Getting push notifications from your doctor with Patient Journey

Thomas Goijarts

Visiting the doctor can be nerve-wracking.

You know when you go for a consultation and they give you a big stack of papers with information about your treatment that you always lose?

You’re also stressed during your appointment, and likely to forget much of what the doctor’s telling you. It’s not just annoying for you, but it’s also an issue for doctors whose patients then turn up uninformed and ill-prepared. Thomas Goijarts, a former digital strategy consultant, teamed up with an orthopaedic surgeon and development agency and set about trying to solve it. The result? Patient Journey, a communication system which revolutionises the way doctors communicate with their patients. Healthcare professionals can now provide their patients with the right information at the right time through push notifications - not just when they’re physically there for their appointment.    

It’s all about giving the patient guidance and support.

The app started as a project for a particular orthopaedic clinic, and neither Thomas nor the clinic’s owner intended for the project to expand. But the idea was too good, and others in the field got wind of it. “Suddenly there was a lot of interest from clinics saying ‘hey, we also want an app like this’, so together we started thinking about how we could turn this into a scalable global product”, explains Thomas. 

How it actually works

What began as an app for orthopedic surgeon Dr. Klaas van der Heijden in a small town in the Netherlands has already expanded into other specialisms, and the app is used by more than 75 hospitals and clinics worldwide. These include the Windsor Regional Hospital, Eye Center of New York, UMC Utrecht, Circle Health, and several NHS hospitals in the UK. The appeal of the app is thanks to its practicality - it provides the patient with constant updates in the runup to their operation, and gives them only the information they need at that specific point. “You’ll get a push notification telling you that you need to stop drinking coffee or eating, because it’s 24 hours before your scheduled surgery”, says Thomas, “or perhaps a reminder that you should remove all makeup and arrange for someone to pick you up after”. This information is all managed in the app’s content management system, which is also custom branded for the specific clinic. 

And what about older patients who don’t know how to use a smartphone? “You can also download the app on behalf of your granny, and then remind her of what she needs to do at the right time”, explains Thomas. “It’s all about giving the patient guidance and support”. 

When Patient Journey joined TQ in August 2016, they had around 25 hospitals in the Netherlands signed up, and were looking to expand. Thomas is glad they made the right call - “the international business is expanding rapidly, and we see growth in the UK and Germany, and a lot of traction from Australia, U.S. & Canada”. They’ve also just signed their first deal in the United States. Keen to capitalize on the momentum, Thomas is aiming for 100 clients by the end of the year. “It’s ambitious, but it could be done - and it would be super nice!”.   

Bumps on the road

It’s not all plain sailing for Patient Journey, which has to contend with differences in legislation between the different countries it operates in. “And then there’s data protection, privacy… the European Union is aiming to harmonize it, but in practice it’s still difficult”, says Thomas. Patient Journey is currently piloting a new feature which adds exciting possibilities: “you’ll be able to take a photo of your wound and upload it, and the clinician will be able to tell you if it’s infected or not”.

When Thomas talks about Patient Journey, he brings across his passion for what he does. “It’s so cool to hear from a cancer nurse, for example, that they’re using the app and and people are benefiting from a product we’re building”, he enthuses. It’s this feeling of making an impact that drives him through the more difficult times, and the energy he’s thrown into the company is showing results. So far, the app has helped 85,000 patients, and it has sent over 2.5 million push notifications. As Patient Journey starts to move into the American market, the future looks promising. 

A self-proclaimed “proper geek when it comes to reading”, Thomas has always made sure to “invest in personal development through online education, learning a new programming language, or trying to experiment”. His business inspiration is eclectic - everything from Stoic philosophers to Tim Ferriss. It was reading Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week that led Thomas to prioritise setting aside time for his own development, which enabled him to learn skills that have been invaluable in running Patient Journey, and will continue to prove so as the app expands across the globe.

Which 3 books or blogs would you recommend?

“First, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. I’m also now reading a super cool book, it’s called Shoe Dog, the memoirs of Phil Knight, I just finished it. It’s great, by the founder of Nike. I got so many, but I’ll say The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley.”

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Keep going. The highs are high and the lows are low, so it needs to be something that you really like to do. Otherwise you just quit because it can be really stressful and annoying, and you’ll only stick to it if it’s something you really care about.”      

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