Dr. Alden Parsons is a top thoracic surgeon who cares deeply for her patients. Throughout her career, she has worked hard to prepare patients physically and emotionally for their surgery, but there never seemed to be enough time. Despite her best efforts to gather and share information with them, she knew that patients didn’t always feel educated, supported, or empowered to make the best decisions.
In 2015 she co-founded BeeWell, a healthcare technology company, with her husband—neonatologist and healthcare education expert Dr. Stephen Parsons—to solve this problem.
Dr. Parsons earned her Doctor of Medicine from the University of North Carolina and is Director of Thoracic Surgery at WakeMed Cary Hospital.
1. What is in your pockets?
I believe that life is better with music, so pretty much always in my pocket is my Apple AirPods, then car keys and iPhone; pretty much those three. And sometimes I have to put my hair up in a scrub cap, so something to utilize for that.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
BeeWell has created a mobile platform that navigates patients through a healthcare experience with a step-by-step interactive digital tool so they have what they need in each step of the way as opposed to a bunch of paper information being thrown at them, probably lost, disorganized, and of limited use.
It was a vision that I had early on when I started a practice by myself and I had the whole responsibility of educating patients without any real resources, which was initially done on paper but was just a really inadequate way to prepare people for surgery. There’s a shared decision-making process and a lot of education needed. The statistics are horrible as we remember like 15% of what you say in an office visit, if that.
So, truly, educating patients and walking them through a process was a need that I recognized pretty early in my practice. It just took us a few years to find the right platform for it, and to develop the right components for the platform. We as healthcare providers have a general idea of how a process goes, but the patients are completely in the dark. They get bits and pieces and at least two return visits and inefficiencies in care, complications, extra cost—all the things that we’re trying to avoid in healthcare.
It’s a slow grind with a startup but we’ve had some national recognition recently and connected with some pretty big companies. There is a lot of motion toward engaging patients in the healthcare community and understanding the benefit of that. Now getting healthcare systems to actually take a step toward that is another issue. But the excitement recently has been the national movement toward engaging patients in the way that our technology has been created to do.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I really like BREW near [the restaurant] 18 Seaboard in Raleigh. Of course, I hit Starbucks up in North Hills, at the corner of Lassiter Mill on Six Forks, pretty often. But if I’m looking for a place to hang out, I like to go over to BREW.
4. What keeps you up at night?
Making sure people get through their healthcare surgery safely would be the first answer. Secondly with the company, just making sure we’re rolling out in the right way and that our staff are taken care of and we’re getting things to the next level at the perfect time and not pushing too hard, but pushing enough.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I love a lot of restaurants; I’ve never met a restaurant I didn’t like. I love going to Glenwood Grill, Bloomsbury Bistro, Vivace, Mia Francesca—those are my top four.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
In terms of BeeWell, we have a lot of goals with platform development that are in process. Also, getting to the next level in terms of making sure our user base is strong enough to insure that the data is as truly valuable as I think it will and can be. That’s all wrapped up in scaling, the scaling up to the next specialty or the next level of practice or health system. Just getting it in the hands of more patients is the goal because it’s going to be a really, really valuable tool for patients.
I have a great balance right now; I love my job at WakeMed and my partners and my practice. I would love to be in more of a leadership role in a healthcare system but that’s not an immediate goal. I’m pretty happy right now with building a practice and taking care of patients every day and then being able to serve patients from a completely different angle with BeeWell. My goal is always to do a better job at what I do every day and there’s always room for that.