Dan Howcroft's Year in Retrospect and Vision for 2022
Chief Medical Officer Dan discusses his year at Medbelle, things he's learnt and his ever-growing passion for value-based care
An introduction to Dan Howcroft
Medbelle was excited to welcome Dan into the role of Chief Medical Officer in early 2021; working remotely, he dived into the company and joined the team in our mission to raise the standard of healthcare for all. In this interview, Dan reflects back on his year at Medbelle and what he has learnt and lends insight into what's next in store for Medbelle. Dan's expertise, experience and passion for value-based care perfectly align with Medbelle's values, and together, we're working towards the future of healthcare.
Since being at Medbelle what challenges have you faced & how have you overcome them?
There are a couple of things, the first is starting anywhere in a pandemic is tough, meeting new people and colleagues and really understanding the business is a challenge. The internal meetings online helped with that, but it wasn’t until I was able to meet everyone in person in the summer that it really clicked. That was really helpful in establishing relationships and meeting with the Patient Care Advisers and operations team, and really getting to know them.
In terms of working styles, I tend to think big picture and leap right into things, having come from a massive organisation to now a smaller, younger one, I’ve had to learn to keep focus and I will say that Leander (Medbelle Co-founder) has been key in this, just keeping me on the straight and narrow!
What’s an exciting new project you’re working on?
The whole Medbelle mission is the exciting project for me! As a concept, it really excites me. The move into orthopaedics and multidisciplinary care allows us to really focus on value-based care, which is what I’m really passionate about. Getting to a point where we can offer something different. The technology is fantastic, the experience we provide is brilliant, and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re trusted to do what we do and that anyone who uses our services can be confident that they are getting the best they can get for the pounds they spend. The whole thing is just really exciting, I’ve felt for a long time that healthcare needed to change, and the digital aspect is very much part of that, but that has to run alongside new models of how care is funded.
What does the future of healthcare look like for you?
It has to change fundamentally, people do the very best they can, whether it's surgeons, physios, nurses etc, but they don’t know how others are working. The outcomes and the cost of things aren’t transparent, and that can’t continue. We are spending more on healthcare as a proportion of the wealth that our country generates each year.. What I hope we do is learn from variations that we see across the country. We need systems that continue to allow growth and learning and identify differences in practices and allow that information to be shared back to people on the front line of delivering healthcare. Then people can learn from the exemplars in the system. That means we get better quality and outcomes, but also against better affordability. Are there better treatments that provide the same if not better outcomes that are less expensive than others?
We need to shine a light on that and make sure people are making informed decisions about the care they offer. It’s about tracking data and learning from variations. Healthcare at present is about people who have gotten ill, but the next iteration of this, of course, is to move further up the funnel and work across the world to prevent people from getting ill in the first place. But as I said, it’s about focus, and I’m going to focus, as far as Medbelle is concerned, on the data tracking.
Dan gave a presentation on value-based care at our recent event with orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists
What does value-based care mean to you & what is Medbelle doing to provide this?
When I left frontline healthcare, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. There was a void. There is a certain amount of identity that goes into being a doctor, when that had gone I was looking for a new purpose but knew it had to be in the wider healthcare system. That’s when I started to research and became interested in the idea of value-based care. I don’t do the frontline care anymore as I’m no longer a practising surgeon, but I continue to have huge respect for those who do.
For me, value-based care offered a potential solution to the question of how I can make the health system better for the people using it and how can both professionals and patients get a better deal? I learnt about value-based care through the Harvard annual seminar. This explained that you need to track every pound spent as well as the outcomes that matter to patients in all cases. Only then can you continually review and improve the system in a sustainable way. This sounds simple and commonsense, but it’s a complicated equation, and much of this data is not currently tracked. Patient experience measures and objective outcome measures all need to be worked out as they are contributing factors. We need to track all these things and question if one pathway is more or less value-based than another pathway? Value is often interpreted as being cheap, but it isn’t about being cheap, it’s about saying whatever you spend, you’re getting the best outcome you can with that spend.
You spoke at the recent Medbelle event, what were the highlights?
It was great to get out there to our first face to face partnership event. We had a great turnout from the Sheffield physios and representatives of different health groups. The talks were great. It was a chance to discuss the future of healthcare, bringing together different groups within the system so that we can collaborate and, more importantly, integrate all these professionals because that’s what Medbelle is all about. The goal to deliver this great experience and value-based care means that we’re going to be at the centre of integrating these different parties. It was nice to be able to do this in a lovely venue, seeing people chatting in person and making connections for me was the highlight. It was a fun evening and the staff at the venue looked after us well.
Looking back at your year at Medbelle, what's been your best memory?
The best Medbelle memory would be coming together to meet all members of staff after only meeting virtually, and the summer party was a great chance to let off steam and really bond together. I’ve really enjoyed joining a smaller company, particularly in contrast to the huge one I was previously at because it means I’m really able to shape how Medbelle develops. I really appreciate the art of open discussion and strategy discussion on how we’re moving the company forward. The fact we focus so heavily on value-based care and from the transparency we present to how we pick our consultants is something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a part of.
What goals are you setting yourself for 2022, professionally & personally?
I do like setting new years resolutions; however, keeping them remains the challenge! Personally, I think after the 2 years we have had it's about making time for yourself, life has changed, and it's important to take that time. For me, I've gained weight, lost weight and gained it again, and I'd like to work on shifting that. I'm sure many people have experienced the same thing. Professionally, I truly think 2022 is going to be Medbelle's year. We're really starting to have huge brand awareness amongst patients, consultants and with the big healthcare companies because we're offering something different. Our incentive models are different; our focus is different because we're a digital hospital, so we don't need to worry about overheads and upkeep of a particular facility. We can be flexible to make sure we deliver on our promises to our patients. 2022 is the year!
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