Pete Trainor is an accidental healthcare CEO. The polymath is, by trade, a behavioural designer and technologist but became a mental health campaigner before taking the reigns at Vala Health, a virtual private healthcare service.
He made the leap after realising that the consultancy world had left him “quite far away from the actual consumer; the actual issues”. “I had absolutely no idea I was going to end up as the CEO of healthcare on demand company in a pandemic.”
Already he could see how a company such as Vala could help break the deadlock of a wait-in-line healthcare service; COVID-19 has accelerated that consumer change with the pandemic putting a “huge strain” on traditional healthcare services, particularly in areas such as the UK.
It’s not just about the virus, though: “Many consumers have started to realise that actually, it’s not just their physical health that’s being affected by COVID and Coronavirus, and locked down, it’s their mental health. And they’re starting to realise that their consumption of food and alcohol and various other stimulants is probably not as healthy as it should be.”
Such thinking exposes flaws in the healthcare system in Europe, he says. “We will not go back in the future, we will not go back to the way healthcare was done before February this year.” The consumer is in control.
Yet the situation has also exposed huge inequalities, with those from the poorest areas suffering most from the effects of the virus and the wider societal effects of lockdown.
Trainor argues for the democratisation of healthcare, leveraged through technology, but with a dose of human frailty. “Technology will not save us from the future. AI and data did not predict that the world was going to hit 13-plus million cases of a pandemic, this time last year. Technology has not, prevented COVID from happening, though it’s servicing the way that it’s being treated,” he said.
“Our obsession or fetish with technology that was driving many, many industries last year has also been exposed, and human frailty is once again that on the agenda, the thing that needs to be solved.”