Meet Shelley Garlington, Business Development Director, Medefer

Shelley Garlington

Shelley Garlington is the Business Development Director at Medefer – a UK-based health-tech startup that is transforming outpatient services for the NHS.

In this piece, we talk health tech, inclusive cultures & developing a career in tech.

I began my career as a student nurse in St James’ Hospital in Leeds. Although I had a passion for patients, I knew early on that I wanted to improve care for patients at a scale where I couldn’t do more than one patient at a time.

I’ve always been an organised, driven and output-orientated individual, so I was keen to find a role that combined these skills. I went into the pharmaceutical industry, where I was able to look at the business world from a healthcare perspective.

This led me into developing a training company for healthcare practitioners. I worked closely with the NHS, and it enabled me to understand the moving parts of NHS Trusts. It was here that I learnt the importance of putting patient voices at the forefront of everything a healthcare organisation does.  I was also constantly looking to identify any gaps in care that could be improved, especially by implementing technology.

The impact on patients was one of the reasons I was initially interested in Medefer – I knew that the use of technology within NHS pathways would make the process more efficient and improve patient access to care. From my own experience when my Mum had breast cancer during the pandemic, I often had to take her into environments that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with.  I would send consultants pictures of anything they needed to look at and it made me realise this was another, more dignified way to deliver care. The potential impact of virtual care inspired me to work with Medefer.

Creating new partnerships

My job is to create partnerships with healthcare organisations and create noise around the great work that we do. I’m always looking for ways to increase growth and innovation, suggesting new patient pathways that Medefer could transform.

I was recently involved in looking at ways cancer alliance pathways can be improved and how NHS backlogs are associated with increased cancer risk. With this in mind, we launched a pilot programme with Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance aimed at early detection of prostate cancer.

Through this, and transforming patient pathways, I use these great patient outcomes to demonstrate to organisations how best we can support hospitals and patients, through new partnerships and alliances.

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Exploring the world of med-tech

I have always been interested in technology and how it can transform many common issues faced by health systems and patients. I thought about how new technology and processes could be used to manage risks and improve outcomes. That mindset makes you want to be around tech interaction. My natural inquisitiveness and inability to stand still meant that I was constantly looking for areas of improvement, and that made Medefer a great fit for me.

Inclusive culture is key

A strong pull for me at Medefer is its purpose. One of the hardest things in sales is selling something you don’t believe in, but Medefer adds so much value to patients lives. They are changing the landscape so rapidly and so differently to anyone that has been in this space before. Waiting lists are a pressing issue and the NHS has always had targets that they have been unable to reach. So, why not think differently?

The culture at Medefer is inclusive. The management team work hard to flatten the structure both in the language that we use and by including all staff whilst we expand and evolve. I am excited to have been involved in the process of becoming who we are today.

Medefer also care about their staff and value them as individuals. As an example, I have dyslexia and dyscalculia and I have never felt comfortable admitting this to any other workplace except Medefer. There is this open and honest culture where Medefer are willing to see the difference in people and work on their strengths, and that makes it a company of the future.

Advice for anyone considering a role in the tech industry

I have worked in a very male-dominated industry, especially as a pharmaceutical rep, and it was difficult starting a company as a single mum. However, I think one of the most important things is to not be afraid of challenging the status quo. You need to believe that you can make a difference.

There are some companies who see people as commodities, and it’s important for your own development to identify them and avoid them. You need to be clear of what you bring to the table, and don’t be afraid to own that.

I have always cared about people and how my job impacts them directly. Yes, I’ve got a natural drive, but at the heart of it, I like people. Remembering this and keeping it at the centre of what I do is the reason that I’ve been successful.