in partnership with these people, we work in collaboration with them to improve the patient experience and the patient outcomes too.
Where I envisage it in the future, is it being much bigger, covering more locations but never allowing quality to slip, and that’s crucial. As we continue to grow and step into other specialities, particularly within orthopaedics, is the value that comes with working with groups of consultants. Which offers a new level of transparency in terms of data collection and data sharing, specifically outcome data, which is key in our moving forward. Patients need to know that when we recommend a surgeon to them we do so with the utmost confidence that that surgeon is exactly the right person that patient needs to go and see. In the future, we can offer training and fellowships for newer consultants, using the more senior members of our network to help the newer generation of surgeons and practitioners.
Are there any particular projects within Medbelle that you're excited about?
As mentioned earlier, we’re working on this change within how incentivisation structures within healthcare work at the moment, because inherently the healthcare system has certain degrees of inefficiency and that’s mainly down to the business models that hospitals have to adhere to. They run a low occupancy and high fixed cost and they have to charge high margins on what they do. So the project I’m really excited about working on is how we can change those incentives, moving to a value-based model that benefits the patient, giving them the best possible outcome for the money they put in.
At the moment I’m working very closely with different clinician groups to really see how we can strive and move forward with that vision. This also involves the product side of things, the practice management software that Medbelle has built, the OS is really going to be fleshed out this year which will help us facilitate this new way of thinking about patient care to this idea of a value-based system where patients are really taken care of. This is what I’m working on at the moment and I think its something I’ll be working on during my time at Medbelle, however long that may be.
What goals are you setting yourself for 2022, professionally & personally?
On a personal level, I’ve just got a dog, so it’s about trying to remain sane whilst also working and training a puppy. Professionally, I want to carry on improving my understanding of the healthcare industry. I’ve learnt so much over the years but its such a big, complex structure that I want to continue to grow and never want to stop asking questions. I want to continue building the relationships and partnerships that I started on at the end of last year and invest my time in them and really help them blossom, both for Medbelle, but also the other parties that are involved. I also want to support the development of Medbelle OS and on the product side of things, seeing what we can do as an Operations and Partnership department to drive the technology forward.
Why should surgeons/hospitals work with Medbelle?
Its easy for clinicians and hospitals to look at Medbelle and say what really differentiates you from being just a glorified middle man? My response to that is what we’re trying to do is something fundamentally different. We’re trying to change the way that healthcare is delivered and I think that’s a really exciting thing for people to be a part of. We work in partnerships, we’re not another company that’s trying to take advantage of the situation, we’re here to make it better for everyone. We’re so delighted to have the clinicians that support the vision onboard. We’ve spent so long refining our patient experience which we want to be able to offer to everybody, including consultants’ own patients.
We’re building something in Medbelle OS that in six months time will be the best in practice software management system. We’re in such a different position to other practice management systems, we have technology in our product that is specifically designed for the management of secondary care, not just a general piece of management software.
We’re doing something different and we’re doing something exciting and we really want to reward the people that get onboard. The patient experience that we offer is really second to none and the core technology aspects, at the end of the day, is going to be unparalleled. All of these reasons are why clinicians and hospitals should really want to work with Medbelle.
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