Meaningful Collaboration In Healthcare with Brian O’Connor

In this episode of Friends of Project Healthcare

Brian O’Connor, founder of ECHAlliance, joined host Eric Thraikill to discuss the importance of collaboration in the healthcare industry. With his experience working with the European Commission and other international partners, Brian shared his perspective on the power of communication within healthcare and expressed how learning must be paired with action. 

“Inevitably you have to be capable of changing. Once you’ve got momentum, which I believe in strongly, you can actually alter the course to deal with the circumstances,” he said. “Too many people are too rigid…I’ve got to do this, and these are the targets, etc. That’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily deal with the different changes in the market.”

After years of gaining experience in different industries, Brian utilized his land in the Isle of Man to build a 120-unit sheltered village, centered by a nursing home, and expanded this chain throughout Ireland and Northern England.

“We created the first sheltered village, 120 units, but put the nursing home in the middle of it,” Brian explained. “So it became a community, not a place where you went to die. It was a place where you went to the next phase of your life and the nurses in the home were able to go around the village to the villagers and supply home visits.” 

Brian set the intention of labeling his venture not as just nursing homes, but as a chain, creating a personal brand within a strategic business plan, and accelerating the success of community healthcare. He took advice about marketing strategy from his mother, and evaluated how the chain could be as effective as possible.

“One of my best consultants during that time was my own mother,” he shared. After touring his facility, she told him there were two things he needed to do: make a list of how every resident takes their tea, and to open up a hair salon on the premises. 

She may not have used the words herself, but Brian recognized what she was describing was “personalized care.”

“We then created the personal care plan.”

Brian believes in taking chances rather than remaining stuck on planning in his endeavors, and often relies on his intuition to begin initiatives and projects, such as the formation of the ECHAlliance, which acts as a global connector for digital health. 

“I managed to start this alliance on the basis that I was going to become a neutral umbrella for research organizations, for industry, both startups right through the SMEs (subject matter experts), to global companies, to patient groups,” Brian said.

With further help from his family, Brian structures the ECHAlliance to be a membership organization, with a mission to bring people together, which Brian believes to be vital within the healthcare industry.

“My brother made the infrastructure. When I talked to the university’s digital health department in Manchester, I said, ‘You know what you need? You need to talk to the chief executives of the NHS Trusts in Manchester.’ But they didn’t know them, and that was the key for me,” Brian describes. “I thought, wait a minute, connectivity is key to this.”

Brian takes an action-based approach to communication within the ECHAlliance, which allows him to expand his initiative across the globe, and utilize the talents and expertise of a range of different people from different backgrounds. Meaningful collaboration is the foundation for Brian’s work and vision, and he strategically and empathetically applies his attitude toward collaboration toward creating solutions to problems.

“Collaboration is about honest, transparent, respectful relationships for mutual benefit,” he highlighted. “If it doesn’t work for both parties or more than one party, it doesn’t work. And therefore you’ve got to build trust and respect over a period of time to know that that partner of yours in wherever it may be…They have to know that we all have the same values.”

In his efforts to continue to expand the ECHAlliance throughout the U.S., Brian seeks to bring together the different ecosystems he has cultivated and is excited to further the wellbeing of his clients in the healthcare industry.

“We talk about dealing and solving problems, which may lead, obviously, to people having conversations. But you have to have a common determination to do good and improve the lives of people in your own region,” Brian offered. “It is best done sometimes by hearing what’s happening elsewhere, taking those examples, then finding funding and then collaborating. And that’s the way we work.”

About Brian O’Connor: Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Brian developed his career as a consultant, manager and investor. He has worked in the UK, US and Hong Kong and has significant experience as a company director in a variety of industries. He has acted as a Corporate Recovery Advisor to companies, who have had financial, regulatory or strategic challenges, he enjoys taking on what are described as “hopeless cases” and proving the doubters wrong.  Around ten years ago, he created, with others, the ECHAlliance, The Global Connector, as collaborative way of breaking down the many silos that hold back innovation and better healthcare for citizens. 

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