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  • Writer's pictureAlice Appleton

Doctor to doctorpreneur: Clera's conception

In today’s blog post (and our first of 2024!) I wanted to share the story behind Clera healthcare’s conception, and how we were lead by our own daily frustrations and the feeling that weren’t doing families justice during our jobs as hospital doctors.

Jon and I both started practicing as doctors right in the thick of the Covid pandemic, a time when family visits to patients were virtually nonexistent. Only the sickest patients were able to see their relatives, and sadly almost exclusively when our efforts to treat them were unsuccessful. Too many patients died without being able to say a proper goodbye, and the few who did had to do so through masks and gloves.

During this chaotic time, hospitals were over run, with patients queuing up to be seen.

And yet, the stark inability for families to visit reminded us how important our communication was.  Family communication became a greater priority, families looking to us as a lifeline to their relative. Our days started to reflect this, with regular phone calls becoming part of our routine.

As covid thankfully eased, and relatives tentatively made their way back into the hospitals, Our workflow changed. We assumed that families, being physically present, had all the information they needed. This was partnered with a steep increase in the pace of patients coming in and out of hospitals. As a result, we have less and less time to do important jobs. Finding time for lunch, or giving a quick call to a patient relative became a luxury overshadowed by other pressing responsibilities.

Jon and I share this frustration, and a few months after finishing our foundation training, over a beer in King’s Street, Bristol, we spent an afternoon ranting to each other about how often families complain about poor communication, despite the fact we have done literally all we can to treat their relative. The problem, we realised, is that they don’t know what we’ve done, because we rarely have time to tell them. Without information, families fear the worst. They imagine their sick relative sitting alone in a hospital bed, suffering. They ring the ward over and over again, but the lines are jammed with other worried relatives. The silence must be terrifying.

This problem hit home when a friend messaged me asking for help. His grandad had been taken to hospital the night before, and his family had been told that he was being admitted to a ward. They weren’t told which ward or how to get hold of them - they were merely told ‘someone would be in touch’. But nothing happened. They tried each ward in turn, but no one knew who or where he was. This terrified them and infuriated me.

But what can we do? Hospital teams are overworked and overwhelmed and good communication requires time and patience.

For inspiration, we looked to other fields.

GPs have embraced digital communication, virtually eliminating the need for unnecessary phone calls through their SMS service, saving hours of clinical time.

Nurseries send regular photos and messages to parents throughout the day, and even doggy daycares send updates to owners while they’re away.

All these sectors understand that owners, parents and patients value information, and want to be kept in the loop to reduce anxiety.

Shouldn’t families, then, be granted the same courtesy while their loved ones are in hospital?And so we went about creating Clera: A digital communication tool allowing wards to update families, little and often, about the progress of their loved on.

In the age of digitalisation, we are on a mission to create an update service that embraces technology while remaining accessible and inclusive for those who feel less at ease with it.

We’d love to hear your experiences of this problem, and how you would like to see healthcare communication progress!

Happy New Year! Lets make 2024 the year of clear communication

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