Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 100: Empowering Parkinson's patients: innovation, technology, and hope

With special guest Caroline Rassell, Chief Executive Officer, Parkinson's UK

✔ The challenges facing non-profits

✔ Why innovation is the best answer to finding cures

✔ How to avoid creating an application wild-west


In a recent conversation with Caroline Rassell, Chief Executive Officer of Parkinson's UK, we gained valuable insights into the challenges faced by the third sector, the remarkable initiatives the organisation is funding, and how technology and innovation are transforming the lives of the 150,000 Parkinson's sufferers across the UK.

Embracing Change in the Charity Sector

Caroline Rassell assumed her role as CEO of Parkinson's UK during a period when the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that this challenging time had a profound impact on society, including the charity and third sectors. Despite the fatigue that came with lockdowns, it also fostered a stronger desire for connection and self-empowerment within the Parkinson's community. People were seeking ways to take control of their condition, leading to a surge of interest in exercise, nutrition, diet, and digital apps and devices.

This shift towards self-care and self-education is not limited to Parkinson's but reflects a broader trend in healthcare and charity sectors. With healthcare systems stretched and research taking time, individuals are increasingly looking for ways to manage their well-being proactively.

The Role of Technology in Self-Help

Technology has played a pivotal role in facilitating this trend. The ubiquity of smartphones and smartwatches has made it easier for people to access health-related information and tools. There is an abundance of applications catering to various health needs, from dietary guidance to medication reminders. For those with Parkinson's, technology offers solutions like reminders to prevent falls or maintain good posture.

However, while technology provides immense potential for self-help, concerns arise about its regulation and credibility. Caroline acknowledged there's a fine line between fostering innovation and safeguarding consumers against unproven or unsafe solutions.

Microsoft and the Role of Tech Giants

Microsoft, along with other tech giants, has a significant role to play in this context. The platforms they provide, such as the Power Platform, can be instrumental in delivering innovative solutions. Caroline noted the importance of striking a balance between supporting innovation and ensuring that technology solutions meet appropriate standards and safety requirements.

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Innovation as the Path Forward

Caroline emphasised that innovation is the key to finding a cure for Parkinson's and improving symptom management. While existing medications have been in use for decades, innovative technologies like Deep Brain Stimulation have brought hope and better symptom management. Deep Brain Stimulation involves electrodes placed in the brain, connected to a chest-based device that stimulates the brain to maintain movement, countering freezing and tremors. Such innovations have been game-changers for some individuals.

Prioritising Community Needs

Parkinson's UK takes a community-driven approach to prioritise its efforts. With 30,000 community members, the organisation seeks input from those directly affected by Parkinson's. They allocate significant resources to research, encompassing not only drug development but also empowering individuals to improve their lives through exercise, diet, and nutrition. Additionally, they provide immediate support by funding specialised nurses and therapists, ensuring that the Parkinson's community has the resources they need today.

Listen to EP 28 of the Dynamics Matters Podcast: Transformation lessons from a CTO

With special guest Ursula Dolton, Chief Technology Officer, British Heart Foundation 

✔ Why lead any technology conversation with a business value

✔ Why you use business value language over a technical one

✔ The three factors to any successful technology project

Listen now

The Role of Innovation in Parkinson's Future

Caroline believes that innovation is not just essential but the only way forward to understand and treat Parkinson's effectively. She pointed out that the search for a cure and improved symptom management has never been more critical, given the aging population and the need for more tailored treatments. While there is no certainty about when a breakthrough might occur, the organisation remains committed to pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

Words of Wisdom for Future Leaders

In closing, Caroline advised future leaders in the field to engage with the community actively. She stressed the importance of authenticity and listening to the needs and desires of those affected by the condition. It is through these connections and a deep understanding of the community that meaningful progress can be made.

In summary, Parkinson's UK, under the leadership of Caroline Rassell, is at the forefront of using innovation and technology to empower individuals living with Parkinson's. While there is no cure yet, the organisation is dedicated to embracing innovation to improve the lives of those affected by the condition today and holding out hope for a better tomorrow.

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