Meet the innovator: Jonathan KnightMay 23, 2023
In this edition, we catch up with Jonathan Knight, CEO and Co-founder of Tefogo. His innovation, Compassly, allows comprehensive clinical competencies to be easily managed with the simplicity of an app.
Current job role:
CEO & Co-founder at Tefogo
Name of innovation:
Tell us about your innovation in a sentence.
Compassly is an incredibly easy-to-use app for assessing the skills of clinical staff and assuring healthcare teams have the right skills to care for patients while motivating ongoing professional development - all digitally signed off and portable across organisations.
What was the ‘lightbulb’ moment?
This was more a gentle dawning than an instant lightbulb. It came from repeatedly hearing nurses and healthcare leaders – people I really respected – saying that this was one of their biggest unsolved challenges, which got my attention. They were so frustrated, and almost couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been solved already.
But beyond that, I was inspired by the fact that this was an important problem to solve on many levels: staff professional development, patient safety and experience, and helping the workforce to be more productive. And then from the moment we started showing people the prototype designs, we got such a positive reaction: “this is exactly what we need”.
What three pieces of advice would you give budding innovators?
- Always listen to your customers, but don’t be afraid to challenge and come with your own perspective too – you have a lot of knowledge to bring, and you have probably spent more time thinking about the problem you are solving than anyone else
- Be relentless in improving your product. One day it will be used by hundreds of thousands of people, and every improvement will make their lives just that extra bit better
- Always try to move at pace, but have patience with your customers and users in healthcare; they have far more to deal with than you will truly understand
What’s been your toughest obstacle?
It’s no secret that the NHS is under enormous pressure, and most people are just swamped. It’s very frustrating to have a great innovation that people really want to use, but there are everyday challenges preventing them having the time and space to make the improvements that could help them.
What’s been your innovator journey highlight?
It’s a cliché but the overall highlight remains getting to work with the clinical teams in the NHS. From the very start we designed Compassly alongside the nurses who would be using it, and even when it was a basic concept people freely gave up their time to help because they could see how it would help colleagues and patients. To then be able to come back to them further down the line with a polished solution that they can use is truly satisfying.
But if I were to pick one specifically, it was winning the tender to use Compassly to digitise the UK Oncology Nursing Society’s chemotherapy (SACT) competency passport. It’s an organisation that I had admired from afar, and to be chosen to work with them felt like a huge validation of what we’re building. That project will soon bring Compassly to around 10,000 oncology nurses across the UK helping to treat cancer patients, and the whole team is massively motivated by supporting them.
What is the best part of your job now?
At heart I’m a product person. So while I enjoy pretty much all the different elements of my job, I think I will always be happiest coming up with innovative digital products that help solve important problems for people.
We showed Compassly to a senior NHS nurse for the first time a few weeks back, and he said “You’ve solved all the problems that I wanted to ask you about, and some that I hadn’t even thought of. It’s like you read our minds”. To know that we can help clinical staff that way is a tremendous feeling, and exactly why I love this job.
If you were in charge of the NHS and care system, what’s the one thing you’d do to speed up health innovation?
The problem isn’t innovation, as there’s no shortage of innovative products out there. Rather, it’s adoption, the fact that so few of them are being widely used because of how hard it is to do.
There has been a lot of effort more broadly in healthcare to give a template of how to do things (GIRFT, Model Hospital, What Good Looks Like etc), but far too little for adopting technology. I would create a repeatable but adaptable process, forms and funding for NHS organisations to adopt a wide range of innovative digital solutions.
A typical day for you would include…
It’s almost impossible to describe a typical day as they are so very varied. One thing that is consistent is that I’m lucky to get to start the day with my kids as I do school / nursery drop-off each morning. That means that, however busy my day is, I always know I’ll be able to dedicate time with them, and it’s a great way to start the day.
We have an international team so there’s already quite a lot to catch up on straight away, and I find it energising to get into what they’ve been working on. There are a few things I’ll try to do consistently everyday - look at ways to improve the product, think about what new knowledge and content we can produce and make sure I’ve kept on top of all emails and comms. And most days I’ll be doing some sort of demo or discussion of Compassly – there is just no substitute to getting to speak to users and customers.
Beyond that, it’s whatever challenge the day brings!