The Affect of AI &
Machine Learning on MedTech
Interview with Anita Rajeswaren, (previously) Product Director at Dr Ed: Online Doctor (now Zava). She has a wide range of experience working with some of the largest companies in the world, as well as experience with fast paced, innovative start-ups so offers a unique perspective on Product.
How do you think the rise of AI, machine-learning and IoT will affect MedTech?
I think MedTech is a really exciting area at the moment, partly because there’s so much room for innovation. One of the things I think is going to be really interesting is smart devices. For example, in the case of ongoing conditions like asthma, there are things that are starting to be available, like smart inhalers, where instead of entering data or telling a doctor how many times you’ve had an attack, things like that device actually record this information and can give much more accurate and predictive information than self-reporting. Those kinds of devices, and how we use that data, are going to be really interesting going forward.
Another area that I think is really interesting is the AI side. One aspect of making healthcare much more efficient and convenient for people is using data to triage something and applying it to some things that a GP might ask or cover. Then, you get to really make the use of the doctor’s time much more efficient, a lot more in advance. You can understand where you need to follow up and where the doctor actually needs to spend a lot of time, because a lot of the other questions they may ask in triage to try to narrow an issue down is already done. So I think data and smart use of data can really go a long way with that.
What is the impact of MedTech and start-ups to institutions like the NHS?
The NHS is an amazing service and I think a lot of the aspects of MedTech and start-ups can complement it. One aspect is how we can share access and data in patients’ records. That’s an area that hasn’t really been resolved but I think there’s so much opportunity to take all of the data from, for example, devices that combine the data the NHS gets from your doctor and GP (obviously with the patient’s permission). You get a much more holistic view of the patient and you know what you can do in terms of managing ongoing conditions or treatments, so I think there’s a lot of room to go forward in that area.
I think MedTech services can also play a valuable role in taking some of the weight off of the NHS if there are more convenient ways for users to be treated and interact with doctors, especially during hours the NHS doesn’t provide care. That takes a lot of weight off of the NHS and allows it to focus on other areas, so I think they really do work together.
What do you think makes a good product manager?
It’s an interesting question because there’s not one set of skills that makes a good product manager. It’s the same in every business. A lot of product managers know that people think what product does varies a lot, company by company, but I think there are some attributes that people should have, or things in common. One is definitely data and just loving data, whether that’s quantitative or qualitative data. Understanding where you’re going to get ideas from, how you can validate them, and how you can show whether something is successful or not is really important, and it also helps bring people along with you in terms of why you want to prioritise certain things or go in a certain direction.
Another thing is that you have to balance strategy with the details. Obviously as you are in a bigger and bigger company, people will fill different roles in product, but I think it’s important as you’re working on strategic aspects not to lose sight of the day-to-day things you’re improving for the customer. You need to keep that connection with the developers and be their advocate, understand what they’re actually doing, and also give them the vision of what you’re working towards on a higher level so that they’re empowered and inspired.
How does the product development process differ between small and large companies?
When I started at Zava, I was hired to build up the product function and that is quite different from going into a company where they already have established product roles and product processes, an understanding of the value product brings to your business, and how it works with developers. So I think the interesting bit here is understanding what people have already done in areas of product. Obviously, we had developers. Some people, like the founder, were involved in aspects of product development, while some people were involved in marketing.
I think the real key has been showing where product can add value to this company, not just take the processes from an old company and use them here. Really being transparent about how we’re going to prioritise things, how we work with developers, being open and inviting the entire company to a demo of our software (those types of things), mean we work alongside people who are already doing some aspects of product and bring it all together.
What advice would you give to a product specialist who has just joined a start-up?
I think my first piece of advice for someone who has just joined a start-up is that product is really the bridge between development and all the other stakeholders and functions in a business. That is even more important in a start-up where you have to work out those key relationships straightaway and build trust. Especially in a start-up, you don’t want people to think you’re coming in to control all the development that happens. You want to make it collaborative and be really transparent about what you think the priorities are, why you’ve come to those decisions, and get the feedback. Adjust, adapt, and give people the confidence that you’re on top of things, as well as the details.
People let you do the big stuff if they know that you’ve got the small stuff handled, meaning you know all the details at the site, that you care about the user experience, even when it’s not a big strategic piece you’re working on but something that is quite tactical and detailed. I think you’ve got to do both and give people that confidence.