Dr Abdullah Albeyatti is the CEO and Co-Founder of Medicalchain. Medicalchain is a company that uses blockchain technology to store health records securely. By digitizing health records,Medicalchain aims to empower patients and create a more comprehensive healthcare experience.
Dr Albeyatti graduated from Imperial College London as a doctor in 2011 and started his medical career as a surgical trainee in London before moving onto GP Specialty Training. He continues to practice as a GP and is a familiar face in the medical community, speaking at various events. Prior to co-founding Medicalchain, Dr Albeyatti founded Discharge Summary, an application used in hospitals to produce accurate and reliable discharge summaries.
What is the story behind Medicalchain?
I originally created Discharge Summary, a website that produces standardised templates to help junior doctors quickly and accurately complete the discharge summaries shared between hospitals and primary care. By improving communication and standardising data, Discharge Summary aims to improve outcomes by reducing the risk of error. This was successfully used in several hospital trusts in the UK and I was approached by a pharmaceutical company to help finance and influence the website content.
I hadn’t considered a financial incentive at this point and discussed the potential of such an offer with my friend, Mo Tayeb (COO of Medicalchain). He helped me to explore my motivations and aims to produce disruptive solutions in the healthcare space and suggested that using a new type of technology may be the key to unlocking this potential.
Mo asked me, “have you heard of blockchain?” I knew about cryptocurrencies, so I knew a little bit about it. But as I learnt more about the technology, it became apparent that it had a great application in improving how data could be managed, in this case, health records. The idea of blockchain is that once data has been inputted, it can’t be tampered, corrupted or destroyed. So, it’s secure and won’t be lost. This is the moment where Mo and I formed Medicalchain.
In this day and age, we still don’t have a universal way to help patients access their complete records other than carrying around pieces of paper with this information on it. They can easily be lost, and many patients don’t have all of their records to hand when they go and see their doctor. Using blockchain technology, we can make this data more accessible from anywhere in the world for the patient. It improves data sharing between hospitals that the patient has visited and in turn, improves the quality of diagnosis and treatment.
When did you decide to leave your surgical training? Do you have any regrets?
I am completing my GP training and I am set to CCT (Certificate of Completion of Training) in February 2019.
I originally started my career as a surgical trainee in London and was keen on becoming an ENT consultant. I soon realised that I was struggling to maintain a work-life balance and had little to no time to explore my other interests such as business and tech.
I do miss the excitement of being involved in an operating room, and regularly ask my surgical friends who have continued with their training whether they have managed to succeed in trying to maintain a healthier balance in their life. I respect and congratulate my colleagues who have continued their surgical training but feel that (thankfully) GP training has not only made me a more rounded doctor but has afforded me the precious flexibility I required in order to start my business.
What have you found challenging being both a doctor and an entrepreneur?
I’m a novice. I had no experience of setting up a company before Medicalchain, so I taught myself everything from scratch. Learning on the job has been a real challenge since any mistake can be fatal in business. But good fortune and team support in the form of friends and family has been important in our success so far.
I’m also fortunate in that I have a co-founder. Mo, has a completely different skill set from mine and that’s very useful. Whether its regulation, registering a company, or tax knowledge, he has the experience and know-how to get things done so I can rely upon him. On the other side, I use my leadership skills and clinical knowledge to portray the company vision to our team to produce the end product we are after. I see patients day in, day out. I get to hear from them directly and understand their needs, which helps to keep our business relevant and in touch with the user base we are after – patients as well as doctors.
Which countries are Medicalchain currently targeting? Do you see any barriers to access certain markets?
Our first pilot is in London, running at the Groves Clinics which cover 30,000 patients. This pilot aims to let patients speak with a doctor using our telemedicine app, MyClinic.com.
We also completed a joint working agreement with the Mayo Clinic in the US and will soon start to work with them on a project. We are also targeting The Far East; countries like Japan and China. There is some red tape and bureaucracy that we have to overcome in any country, but the more flexible a national service can be, the better. The NHS is where I have worked so I understand how the system functions in the UK. With other countries, we had to do a lot of background research to understand each country’s barriers. For example, Japan has had a bad experience with cryptocurrencies so blockchain technology has a bad reputation. But I think it’s like the Internet, it will adopt these advancements in time.
The NHS is where I have worked so I understand how the system functions in the UK. With other countries, we had to do a lot of background research to understand each country’s barriers.
What advice would you give to medical students and doctors who are interested in getting involved with enterprise?
Keep knocking on the door. Show enthusiasm, passion, and drive. Read around the topic to understand what’s happening around the world. Get involved with companies like Medicalchain and start as an intern. When you are given any opportunity, you also need to be punctual and polite. Take initiative and do your own research. If you have an individualism and can work professionally, companies are usually happy to have you onboard. At Medicalchain we have had a few staff who started off as interns and progressed into permanent roles. For us, it is those people that say, “I thought about this, and have this idea…”. Those are the kind of people we are looking for. There are no technical skills needed – none whatsoever.
This is what I experienced too. I didn’t have any business background and I only have my medical degree. I was like any other medic, but the only reason why I now have Medicalchain is because I was willing to learn. I took the initiative to learn.
I was like any other medic, but the only reason why I now have Medicalchain is because I was willing to learn. I took the initiative to learn.
How is your medical degree useful in your work for Medicalchain?
Well, I still practice so it’s definitely useful. But for Medicalchain, it gives me credibility. When there is a disagreement and you get told: “No it doesn’t really work like that”. I can say: “Actually, it is like that, and I know this because I work in this space every day”. You are able to pinpoint what the exact challenges are. No-one can argue with you because you are still in the system. If you don’t work as a doctor for many years, you will lose credibility over time. People will tell you, “Well how do you know? You don’t see patients”. So yes, my medical degree is very useful in that sense, and that I work in the system day in, day out.
I’m also a board member of the NHS Indicator Governance Board led by NHS Digital, so my background is useful there and when representing a local medical committee of GPs in Leeds.
How do you juggle both clinical work and your business?
Having an understanding partner and family is very important. I would advise others to find a way to relieve their stress. For example, I play football and squash every week. I also play a lot of video games and try to use dinner as a fun activity as well as for networking.
If you could improve the current medical school curriculum, what would you change?
This is a difficult question. Some of the modules are outdated. Medicine has moved away from textbooks and it is questionable how useful it is to teach pure facts anymore. The information is now readily available thanks to the internet and even in current practice I often use my computer during consultations to look for the most appropriate treatment for my patient. Not all of us have to know everything to the molecular level, so some of the content that you learn is too detailed and simply irrelevant.
Where we fail particularly badly is how we currently train doctors, hoping they will fill positions that require managerial skills but have provided very little training for this. Senior consultants have these roles thrusted upon them to manage hospital departments with little previous experience or training in the skills that are needed. It doesn’t work because you are training someone as a doctor, and then you are forcing them to become managers. Because of this, in recent years we’ve made some bad non-clinical decisions. We wasted a lot of manpower and resources.
Some say they don’t think entrepreneurial skills should be taught at medical schools. They say that those who are interested in it can develop these skills in their own time. But people who say that are being short-sighted. If you train medical students to develop managerial and leadership skills from early on, they will all be well equipped to take on the leadership roles in the future. For instance, Imperial College, London offers a BSc in management. You can also do it as a Student-Selected Component. Medical students should be able to discuss “what is the future of our healthcare?” If we teach this at medical school, students are already prepared for future changes. They will run more cost-effective and efficient GP practices, hospital departments and in the end make wider changes to how medicine is taught and practiced in this country.
What do you think the future of technology in healthcare will look like?
I think it will be open, transparent, and patient-engaging. It will target the ageing population too. Some say elderly patients can’t learn to use new technology. My parents are in their sixties but they learned to use their smartphones when they realised the benefits it gave them to keep in touch with family. These throw away comments have always been said about older generations but the current generation will be judged similarly by the next.
The NHS is developing apps for patients to book their appointments online now, and this will save a lot of administrative work and resources. The important thing is, how do we link these new technologies to better clinical outcome? That’s the real challenge, which we are still trying to address.
The important thing is, how do we link these new technologies to better clinical outcome? That’s the real challenge, which we are still trying to address.
What are the key future goals for your company and yourself? Will you continue seeing patients?
For the company, the goals are to grow and establish ourselves – to be recognised worldwide and be a staple house hold name for many health systems. In the near future, clinicians will be using their web browser to search for patients, rather than having bits of patient records kept in different software banks. Patient data will be much more accessible.
Personally, I want to learn more and become a better leader and clinician. I intend to continue practicing clinical medicine – 100 percent! I love what I do and I will continue to see patients.
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
Follow our progress as we launch our pilot of Medicalchain with the Groves Medical Group in Kingston, London. The first app is called MyClinic.com and is available on the apple app store. We are collecting feedback from doctors and patients to refine our platform and continue development ahead of our global launch.