A unique Accelerator program designed specifically to support technology services for GP’s
Delia: I’d like to welcome Atif Majeed to Wikihospitals. Atif is the Senior Business Development Manager at GP Accelerate.
Atif Majeed: Thanks, Delia. Thank you so much for having me.
Delia: Now, let’s start with your work history. It’s quite interesting. You trained as a computer engineer in Islamabad, and then you’ve moved across to business and technology entrepreneurship. Can you give us a bit of a background?
Atif Majeed: I started, as you mentioned, as a computer engineer. And then I was doing my Master’s in communications and engineering. I was all set to do my PhD in radio signal processing, but then, over a cup of coffee my mates convinced me that I would be more suited for a business setting, and that’s how I decided to do an MBA.
And, from then on, everything changed. I moved from the space of pure technology into technology management and technological entrepreneurship; which I wouldn’t say is a complete shift of gears. But, it was more of an extension of putting up technology to application as well.
From an engineering degree in Islamabad to a Fulbright scholarship in America
So for that I moved to the West on a Fulbright scholarship, and I was at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for two years, and I trained in technological entrepreneurship. We basically look at a wide spectrum of technologies and see how to commercialise then how to get to the market, what are the different nuances of different kind of users in different technology segments.
Since then, I have been involved in this whole space. It’s been an interesting journey.
Delia: And you worked as a Senior Marketing Manager at Cubator1ne, the business incubator in Islamabad?
Developing a startup incubator back in Pakistan
Atif Majeed: Yes, after completing my education I came back to Pakistan. I joined an incubator there as a marketing manager. So, this incubator was mainly focused on curating student startups and mainly in the space of IT. So, by the time I left we had about 33 startups. It was a very successful business operation.
One of our key success was to engage the academics and researchers in entrepreneurship as well.
So, by the time I left, we already had about seven to eight different companies, which were owned by the academics. So that was, I guess, a big success to make people cross that chasm and to move into this space.
Delia: I guess that makes you a practical person. That’s certainly the way your resume appears… background in engineering and then you’ve moved into entrepreneurship and business. So you look like you’re somebody who’s used to building things.
Atif Majeed: Main thing has always been trying to see what the customer wants and then at the end deliver a product or a technology or a service, which is exactly what that customer wants.
What I learned during my whole education and training was, you first go to the customer, and then you try to identify their gaps, what they really need.
And then you go back to the drawing board and start developing a product. So this is a key missing element that I have invariably always found.
Moving to Australia
Delia: What was your first exposure to the health industry?
Atif Majeed: I moved to Australia about two years ago, and I worked with Flinders University. And their technology transfer company’s called Flinders Partners, and from there about three months ago I moved to GP Partners. And that was my first real exposure to health industry.
I’m pretty new in this space, but again, the basics of the technology, and the requirement, and the customers, they remain the same.
“…as technology entrepreneurs, we don’t necessarily see them as gaps, but we see them as opportunities, and possibilities.”
Comparing health systems in Pakistan and Australia
Delia: Have you been a patient or a relative of a patient who’s been into the health sector?
Atif Majeed: My daughter was born about seven months after I moved here, at Flinders Medical Centre. I got a first hand experience because then I could compare the health systems back in Pakistan and as well as here in Australia. There are a lot of differences, but at the same time there are a lot of similarities as well.
Atif Majeed: When people come to Australia from a developing country, their perspective is they’ve just got one of the world’s best health systems. So, everything would be fine. Everything would be perfect. Everything would be in place. But, then you come here, you realise that even here, there are so many significant gaps.
I went to one of the hospitals… I’m not going to name it, but I was amazed to find out that they still run their appointment management system on DOS.
I thought this was something that should belong to a museum or so that we could show the latest computer engineers and scientists how technology used to look like 40 years ago. And the staff there was still using pagers.
Delia: Well, it could be the pharmacy department running on DOS. It could be worse.
Atif Majeed: You could say that was my initial exposure to Australian healthcare systems. Since I’ve moved to GP Partners and GP Accelerate, things have gone to a completely different dimension.
Manager at the GP Accelerator Program in South Australia
Delia: And what led you to work as a Senior Business Development Manager at GP Accelerate Programme?
Atif Majeed: The CEO of GP Partners Australia, he met me at one of the events, and he was the CEO at Flinders University Technology Transfer Office as well. It was called Flinders Park. And he told me about his idea starting up this accelerator. We had worked together and he was looking for some team to kick start this process.
At the same time, I had my own project that I had been involved in. It was regarding infants sleep training, and how to sleep train the infants within two weeks of time.
And then we thought, probably this is something that we could use at GP’s network as a distribution channel for it, and that’s how the whole discussion started.
Then I got involved in it. So, right now, I’m not only working for the GP Accelerate, but one of my company’s would be an applicant into this programme as well.
Delia: And the sleep training for infants, would that be linked to your being a dad?
Atif Majeed: Yes, that was because we had significant sleep training issues. Like all parents, especially the first time parent, we always thought that it was our problem, probably. We were doing something wrong, et cetera. We tried everything.
Then I came across this research. I showed a keen interest in it, and we started working on it, developed a product out of it, and then I realised, why not implement it at home and see what’s the viability of the research is?
And within two days, I was able to significantly alter my daughter’s sleep behaviour and pattern. And that’s how we realised this is the power of research and technology.
That’s when we realised,
“Okay, this is great, and lots of parents face this issue, and probably a simple app could help bridge that gap just on the click of a finger.”
So that’s how I got moved into this whole direction.
Delia: And that’s a good example, from my point of view of how people often come into the health reform space from some sort of a personal experience, whether it’s as a parent or a patient or a relative.
Atif Majeed: Yeah, that is correct.
One of the underlying principles for us at GP Accelerator, is to involve the GP’s, and as you mentioned, people who have a real exposure to it. If they have been bitten by an entrepreneurial bug, then it’s a perfect storm.
Delia: What does this accelerator programme actually do?
Explaining GP Partners South Australia’s vision
Atif Majeed: Before talking about the accelerator programme, I would like to talk a little bit about GP Partners South Australia.
So, GP Partners South Australia is one of the 120 GP divisions that were created by the Federal Government about 10 years ago, and their main remit was advocacy for GP’s, engagement with the GPs, and their professional and educational develop opportunity.
Last year, the board decided they wanted to move into the space of entrepreneurship because family healthcare has been lagging behind when it comes to innovative solutions. We know that there are lots of gaps in healthcare system, and we know that the health system needs to change. The GPs are the front line of this system.
Unfortunately, the GPs have not been as active as they should have been in all of these years. There are multiple reasons behind that. They didn’t have the capacity to implement the solutions to the problems they see. But at the same time, they know that innovation is needed.
“So hence, we have this GP Accelerate. It is the first connected primary healthcare accelerator in Australia.”
Atif Majeed: What does that mean? Well, there are other healthcare accelerators in Australia. Not as many as there should be, but there are about four or five of them. But none of them focuses on primary healthcare. They focus on their admin systems and solutions through the hospitals. They will be looking for our companies and solutions that are focused on primary healthcare that involve the GPs, perhaps by the GPs as well.
For example, if there’s a startup company at that early stage of product develop, or there is a research group who say that, “Okay, if you have got a product, if you know you’ve got something good, now we want to see how it plays with the GPs.” We provide those companies with an initial investment as well as an initial access to the market.
If they say that, “Okay, we have got an idea, and we want to see how it works,” we go to the GPs and ask them,
“Which one of you would want to be the initial test users of this product?”
We also invite them to be initial clients and initial investors.
Some of our board members are GPs themselves, and they are entrepreneurial. They have invested in companies. Some have got their own app.
Our main asset that we bring on the table when we work with these brilliant companies is this connection with the GPs.
Delia: This is what startup founders are looking for. There’s a big problem with health entrepreneurs to actually get hold of doctors and get them to give feedback.
Atif Majeed: I talk to so many companies and so many startups, and common denominator is the technology’s not the problem. The main problem that they always face is getting access to the GPs. And this is where we come in.
Connecting Doctors with local entrepreneurs
Once the companies join us, they instantly get connected to over 2,000 GPs. We have about 1,600 GP members in South Australia, and about 400 in Queensland. And we are trying to identify a cohort of GPs who are technology savvy, who are entrepreneurial, and who would be willing to test those products and give the feedback, which is very essential. So, we help them open these doors.
Delia: So, GPs are going to go from being the Cinderella of the health industry to being the princess at the ball?
Atif Majeed: That’s an interesting way to put it.
Delia: They do have the most important role. They have the longest term relationship with patients. They see the things that people don’t want to deal with from mental health to drug addiction issues.
They’re on the lowest wage, and they have the least resources. So I think it’s fantastic that resources and money and innovation is coming out to the people who do the most work in the health industry, which is primary practice.
Atif Majeed: Technology is not the problem when it comes to health entrepreneurship. It’s just this gap that we need to fill, which is connecting to the health professionals. The good thing is that we have also partnered with Allscripts.
Allscripts is one of the largest digital health acquirers worldwide, and they’re opening up a facility here in Adelaide, which will have a digital pharmacy and a digital surgery. Our companies will have access to those facilities as well, which will provide them with demonstrable tools so that they can exhibit to their initial clients or users what their product or technology or solution could look like in five years’ time.
Atif Majeed: That connection is going to be very valuable for us as well as those companies.
Allscripts is at the forefront of innovation in the health sector. We are glad that we are associated with that.
In order to address that there’s another initiative by GP Accelerate.
The online GP’s ideas lounge
We have launched a portal that we are calling GP’s Ideas Lounge. All our 2,000 members will be able to log in and will be able to highlight the pain points, the problems that we find in primary health sector.
The rest of the GP members would be able to comment, and would be able to rank those problems as well.
So this way, we’ll be able to highlight the four or five main problems or areas of opportunity for future health entrepreneurship. Once we have that, we will complement it with business intel from one of the Universities here in Australia that we are partnered with.
The whole idea is that we get the GPs start this conversation that what their problems are, what their gaps are, and let the other GPs talk about it as well.
Because a lot of time we meet entrepreneurial teams. They want to work with the healthcare sector, but they don’t really know where to begin with. So, using the GPs Idea Bank, we could fill that gap and we could connect those entrepreneurs with those problems.
Once they have some solution, we can go back to these GPs and say,
“You identified these problems. Here’s a solution. Would you like to be the initial testers or investors or partners in this whole venture?”
So far we have gotten very good feedback on it.
We are hoping that if it is received well amongst our 2,000 GP members, then probably we can partner with RACGP as well and open it up to all 37,000 GPs across the country.
So it could be a good future matchmaking space, even if technology does not exist today, but the problem has been highlighted, and a number of GPs saying that this problem is genuine and they are ready to support a solution, then the entrepreneurs, they could start thinking about developing it.
Delia: And it gets back to what you said in the beginning about building a solution around the customers.
Atif Majeed: Yes. We have already started getting some very good applicants for our programme. Before we finalise those companies, we will have GPs in our decision making panel. The GPs are excited about it. As I said, initially, the GPs are frustrated because of the lack of innovation in their sector.
What we want is that the solution designing begins with the GPs… the problem identification begins with the GPs.
A twelve month program
We are State agnostic, so we would be accepting applications from all across the country, and if that’s a good response, then we will be rolling out the programme in the other states as well.
It’s a 12 months programme. We will initially be providing two to four months of pre-accelerator training to the startup companies. We will invest up to $200,000 in every company.
So this $200k, if used smartly, could easily become a $400,000 investment. And other than that, we will provide access to the other co-working space.
At the end of the 12 months programme, if the company qualifies, we also have a relationship with the Universityof Texas at Austin, and these companies would be offered a three month co-working space there as well.
Delia: It’s not easy to involve the health industry. It can be quite fragmented. You’re really on the ground floor bringing them in as customers and getting them to actively present their problems. And then offer them technology based solutions.
Atif Majeed: It’s kind of trying to put the GPs in the driving seat of primary healthcare innovation.
Because once you have identified a problem and you get a solution for it, then it’s most likely that you will be willing to test and you’ll be able to champion that solution. And then you could start talking to other GP’s or other practises as well.
It’s not just positive feedback, but it’s what we call crossing the chasm of scaling your solutions. We are now taking applications.
The applications are open until the end of June, and we are hoping that we will select our first applicants and kick off the acceleration process in July.
Delia: Well, Atif, thank you very much for coming on Wikihospitals. It’s been very interesting to hear you talk. I look forward to hearing about your progress in the future. Lovely to speak to you, Atif.
Delia: Same here. You have a good day.
© Wikihospitals June 2018