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A spotlight on Nicola Murgatroyd, founder of Phlexglobal, now working in healthcare tech…


A spotlight on Nicola Murgatroyd, founder of Phlexglobal, now working in healthcare tech… What are your thoughts on the clinical research industry today?
  • Author Company: PharmiWeb
  • Author Name: PharmiWeb Editor
Editor: PharmiWeb Editor Last Updated: 07-Aug-2019

What are your thoughts on the clinical research industry today?
Having been outside it for nearly ten years now, its interesting to see the industry from another perspective. I’d say that not many people, in fact very few people in the UK, know very much about Pharmaceutical companies or clinical trials. Though its an industry that relieves pain and suffering, and one that I was always proud to work in, unfortunately the general publics view is still often one of it being rich and uncaring. 

Do you think more could be done to change the publics view?
If people feel more like a captive market than a patient, the perception that Pharma companies are prioritising sales over patient welfare wont change. The place to start is with the clinical trial patient. Rather than running studies from the top down, a good patient centric trial will run from the patient up, and put the patient first, engaging them in the results of their own study if they wish. 

What are you doing now? 
I’m working in tech for health and care. Together with an inspiring team (some of whom are my ex colleagues from clinical research). We’ve called it MyLiferaft, it’s a digital platform that allows people to store all of their healthcare information, whilst keeping the people that support them informed. It is truly person centred and brings care back to the individual. 

What are the three things you think the Pharmaceutical Industry can do to enhance its image?
1) The industry does support charities, but I feel more could be done
2) Become more caring – this includes supporting their own employees. I was a parent carer, and my Manager was supportive about me having time off to take my daughter to her many appointments, but every company in this industry should have a carers policy. One in three people are a carer. I call all Pharma companies to take note of that, and put carers policies in place if they haven’t already done so. It’s a no brainer, because it actually saves the company money because staff are retained, and young people now prefer to work for companies that prove they care.
3) Use technology to communicate with the public, whether that’s giving them the results of their own study, or supporting them to take part in a clinical trial through offering – for example, child care. 

You’ve mentioned technology. How do you think this is going to impact on health and care?
We collaborate with the Center of Excellence for technology enhanced care, and also the Self care academic research Unit. Technology will be instrumental in changing how health and care is delivered, and in people being able to avoid minor illnesses. We’ve seen the beginning of a paradigm shift toward self-care which is very encouraging, and along with this people are more accepting that technology can have a positive impact on them. 

Do you think the industry could be doing more with technology in health and care?
I hope that the Pharmaceutical Industry is keeping up with the fast changes happening in tech in the health and care sector, being no longer engaged in the Pharmaceutical sector, I hope that the Pharmaceutical Industry is keeping up with the fast changes happening in tech in the health and care sector, being no longer engaged in the Pharmaceutical sector, I don’t really know where the Pharma companies are with tech in health and care, I can say that I attend the major exhibitions and so far, (Health+Care at Excel for example) have only seen two Pharma companies represented. I cant help think there should be more… 

Do you have any fears about technology?
Yes, as a person now approaching my older years, the thought of cameras watching my every move in my home, or my children monitoring every movement and what I eat and drink (and when I go to the loo!) absolutely terrifying. I want to for as long as I can, be in charge of my own health and welfare, calling on support of course as and when I need it. MyLiferaft does this. 

Do you think the large Pharma corporates are going to be able to be nimble enough to embrace health and care technology fast enough?
Now that’s an interesting question. When I worked in Pharma, I was impressed by how cutting-edge drug development is. But it is also, necessarily so, highly regulated, and this can make it hard to remain nimble. The pace at which tech in health and care is accelerating is unprecedented. There are many factors involved in pushing this, policy drivers being key due to our aging population. I think that pharma companies need to remain just as regulated, and at the same time, think outside the box, and ensure they are represented in healthtech more. There will be clear advantages for those companies that look at person centered self-care technology and technology care eco-systems. The importance of patient centric clinical trials cannot be misjudged – it is essential that the patient becomes the client as people move away from the historic ‘The Doctor is in charge of my health’ model to one of better self-care and ‘I am my own advocate’ 

That seems like a big shift, from individuals being passive patients to being their own advocates, how do you think this might impact on the Pharma industry?
The benefits of patient activation are across the spectrum of society. Enabled through technology, people will be healthier into old age, delay or even prevent chronic lifestyle diseases, Governments will have a healthier and more productive population, and reduced costs.

For the Pharmaceutical industry, having a population that has adopted new behaviours and who are more engaged in their health and care could have many advantages – for example more patients for clinical trials. However, the Industry has to become engaged in patient activation measures and engage with the technology that is emerging which supports self-care. Patient centric clinical trials are imperative. 

What do you find is the biggest challenge in people adopting emerging technology?
Fear. In particular fear of the ‘giant’ companies such as Microsoft and Amazon. People fear the loss of their identity, and though people know data saves lives, people want to protect their personal data. 

Could the ‘giants’ do more to allay fears?
Always. The large corporates should continually strive to put the person first, and to use their might to ensure confidentiality, and safety of information and data. 

Do you see Data being an important factor in better healthcare?
Absolutely. There is so much data that is now available, that has never been available before. Such a person owned, person centered care platform such as MyLiferaft, mines so far unreachable data – data on everyday lives. This ‘gold dust’ data collectively will allow for the delivery of a new era of drug development. 

You sound quite positive about the future of health – why?
Because its bright. Technology enabled health and care, is what is going to give our grandchildren a healthier life. I hope I see more Pharmaceutical companies at the exhibitions. Third sector, technology companies, corporates and governments must work together.