- Why are you doing what you are doing? You are a dedicated changemaker, an experienced healthcare expert and you want to create impact. How?
The Healthcare industry is ripe for disruption now and the start up scene is gaining momentum in Switzerland and globally. For me, the trigger to leave my comfort zone came about because of a personal situation. My mom is a cancer patient. She was misdiagnosed in 2016 in Japan and could have been in a life-threatening situation because of the way data was and wasn’t shared within and between hospitals. As a blessing in disguise, we were in Singapore for a wedding where she had severe pain in her womb and was admitted to a hospital, that we knew then that she had to be operated asap. This was the trigger point for me to go outside of my comfort zone. Prior to my cofounding my startup, I had a corporate job drawing six-figure salary. However, I did not feel fulfilled. Somehow, when one gets to a certain phase in life, we want to be able to see the direct impact of the work we are doing on society beyond ourselves. People thought I was crazy to have left such a good position back then. Nevertheless, for me it was clear. It was time to move on. In corporate, there is only so much room to accommodate feedback and proposed changes. While I was very thankful for the corporate experience along with the financial security it brought me, I was ultimately executing on someone else’s vision and strategies that were at times against my values.
I decided to take a year off to go deep into learning more about the healthcare ecosystem, what drives each major stakeholder group, and the dynamics amongst the players. I also took the time to go deeper into the German language and blockchain. I chose healthcare in particular, digital health and global health as it was one of the three causes, (others being education and smart cities) that I care deeply about using technology to enable their potential. I have been 20 years in the tech industry, having done major product launches and services deployments, sales and operations, and managing cross-functional teams in Asia and Europe. Going deep into Blockchain was a natural progression alongside cloud technologies. I love the ever-changing landscape in Information Technology and being a life-long learner, it keeps me engaged.
- So what is your vision?
I would like to see emerging technologies and smart design thinking being used continuously to drive positive changes in healthcare, with patients’ and healthy individuals’ needs in mind. That there is transparency in data processing with the real consent of the individual and their privacy respected. In fact, I would love to see individuals being given back ownership of their own health data such as in the EU versus what we have today in many parts of the world where hospitals and Governments have ownership of our health data. I would also like to support initiatives enabling access to basic healthcare for all. Access to basic healthcare is a basic human right, yet globally we still have 3.8 billion people lacking access to basic healthcare even though we are in 2019.
- Let us talk a bit about the crypto valley given you have been in Switzerland the last two years. What are your views on the recent board changes in the Swiss Cryptovalley Association?
The CVA has recently gone through a number of leadership changes. I see it as a positive and hope it will become more diverse with a good representation of each stakeholder group. No doubt, we do see two schools of thought with one lamenting while the other is focusing on problem solving. I am for the belief that one could complain as much as they want, as long as they bring along a solution. Those who truly want to lead and have the ability to do so should step forward. The new CVA board has committed to continue engaging with FINMA, and they are working through their next steps, goals, plans to continue building a conducive Blockchain ecosystem while collaborating with the community. There is a broader push for stakeholder representation and engagement. Sub-chapters are being set up in collaboration with academia and other commercial interest groups in Geneva, Basel, Lausanne, Ticino and Zurich, where Trust Square is actively taking the lead. That said, I would still like to see a more gender-balanced board with a broad range of expertise fully representing each major stakeholder group.
- Impact and empowerment are important values for you. What is their beauty?
Patient empowerment is essential because we are all interdependent within the Healthcare Ecosystem. It drives a positive reinforcement giving the patient a choice and also making it clear that the patient is just responsible for and central to their own recovery process. It is also important to remember the patients are the patients and they know their own bodies and how they feel within themselves. No matter how skilled a doctor is, it is only the patient who truly knows how he/she feels. If we do not empower the patient, we will never be able to collaborate and to collectively find an optimal solution or treatment to help the patient. This has a lot of repercussions as costs and quality of care will be impacted. Misdiagnosis could occur resulting in wasted resources that could have been freed up for other patients.
With ever rising healthcare costs across the globe, the usual top-down approach undertaken by Governments is no longer sustainable. We need a bottom-up approach by empowering the population, both healthy individuals and patients to take more proactive stance in their own health. This will drive more preventative care and reduce pressures across the continuum of care. We need to get much better at balancing the triangle of cost, quality and outcome.
- What made you the person that you are today? What was instrumental to your success and pathway?
To begin with, it is my own curiosity and passion for different cultures, different languages and part of my growing up in Singapore where diversity and racial harmony are valued and respected that helped me to thrive in different environments. I am very grateful to my teachers and university lecturers who instilled the belief in me that as long as I work hard, fight for what I believe in, execute on my plans, I will succeed. I also want to thank my network consisting of supportive group of visionaries and leaders, both men and women that helped me to unlearn, relearn, rebuild and venture onto new paths. I am eternally grateful to all those who have helped me to date.
- Diversity is a topic that is important for you. What is your advice for women that want to succeed in Fintech?
For women to succeed in fintech or any other tech industry there are really three things:
Firstly, one has to really know your space. One must be prepared to roll up your sleeves and go deep into learn a lot and to keep learning, to become an expert in your space. Two years ago, who would ever imagine that I would be co-founding a company in digital health, that eight months into my entrepreneurial journey I would be invited to speak at so many events on using blockchain to drive value-based care. In Tech, we are not talking about rocket science or training to be a medical surgeon, we can literally learn on the fly and as it is ever-changing, we need to keep learning. It depends on how much you want to invest to get there.
Secondly, really put yourself out there and network. No (wo)man is an island, we need to collaborate. Having a strong diverse network is critical to one’s long term success in any field.
Thirdly, always help your network first. I have come across a lot of people who just wanted to take from others without reciprocating. What goes around comes around. It will eventually come back either to bite you or to help you depending on what you have invested in your network.
Thank you Elizabeth for your time and this interesting interview.