Dr Angela Lim is the CEO & Founder of Clearhead, finalist in the Science and Innovation category Women of Influence Awards 2021, 2017 finalist for Young New Zealander of the year, and a peadiatric doctor.
She is breaking new ground in the industry by employing artificial intelligence to transform the way people access healthcare.
Dr Sam Hazledine caught up with Dr Angela Lim on his Better Together podcast to discuss technology and innovation and the role it plays in shaping the future of medicine.
“My journey started when I applied for medical school as a postgraduate. I got in and within the first year, I had massive doubts about whether this was something I wanted to move forward with” explained Lim.
She realised over her first few years of medical school that she actually loved more strategic stuff, which involved thinking about innovation and the role of innovation in healthcare, especially when it came to technology.
“There will be a cohort of doctors listening to your podcast who may feel that the treadmill they’re on is not necessarily something they want to be on. I hope that by hearing my story they will realise that their medical degree is still valuable even if you don’t continue ahead and if it’s purely a clinical practice.”
Lim graduated as a junior doctor and went into peadiatric training, she loved healthcare and helping people but she dreamed of making a difference to the industry on a larger scale.
“I felt like what drove me was how I could make an impact at scale. That 121 relationship is really special but there are only 24 hours in a day and there are only so many patients you can see.”
Lim was 21 when I sat on her first medical board, but she was still looking for something more. Something that would help her find confidence about her place in the world, whilst still working in healthcare and helping people.
“In the beginning of 2018, I came to a self-reflection period, I felt like I was coasting at 28 and that if I don’t get out of the treadmill now I never will.”
This was when she started Clearhead and decided to apply her skills and what she’d learned at a larger level.
“The reality is I work longer hours now running Clearhead as I did as a doctor and I definitely don’t get paid as much! But I feel fuller in my life"... "Have you heard of the term Ikigai?” Lim asks Hazledine.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means your reason for being. ' 'Iki' in Japanese means 'life,' and 'gai' describes value or worth.
“It is a melding of what is it that you love to do, what is it that you’re really good at, what the world needs you for and what they’re willing to pay you for" explains Lim.
With Clearhead, Lim had found her Ikigai.
“Through Clearhead I applied more of my natural strengths and provided more value to the world than I could as a doctor. I felt very replaceable as a doctor. I just felt like another cog in the machine.”
Listen to the full podcast here:
Clearhead uses artificial intelligence to make personalised mental health and wellbeing support available to everyone.
“I felt that the demand for healthcare outstripped the supply of healthcare professionals available. We just can’t meet that need and it is very expensive to train that highly skilled workforce” explained Lim.
Clearhead has built an ecosystem that moulds itself around the user to provide a holistic approach to identifying, understanding, and guiding individuals through their overall mental wellbeing.
“In New Zealand, 95% of our public mental health funding goes to 5% of the population. You see this disparity in other parts of healthcare but you never see it as bad as mental health.”
Clearhead’s mission is to reduce these barriers and make health literacy and AI mental health support readily available.
“I felt like some of the boring repetitive stuff could be automated and therefore actually empower the individual to make better decisions in the community.”
Clearhead is on a mission to change the way people proactively think about their mental health and how they get the help they need.
“You start the journey with a visual triage system that we have created, we have AI therapist to help with the triaging, then for those who need to see a clinician we have actually built New Zealand's largest mental health therapist marketplace.”
Clearhead allows a patient who needs mental health support to come on the platform at 11 pm on a Saturday and have an appointment for the following Sunday if needed.
Technology in healthcare
Health systems all around the world rely on doctors going above and beyond in their workload and this is contributing to the burnout epidemic. If new technology and AI, like Clearhead's triage program, can take some of the strain off the system a real difference can be made.
"In New Zealand at the moment, we have on average a 3-month waitlist for treatment if you use the public system and with our technology, it is less than a week" Lim explained.
In order to drive this positive change, we need doctors, like Lim, to challenge the status quo and bring their ideas to life. If you are thinking of breaking a new healthcare- focused technology Lim says these are some things to consider:
1. You have to think about how you get it in front of the people who would use it.
2. How do you attract the clinicians and convince them to change the way they behave.
3. Who is going to pay for it?
4. You need to understand what is the model of care that you are going to change, what incentive models are you going to put in place so you can see that change in behaviour, and what are the unintended consequences of introducing a system like this.
5. How do you make sure you minimise any harm caused and that you are tracking to create value that is clinically effective.
Trying to change the status quo is not without its challenges, Dr Lim explained:
"I genuinely believed that if you are in healthcare you are here for predominately altruistic reasons, most doctors are doing it because they want to help patients not because they want to make lots of money. Then when I moved into the entrepreneur space I learned quickly that there were a lot of entrenched interests in organisations that had no motivation to collaborate with you or change the way that they work. Because the way that the status quo works means that they make lots of money, and to change, will mean that they will make less money, even though it will be better for the patient”
Hazledine and Lim discuss how doctors, who go through years of medical school and then work long hours as juniors, working long hours and staying back in their own time for the sake of their patients is the norm. This is why we need doctors stepping into these leadership roles and shaping the future of the profession because genuinely altruism is engrained in them.
Demand in healthcare is becoming greater than the supply and technology provide an opportunity to strip away the things that the doctors don't have to do. Leaving the doctors to do what they do best.
They agree that this is how technology sits within healthcare; as an augmentation to the doctor's work as opposed to a replacement.
“This is my attempt to make sure the system doesn't fail, by making sure we put systems in place that reduces us losing our most important resource which is our health professionals," said Lim.
To conclude, Dr Sam Hazledine asks Dr Angela Lim for 3 things she would tell her 18-year-old-self:
1. Be patient and trust the process. We live in a world where we want results immediately, but good things take time.
2. Sit with the uncertainty there will be some things in life you can control and then there are a lot of things that you can’t. Know how to differentiate and work on the things you can, accept the things you can’t.
3. Network. Your network says everything. A lot of my success personally, professionally, and through Clearhead has been through a network I have made. It is worth investing in your relationships.
Watch the full video here: