By Michael Seres, Founder/CEO, 11 Health

Published: 30 July 2018

Emptying a stoma bag is not easy, nor is it pleasant. There’s no way of knowing when it’s full, so it’s often like a return to infancy where you are left wearing your own poop.  Needless to say this makes life figuratively and literally a bit sh*t.

That’s the situation I found myself in after I was diagnosed with the incurable bowel condition Crohn's Disease at the age of 12. More than 20 operations followed that diagnosis, along with an intestinal failure, after which I became the 11th person to undergo a small bowel transplant in the UK.

So I decided to solve the issue I was having, to test the solution on myself, and show healthcare providers how it could help others. I bought parts online and hacked together a ‘fullness’ sensor for my bag. That hack later became 11Health, my very own medical device company, which is changing the lives of patients using stoma bags.

I shared my story at Patients First: Pioneering Partnerships. And in the spirit of practicing what they preach, ABPI and AMRC asked that I be the first person to take to the stage. Patients First indeed. I shared my journey from frustrated patient to empowered medical device founder, made possible through the partnerships I forged along the way.

But my story is just one example of how the role of the expert is changing in healthcare - there were many more inspiring examples on the day. Patients are becoming more knowledgeable about their conditions, and they have started to take more control over their data and healthcare. This is especially true for patients with long-term conditions; they’re becoming partners in healthcare. It’s now a relationship between the patient and wider healthcare team. Things are changing, and for the better.

That’s why following my opening plenary, I had the pleasure of joining Helena Chung, Patient Centricity Excellence Director at AstraZeneca, in her keynote address about patient centricity. This is a game-changer and a vital step for industry, and the wider medical research sector, in moving towards working side by side, in partnership, with their patients.

Patients First wasn’t just an opportunity for me to share my story and my beliefs, it was also a chance to listen and learn from others across the sector. As the Dalai Lama said “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new”. The conference offered a variety of intriguing and useful experiences including panel discussions with distinguished speakers, workshops on driving patient involvement, and table talks to prompt further conversations that might spark more partnerships.

I hope, as does everyone involved in the conference, that it has acted as a springboard to individuals and organisations doing things differently, hand-in-hand, to bring benefits to patients sooner. I was thrilled to take part in a unique conference that has these principles at its very core, working together to make life a little less sh*t for the patients they serve.