Dr. Owain Rhys Hughes is CEO and founder of Cinapsis, a clinical communication platform for primary and secondary care physicians.

Hughes – an ear, nose and throat surgeon – founded Cinapsis in 2015 after experiencing first-hand delays in clinical care in the NHS. Clinicians can use Synapsis a platform for requesting advice, securely sharing medical images and discussing patient treatment advice.

The company operates a remote workforce of 15 staff and has nine NHS organizations among its clients, covering 11 million patients.

In this week’s Founder in Five Q&A, Hughes talks about the initial difficulty of convincing clinicians to use the platform, the “headache” of non-interoperable technology and how rugby injuries have sparked a career as a doctor.

1. What is one thing you would like to do differently when starting your company?

Owen Rhys Hughes: One of the biggest hurdles early on was overcoming the hesitancy of some clinicians when presented with “yet another” digital solution. Unfortunately, many of the technical solutions entering the NHS are difficult to implement, require hours of work and are not properly integrated with existing systems.

Although we knew that Cinapsis was carefully designed to avoid these pitfalls, it was sometimes difficult to convince clinicians of this. Soon, however, clinicians who saw the benefits firsthand began to act as champions, encouraging their colleagues to adopt the technology as well. I would definitely build that network of clinical champions sooner.

2. What are the best and worst parts of your job?

ORH: It is undeniably difficult to see first-hand the effect of the pressures current NHS staff face. As a doctor myself, I have witnessed this from the hospital floor. Backlogs and shortages exacerbated by the pandemic have left exhausted health workers with a steep hill to climb and left patients waiting for vital treatment.

There is no quick fix, but it is heartening to see so many people working hard to drive change. The best part of my job is definitely talking to clinicians using our platform and taking advantage of technological innovations in their daily practice. It is so rewarding to see the real impact our work is having on clinicians and their patients.

3. What is a fact about you that people might find surprising?

ORH: Being born and raised in Wales, I’m a big rugby fan. I played a lot of rugby during my time at school and university which resulted in me spending a lot of time in AG with various injuries.

However, this experience sparked my interest in becoming a doctor and helping the NHS solve some of its biggest challenges.

4. In another life, would you be?

ORH: A scientist. It was my dream from a very young age; I was convinced that my future lay in exploring groundbreaking new hypotheses and making amazing discoveries in the laboratory.

But it turns out that the world of health technology can deliver just as much excitement, satisfaction and positive social impact.

5. Is there technology that the world would be better off without?

ORH: Within healthcare, technology that is not interoperable – meaning it cannot ‘talk’ or easily share data with other NHS systems – is a real headache for staff and a drain on their time. The NHS operates hundreds of different digital systems. So no matter how good a new technology tool is, unless it can seamlessly integrate with other systems, it will be of very little use.

The same goes for security and compliance – health technology tools understandably need to meet the strictest NHS standards. Unless these are followed, patients (and their data) can be put at serious risk. It is better to have no technology than technology that is not compatible.

Founder in Five – UKTN’s Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative start-ups, scaleups, unicorns and public tech companies – is published every Friday.

Founder in 5: Cinapsis CEO on the importance of early product ‘champions’

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