October 9, 2023
3 minute read

Empowering Patients Through Digital Community

Learn how an online community BJC Connect is transforming chronic disease management by fostering connection, education, and tailored support.
Empowering Patients Through Digital Community
Written by
Peter Birch
Published on
May 14, 2024

Can you introduce yourself and your clinical background?

I have been a physiotherapist for 26 years. My interest at the start of my career was sports which eventually led me to 5 world university games as a physio for Australia including two tours as head physio. I managed to also be part of the physio team at the Commonwealth Games in 2018, that was a treat. 

I fell into rheumatology as my co-founder brother is a rheumatologist. Our two professions were complementary and hence for the past 20 years, we've been building multidisciplinary clinics in Sydney to help people with rheumatic disease live and feel better. Our vision by 2030 is to be the centre of clinical excellence in Rheumatology within the Asia Pacific region.

What is your innovation or company, and the problem you're solving?

Our innovation is BJC Connect. It's a simple community that comes together online to learn about their chronic disease whereby patients and their family have the opportunity to see that they are not alone in their efforts to manage their condition. Chronic disease care requires patient support, reassurance, increased self-efficacy and confidence to overcome challenges. The problem we seek to solve is to enhance patient care between their face to face clinical consults, especially after they have received a diagnosis.

The site itself provides live weekly education events over zoom, some of which are recorded leading to a library of previous educational events. Currently, all this is provided free to anyone interested in rheumatic diseases and lifestyle behaviour change. Those that want more support can exercise with our exercise physiologists. This paid feature provides live and guided online exercise classes.

Apart from the patient education outlined above, we developed a portal for practitioners. Here we host a library of recorded lectures and have occasional live events specifically targeted at clinicians.

What was the catalyst moment to start your innovation?

Like others, Covid was the impetus. As we couldn't see patients face to face, the 60 exercise groups we ran each week had to close down. We also needed a way to engage with our patients when people felt isolated, lonely and fearful. Hence, we started running educational events and hosted live online exercise groups over zoom. We then saw the opportunity to have all of this hosted on a proper membership site. BJC Connect was born.

What was something unexpected you learnt along the way?

Our patients were really thirsty for knowledge and their gratitude shown towards what we were doing spurred us on.

What do you believe are the most critical healthcare challenges today, and how can programs like this help address them?

Cost, health literacy and professional silos are the challenges. Programs like AUSCEP that help clinicians make their ideas come to life and deliver on solutions that aid these challenges are vital.

How do you envision the future of healthcare?

Clinicians using AI to improve their care delivery allowing them to focus on the person in front of them and not their condition.

Share a key moment or experience from the program that influenced your approach to healthcare innovation.

Meeting people who are always thinking of how to do things better has been super important. When doing something innovative especially in healthcare, there are typically more naysayers than there are backers. It's not as lonely when you know there are other people like you and they are accessible.

Any advice for clinicians interested in healthcare entrepreneurship?

Go for it if you have the stomach for ups and downs. If you are focused on the purpose and can appreciate the journey, then you'll already be successful irrespective of whether you actually get to the end.

What's next for your journey as a clinical entrepreneur?

Continue to develop our platform and make sure it integrates well with routine care, whilst figuring out how AI will play a bigger role.

Our blog

Latest blog posts

Missed out on recent AUSCEP news? Check out our most recent stories below.
Participant Journeys

Bridging the Healthcare Information Gap: A Vision for Patient-Centred Access

Dr Yoni Goldenberg reflects on the transformative potential of DrQR to enhance medical record accessibility, promoting patient autonomy and efficiency in healthcare delivery.
Peter Birch
October 9, 2023
4 minute read
Participant Journeys

Navigating Lymphoedema: The Journey from Chronic Swelling to Empowered Self-Management

The management of lymphoedema is dominated by inefficient, paper-based processes which presents an opportunity for digital platforms to play a transformative role to improve health outcomes
Peter Birch
October 9, 2023
6 minute read