Dr. Owain Rhys Hughes (CEO and Founder, Cinapsis)

Dr Owain Rhys Hughes is an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon whose firsthand experience with the ineffective and difficult-to-navigate communication channels across the NHS inspired him to build a solution. He founded Cinapsis in 2018 to help tackle these broken communication systems, handing clinicians the tools they need to collaborate more easily on care.

Cinapsis is a digital clinical communications platform that enables doctors and nurses to share specialist advice and guidance in real time, speeding up referral decisions and reducing patient wait times for life-saving care.

Cinapsis connects primary care clinicians such as GPs, paramedics, NHS 111 call handlers, and optometrists with consultants from local NHS trusts who can provide timely, specialist advice to help improve triage and ensure patients can be seen by the most appropriate treatment service sooner. It is already in use across a number of NHS organizations, covering a population of 8 million patients, and helping to tackle cancer care backlogs across the country.

Image: Dr. Owain Rhys Hughes
Image: Dr. Owain Rhys Hughes

Can you explain your job to a five-year-old? 

My job is to help make life easier for doctors and their patients, by giving doctors the digital tools that enable them to speak directly to their colleagues across different services. This means they can work together to decide on the best course of treatment for each patient and make sure patients are sent to the most appropriate form of care, more quickly.

Specialist advice can be shared across the Cinapsis platform, which connects different services and makes it easier for clinicians to outline the best next steps for each patient. For example, if a patient has a worrisome mole or skin lesion, their GP can contact a specialist directly and share diagnostic imagery, which can then be used to make a fast decision on whether the patient needs to be seen by a consultant. This speeds up access to urgent care for those who need it, while reducing the number of patients being sent to the hospital unnecessarily.

What excites you most about your job? 

What motivates me the most is the knowledge that my team has the potential to make a real difference in patient outcomes, by speeding up access to urgent care. As a surgeon and health tech founder, patients are always at the center of what I do. Helping patients access the care they need sooner by supporting clinicians to collaborate on care and ease the growing backlog is hugely rewarding. 

Which trend will change the future of medicine? 

Telemedicine is opening up so many opportunities in the world of medicine that were previously inconceivable—whether that’s by making it easier to deliver more at-home care for patients remotely, or connecting clinicians across a wider number of services and locations. Digital guidance plays a huge role in this, by enabling clinicians to speak directly across organizational boundaries and collaborate more easily on care. This is significantly streamlining referrals and boosting clinical capacity to help tackle the challenges ahead. 

Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated? 

The pandemic was totally unexpected, so the subsequent boom in health tech and digital innovation was also something that none of us could have anticipated. We were a relatively new company when the pandemic hit, having launched in 2018. Due to the necessity of providing new ways to safely treat patients during the pandemic, innovation suddenly accelerated. This has been incredibly positive for transformation right across the health service, and I hope to see this momentum continue in the coming years. 

Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention? 

It is impossible to name just one! There are so many incredible and innovative MedTech initiatives driving change across healthcare right now. Initiatives that focus on reducing the heavy burden on healthcare professionals and boosting capacity to support increasing patient demand are definitely ones to watch. It is really exciting to see these innovations deliver genuine outcomes for clinicians and patients.

Where would you put a million dollars? 

I think a pivotal area where funding needs to be focused across healthcare is interoperability. There are still innumerable silos and organizational barriers that prevent  data and information from being easily shared between different healthcare services, making true collaboration impossible. Making digital systems interoperable—ensuring they can “speak to” one another by sharing data directly—should definitely be a priority. This will not only reduce the administrative burden placed on individual clinicians, but it will make healthcare services significantly better connected, increasing crucial collaboration on care. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

I think the best advice for any health tech founder is to talk to as many different people as possible about the problem you’re trying to solve. Gaining a true understanding of what frontline clinicians are experiencing, and the nuances of the challenges they face, is absolutely crucial to ensuring the solution you are providing will sufficiently address these roadblocks. Speak to clinicians and work collaboratively from design right through implementation. That way you can incorporate detail and nuance from day one, and ensure the solution you deliver really works for clinicians.

Dr Owain Rhys Hughes  

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