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Dr Michael Urdang is a practising Emergency Medicine Consultant. He co-founded “DICT8”, the UK-based  medical transcription company which is used in over 70 NHS Healthcare Trusts. He developed this when he became aware, as a junior doctor, of the delays in transcription of letters within the health service, leading to problems of morbidity for patients and financial for the hospital. The accuracy and efficiency of “DICT8” has now transformed healthcare communication for many hospitals and patients around the UK whilst only using UK based and trained medical transcribers.

Michael has recently co-founded “Our Health Space”, a novel support network for anyone affected in any way by chronic disease.  It is an innovative form of a social network, connecting sufferers, their carers, family and friends, to others in similar situations, by matching algorithms. Members of the free network can build communities for the specific support they need, with these needs defined by them and their lifestyle – not as labelled by the medical profession. Then within this space they can hold safe and private conversations.

Here he talks with us about innovation, challenges and getting started in entrepreneurial areas…..

Interview

Hi Michael, great to talk with you today. 

Can you please start off by telling us about Dict8 – what it is, who uses it and why?

Thank you for asking me to the interview. DICT8 is a medical transcription company that utilizes the skills and experience of UK based and trained medical transcribers. The idea comes from my time as a junior doctor, when it would often take more than 6 weeks to get a clinic letter typed up by our internal secretarial staff. This delay of 6 weeks per consultation has huge impact on patient morbidity and the way in which health care delivery occurs.

How did it get started –  how did you meet your co-founder, and how did you get your early funding?

It started with an idea. My co-founder and I met socially. I had tried to get the idea off the ground for a while but needed his skills as a serial entrepreneur to move it forward in a meaningful way.

What are some of the challenges that you have come up against?

Changing the culture of secretarial support services within the NHS has been difficult. We have enabled secretaries reposition themselves from a majority transcription role into one more akin to a PA role. This in turn has enabled a much better patient engagement between the medical world and patients.

We have also faced challenges from overseas based competitors. They have a considerably cheaper upfront cost but the work is returned to an inconsistent level of quality and staff have to then check all the incoming work.

We believe that we were one of the first ‘onshoring’ companies in the UK and are very proud of the exceptional and consistent work that we produce. This work has enabled the UK to retain a highly educated sector of its workforce whilst having a significant impact on the delivery of healthcare. 

One of the aims of "Our Health Space" is to put the patients in control of their life

One of the aims of “Our Health Space” is to put the patients in control of their life

Can you please tell us about your next venture, Our Health Space – who is it for, what does it do, who is involved in it?

OHS is born from personal experience as a type 1 diabetic and lengthy discussions between myself and 2 other co-founders, one of whom also has a chronic illness.

This system allows an individual to self determine their own illness and build a community based on this. For instance, a 19 year old girl has a very different perception of her diabetes compared to a 55 year old man. At the moment the medical and social world put them in the same group. For the young lady, she may be concerned about the effect drinking will have and how dating might affect her. For the middle aged man, what will happen with work and financial security for his family. We allow these two individuals to create an online community based on how they perceive their own condition and then communicate in a safe and private space with other individuals.

It could be thought of as a mash up between Facebook, Whatsapp and a secure medical dating app.

We believe it has a role for people with chronic conditions, people who are in an early disease state and are not yet ready to engage with the formal medical establishment and significantly for carers. For instance, the mother of a newly diagnosed 5 year old with type 1 diabetes.

It could be thought of as a mash up between Facebook, Whatsapp and a secure medical dating app.

What makes this app different from other apps that are out there?

There are no other apps out there that do this. All the others out there put people into predetermined groups. We enable you to create a community based on how you perceive your own condition and then in a safe and private way discuss any issue/question that you wish with other peers.

What impact do you see this app having in, say, 5 years time?

I see millions of people around the world using information from a variety of sources to treat their own condition. Rather like a we choose to get our clothes from a variety of sources. The traditional physician will be a source, charity groups, online searching for information, hospital groups and then OHS will enable peer to peer exchange of information as described above.

What would be your advice to medics who are keen to become entrepreneurs?

Try to prove you have a solution to the problem discovered before going to access funding or entrepreneurial advice. With DICT8, I spent a month auditing my own secretaries and had proved the problem before developing it further.

You will need help and should try to ensure that you trust the people you work with.

Remember that the world is full of business/money people. As a physician you have a unique viewpoint on day to day problems that are encountered and you have been educated to view the work differently. This makes you a rare and valuable commodity. Hit the low hanging fruit first. You don’t need to invent a new drug for malignant melanoma to improve the health care system……

You have kept up your clinical practice obviously. Do you think doctors should continue with clinical practice when they are involved in start-ups, and if so, do you have any practical advice on how to do so?

It’s tough but I believe very important. I practice emergency medicine and my specialty is full of entrepreneurial characters. I think that we also have a moral imperative to use the skills that we have been lucky enough to learn at medical school and post graduate training.

Try to prove you have a solution to the problem discovered before going to access funding or entrepreneurial advice.

Thank you so much for your time and your advice Michael. It’s been really helpful. If you had to give one main piece of advice for a doctor wanting to move into an entrepreneurial role or starting up their own company, what would it be?

Just do it. It is not new advice but it is the best. Stop talking about it. Write it all down, prove the problem, develop a solution (an audit!) and just start doing it.

About The Author

Rachel Thomas
Contributing Editor

Rachel is the British Medical Association’s 'Young Author of the Year', 2016. She has published 2 medical books, and qualified as a doctor with a B.M B.Ch from Oxford. She also holds a B.Eng (Biomedical) and B.Sc (Physiology) from the University of Sydney. She currently practises in mental health, and is involved in the development of novel health-tech solutions. Follow her @doctor.rachel on instagram, or www.doctorrachel.org.

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