Operation Collaboration: The Transformative Power of Working Together for Future Success


No matter what industry you’re in, when undergoing a digital transformation, the need for strong leadership, collaboration, connection and innovation is never more important. Generating change that will bring value to a business and consumers goes beyond implementing new cutting-edge tools, it needs a strong foundation and a deep understanding of the challenges that are being faced on both sides. One of the most important industries in our lives is healthcare and as it continues to evolve at a rapid pace we look at the foundational needs that will allow for it to make exponential progress in the years to come. 

In our three-part-mini-series for World Health Day, we had the privilege of speaking to Dr.John Sheehan, a renowned and respected Clinical Director and Healthcare Technologist who is on the frontlines of change in Europe. In this episode, Dr. John Sheehan shares his insights on the transformative potential of innovation and leadership in healthcare and together, we delve into the complexities of driving positive change, from who you surround yourself with to the power of collaboration and the importance of putting patients first.


So, whether you’re a technology enthusiast, a healthcare professional or simply just curious about what the future holds… This is a conversation that you do not want to miss. 


Season two of Commerce Talk aims to look to the future by navigating the intersections of business, technology, innovation and leadership to help businesses and people stay one step ahead

You can subscribe and listen to the full episode on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and elsewhere podcasts are found.

You can also check out this Q&A from the episode (edited for clarity and brevity).

John Sheehan: I wear quite a number of hats throughout the day now at this stage. It has all evolved, and I suppose the first hat that I wear is working in a group called Blackrock Health. It’s a hospital group with about 3 hospitals, and I’m a radiologist where I do diagnostic and interventional radiology. I am the clinical director of radiology in one of the hospitals. I have always had an interest in technology, so I developed a big interest in cloud and artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and throughout that role in the hospital group. I have had the privilege and opportunity to get involved in two healthcare startup companies, which are co-related but different in different ways. I am involved as an original band member in a company called Mobile Medical Diagnostics. We move equipment instead of patients, so for  example, we do x-rays in nursing homes, which has a really positive impact on people. I am the clinical director of that. The second company that I’m involved with as a startup is a company co-founded by a friend and Professor Ronan Killeen, and it’s a company called X Wave. It’s a cloud-based solution for enabling and empowering physicians to order the best test first by using a clinical decision support tool, so it’s a smart radiology referral tool. The final hat, if that’s not enough, is I’m a member and the clinical vice-chair of the Arch Digital Health Leadership Steering Group, which is led by a great guy called Professor Martin Curley, and that’s kind of where I’ve come from and where I am right now at the moment. 


Aziza: When you talk about wearing multiple hats in life, I’d love to know if there is a common thread that weaves through each of these hats?


John Sheehan: It’s a good question and I think it comes down to the reality of what they are, but also what I personally value in life. Clearly, they’re all medical and fundamentally all about the patient. I think you need to have a set of values as a person or as a healthcare company, and I believe the first value should always be putting the patient first. Collaboration, innovation, and excellence are also important. For me, I’m very privileged to practice medicine, and I’ve never put money as a focus of doing anything. It kind of looks after itself. When we talked previously, we discussed Ikigai, which is a Japanese reason for being. It resonated with me, and it doesn’t mean that you have to achieve it in life because otherwise, some people could feel very lost. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to do the four things that Ikigai talks about – doing something that I’m good at, doing something that I love, doing something that pays, and doing something that helps the world. For me, that means working with people, technology, and healthcare, which allows me to help patients, whether they’re in the hospital, the group in Ireland, or across the globe. Patient care is my key focus.


Aziza: When we talk about people and their evolving needs and expectations as customers and patients, in a talk that you gave recently, which you were kind enough to send to me, you mentioned something that I find interesting. You said, “we expect convenience in every aspect of our lives except in healthcare”, can you talk a bit more about what you meant by that?  


John Sheehan: We, as a globe, have become very used to digital technology in its many forms and I think, at the core in healthcare, if we look at it this way, we’ve got many problems. We’ve got staff issues. We can’t attract people, we can’t retain people, people are leaving,  the costs of healthcare are going up,  we’ve got increased waiting times and increased waiting lists. So, if you look at all the other industries, whether it’s shopping… We’ve got Amazon. For eating we’ve got JustEat. If you want to travel, you’ve got Airbnb.  If you’re single and you want a date, you can get Tinder. We have a demand for digital convenience now in our daily lives, and we just expect it. We don’t expect friction or speed bumps. It just has to be easy, and if it doesn’t work, you just bypass it. Whereas, it seems to be the complete exception in the healthcare industry, which is probably far more important in our lives than any of the other industries. If you take traveling or shopping, they’re not necessarily at the basic hierarchical needs of people. I think we’ve become somewhat conditioned to accept bad interactions with healthcare, which aren’t like the ones we experience for shopping, and it just has to change, and it can change, but it needs leadership.  One of the people that I’ve learned an awful lot about innovation from is Professor Martin Curley, who’s a professor of innovation, and he talks about the need to digitally transform things through open innovation. It’s all possible, but we just have to focus on it collectively.


Aziza: One thing that came to me when doing my research and chatting to you was that normally speaking, the healthcare industry is seen as one that is very slow to change. When we’re talking about moving from laggards to leaders in Europe, I want to know what the driving force of that will be and what race are we seeing it or will we see it happen?


John Sheehan: Recently Martin Curley and myself co-chaired a session over two days in the New York-based UN General Assembly. We had 50 speakers and one of them, Richard Jones, founder of many companies including C2-AI, said very eloquently that “we’re sinking so fast in healthcare that incremental changes just won’t cut it”. We need exponential 10x changes, and we just can’t achieve that without transitioning from paper to digital. There are so many tools out there ranging from cloud to artificial intelligence to augmented reality and quantum computing, and all these tools are out there to solve our problems. One of the things about healthcare, unlike so many other industries, is that we’ve never actually had a properly architected healthcare system that works for everybody. The system needs to be architected with collaboration and using these tools because we have the opportunity for things to change and go from laggard to leader. But as Richard said, we’re sinking so fast we need to change more explosively than incrementally.


Aziza: Speaking of those tools, I saw a quote that I shared that was ‘AI is not a buzzword but a pathway’. I’m wondering, could you elaborate on that a bit more?


John Sheehan: So, AI is kind of a word everybody hears about. Sometimes they think it’s a cool futuristic thing. Sometimes they think it’s, “oh, it’s going to replace me” or “it’s going to take over the world”. Artificial intelligence gets slightly merged with our intelligence and is framed as if it is competing with us and maybe ultimately with things like artificial general intelligence (AGI) or artificial superintelligence which is beyond us, but that’s many decades at the very least ahead. I think we need to reframe what artificial intelligence is to us today. First of all, it actually should be seen as an assistant or a companion just like a spell checker was in Word and a companion to actually help us and to do things better, faster, and cheaper. Our approach to it can’t be just flipping it on. It has to be a crawl, walk, run approach in every area of life and particularly in healthcare because it’s such a vitally important thing. Because of the challenges that are within AI, it’s not perfect and it does make mistakes, it does have bias, and it can hallucinate like Chat GPT and say things that are wrong very, very confidently. But I think if we safely crawl, walk, run with AI, it will ultimately make us better, faster, cheaper, and actually a lot of us happier. Chat GPT has certainly highlighted that to all of us, and I think healthcare will ultimately benefit from the likes of that technology in addition to other industries such as finance, marketing, and creative industries. My advice to people when I talk about it is that we need to adapt to survive, but actually to thrive as well. It’s very important that we talk to our colleagues and indeed our children in school to actually educate them. What is ahead of them? Because the example I give is that if you were a Bellboy in a hotel in New York in the 1950s, you would have been bringing people up and down the elevator, and then certainly Otis or whoever manufacturers elevators made it automatic so you could just get in and press the button yourself, and they went on strike and said, ‘Well, actually, we can’t have this technology replacing us.’ So, obviously, we don’t have bellboys anymore. But we do now have the need for us to, with AI and all the other technologies, to adapt so that we can survive and thrive, and we can certainly do that and do it safely. 


Aziza: I saw you speak about the importance of combining clinical, technological, and business worlds together, and I really liked that. Can you explain this more to our listeners? 


John Sheehan: So, ecosystem is a very important word that we hear about all the time, and ecosystem actually comes from biology, and it’s all about flow, and it’s about flowing from one thing to another. If we’ve got healthcare, and there are different parts of it, often they become historically siloed, so you have the clinical, you have technology, and you’ll have the business, but the ecosystem needs to flow and be connected. My opportunity in life between  education and experience and where I am today has given me exposure to being a clinician and a technologist and somebody who’s involved in business. It’s given me a 360-degree appreciation and understanding.  I am no master of it by any manner or means, but it just gives me a nice perspective of balance that if you are just in one of the silos, you’re not going to get the other person and what they’re thinking about and how they approach it because any interaction in life or negotiation requires actually understanding what the other person is thinking. 


Aziza: Based on everything that we’ve spoken about today in a snapshot,  what does the future of healthcare look like to you?


John Sheehan:I think the future has to fundamentally change and I think we’re at a moment in time where we have these what are called ‘Copernican Shifts’. It’s where we go from being an illness system to a wellness system from a doctor who knows best to a patient knows best. That’s the democratization of knowledge from a hospital-based system system to a community-based system, from physical to virtual and from treatment to prevention.  I think when it comes to healthcare there needs to be an emphasis now of us all working together globally and to empower people and try to eliminate disparities by leveraging all of these digital tools that we’ve just talked about and the data  ultimately that’ll lead to much better evidence-based healthcare and that will actually lead to longer healthier happier lives for all of us. 


Aziza: One thing I like to ask people just so I can get their multiple different viewpoints. As a leader, wearing many different hats, what has been the best advice that you have ever received?


John Sheehan: I think the advice is often a hard question to answer because I think ultimately there’s so many people who’ve advised me.  I think advice comes from either people you know and podcasts like this,  reading a book or listening to an audiobook. I initially mentioned that my uncle said, “Medicine is a privilege” and I know Einstein said to “avoid negative people because they always have a problem for every solution”. I think something that really inspired me was something that Warren Buffalo said, he said many many things but this is so important. I just find that within the area that I’m in health tech and it’s been surrounded by positive people, what Warren Buffett says is “surround yourself with people who push you to do and do better”. No drama, no negativity, just higher goals and higher motivation. It’s about good times, positive energy,  no jealousy, no hate and just simply bringing out the best in each other. So that for me is very inspiring and the other person in this that I always reference is Sam Harris who is an amazing neuroscientist and philosopher and he talks about really two very simple things.The two most important things in life are love and curiosity. For yourself and for the people around you. For life and for the world.  The other person who I’ve got to know over the last twelve months really well is a guy called Kingsley Aikens, he’s the CEO of the Irish Networking Company and he said “people who’ve got strong and diverse networks live longer, they are stronger mentally and physically, they earn more money and they’re also happier”,  and he finishes by saying, “it’s no longer about what you know, who you know, it’s about who knows you”.  I think networking in life should be very important because we all rely on other people and it’s not about talking, it’s actually about giving and then it all just works out after itself. So for me I’ve had an awful lot of different people and influenced me in a very positive way. 


When it comes to collaboration and particularly digital technology because often digital technology fails and actually 80% of the success of digital technology is leadership and that requires what Martin Curley actually refers to as an “open innovation 2.0” where you’ve got high trust networks and relationships and intense networking shared values and vision plus the digital technology. SO, It’s not just digital technology. When you combine all of that , you get an outcome that is successful and beneficial to all of the stakeholders and so for me and it’s so much about the people and your relationships and your network.


Aziza:  So, fast-forwarding for you in the future, what does the future hold for you or what are some things that you’re working on that you might like to let our listeners know about?


John Sheehan: I think what you’ve probably seen is that there are lots of dots that are out there, and many of the dots I’m involved with. So, I think, again, that networking idea of actually joining those dots through people and the different industries, whether it’s the clinical, the technical, or the business side of things. I’m exploring further the cloud and pushing that and the benefits of “anytime, anywhere, any device”. AI clearly, radiology has got a huge first-mover advantage in that. It’s to learn about it, adopt it, evaluate it, and see how good it is and to make changes with one’s colleagues across the ecosystem.


The other important thing in AI is actually developing a platform because there are hundreds of solutions. We just need a simple platform to integrate and know that there’s a certain quality affiliated with them. Augmented Reality is another area of interest that I’ve developed in collaboration with Microsoft and their HoloLens device. That’s a mixed reality / virtual reality device that allows us to train medical students or staff in a much more interactive, intuitive way. For example, you can train medical students’ anatomy 50% faster with 40% better retention. You can educate patients prior to complex surgery, such as brain surgery. They have better-informed consent, are more relaxed, have a better understanding, and collaboration with our colleagues, virtually, whether it’s on-site or across the globe, and intraoperative assistance, pre-operative planning, virtual ward doctors, and even remote assistance so that you bring expertise to ten miles across the city, across the other side of the country, or to the other side of the world. Whether you’re an expert nurse, GP, doctor, or any one of those, or paramedical people, and just bringing it anywhere, anytime again. Much better, faster, and cheaper.


Digital twins are another thing that’s going to be really important because there’s so much out there in terms of medical data, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and digital healthcare records and imaging pathology, bloods, and healthcare records, so that they’re all combined, but they’re all siloed, they need to be brought together through AI, but particularly, I think, generative AI and quantum computing will allow us actually to give much more personalized and precision medicine, and these digital twins that will allow us to actually have a much better understanding of each of us, what we’re likely to need and whether it’s to predict, prevent, and/or to treat, and again, to have not just longer life spans but better health spans and that we’re happier and that there’s less disparity.


Those are kind of a couple of things that, so you know, I think are part of the future that I hope to explore further with others. Again, it’s fundamentally about people. But it’s a really exciting world we’re living in today, and there are lots of challenges. But I think there are lots of solutions, and I think we just have to be optimistic.




This episode was developed as part of a three-part-mini-series for #WorldHealthDay where we embarked on a journey to the future of healthcare, exploring the fascinating world of machine learning and AI as we moved to further understand how these ever-evolving technologies, tools  and applications will impact the future of health and well-being. From diagnosing illnesses, designing treatment plans and bettering human experiences. 


In part one, we were joined by Dr.Kanpassorn Eix, the CEO and Founder of Thailand’s first mental wellbeing app, Ooca. We delved into the fascinating story about how Ooca was formed and what the future holds for mental healthcare in Thailand and beyond. 


In part two of our #WorldHealthDay mini-series on Commerce Talk, we sat down with Dr Avneesh Khare, a Physician turned Med Tech (AI) consultant and educator to talk about the importance of regulation, education and ethics when it comes to AI in healthcare.