Emily Casey was a bright young medical student with a passion for healthcare when she was hit with the devastating reality that the system was “screwed”.
But rather than plunging on with her studies in the hope that someone somewhere would do something about the “shit show”, she decided to take control and be part of the solution – starting with the crippled health tech sector.
It meant upending her life and her studies and giving up her dream of being a doctor, at least for now. But she is fired up and ready to make change happen, through her new initiative What the Health?!
“When I got further into the program [medical school], I saw the reality of healthcare and how, even as a clinician, you’re really constrained by the system and the policies, as well as the funding and where that goes,” said What the Health?! founder Ms Casey.
“I got quite frustrated by those problems…because you can only help patients with what you have in front of you, and within set rules. But if you’re not allowed to step outside of those rules, or you don’t have the resources, you’re essentially screwed,” she said.
The greatest challenge the health tech industry faces is how to connect siloed stakeholders in a way that fosters innovation and collaboration.
The lack of resources, coupled with the constraints on clinicians, meant that Ms Casey saw patients denied the holistic care and long-term problem solving that they needed.
“It was just really disheartening. It wasn’t the medicine I got into to help people get better, it was more band-aid temporary fixes
“It’s all, to be frank, a shit show.”
Ms Casey was disturbed by her experiences from both sides – clinician and patient. After moving interstate several times and finding that her medical records never moved with her, leading to misdiagnoses and things being overlooked, her life as a patient started to feel “isolating and horrible”.
Ms Casey said that it became clear to her that real scalable change was only possible when the business and system aspects of healthcare were fixed. After an internship in finance and a managerial position at the government’s Innovation Hub, Ms Casey saw huge potential when covid hit.
“Health tech became super hot, and a lot of people were reaching out to me, both from my health professional networks and from the start-up world asking questions about health technology, and investors also started looking at the space. It just became so apparent how little there was in terms of good resources,” said Ms Casey.
“I was shocked by some of the questions I was getting. Health professionals asking ‘where do I find technology’, or healthcare start-ups and corporations struggling with a lot of the basics of systems or commercialisation.”
Ms Casey decided to use this knowledge to start What the Health?!, a media band and community that aims to make health innovation more fun, accessible and connected. According to Ms Casey, the greatest barrier to these aims is that different stakeholders do not speak the same language.
“I think people are trying to [communicate better], but I don’t think there’s been the right spaces or forums. In true healthcare style, it’s been really, really siloed. Just closed doors and echo chambers.”
What the Health?! is partnering with Wild Health for the digital health strategy and health reform Melbourne summit on 18 October. Ms Casey hopes that discussions on the day will yield practical steps we can take now, and what want in the future – and how to get there.
Ms Casey said embracing technology and new models of thinking was easier said than done, but that we needed to shift thinking away from short term solutions to long term infrastructure, both from a health perspective and a commercial perspective,
“It’s always easier said than done. But we’re trying to forge pathways and connections to actually create a better foundation moving forward, instead of just patching up this crumbling structure that we already have.”
There are still a handful of in-person tickets left for the summit, and you can also register for the livestream or sign up to receive post-event content. Check out the full agenda and tickets here.