"I feel like we are doing a great job, and that's what matters"
"It's not a product, it's the way of thinking, it's the way of accommodating the needs of modern healthcare," says Andraž Koželj, Better's leading educator, about openEHR, the standard Better is building its products on.
His job description says Senior Technical Lead, but Andraž Koželj is actually the one who transfers all the Better knowledge to our partners and customers, teaching them about openEHR, our products, and solutions. The attitude of always wanting to know and learn everything about the subject that interests him turned his hobby into his job, and now he is a certified openEHR educator, working for Better, which “provides solutions that are up-to-date with current and future challenges”. Besides that, Andraž is also a passionate sailor who spends every free moment on a sailboat, and he was also a judge at the 2012 Olympic Games. Interested in getting to know him better? Keep reading.
What was your childhood dream, what did you want to become when you grew up?
My father was a cargo ship captain, and we were travelling all around the world for ten years. I was looking up to him, so first, I wanted to be a captain. Then, I grew up a bit, and I wanted to be an astronaut, then a doctor, and maybe an aeroplane pilot. Finally, I decided on having something to do with biology or electricity. So I entered the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. Computers were my hobby, and then they got to be my job as well.
You have been with Better for seven years now, how did the company change and develop in all those years?
I started as a frontend developer, at least the aspiration was to work as one in healthcare. And then I picked up on other jobs like IoT devices and mobile development because I was doing that privately, and suddenly we needed somebody to take over the team. After a year and a half, we dismissed the team and focused on web development completely. It was good to focus on a single technology or at least a path and put all our efforts into this. We were going really wide and weren't fast and flexible enough, so we needed to grow to push something new out there. And it was the time when the second generation of Form Builder and Studio began. That's where I believe we started our path of Better as we are today. Focusing on a single thing, putting all the noise away. We were quite project-driven, so it was a mix of luck, projects, and the inspiration of the moment.
You are Better's most valuable educator, delivering all trainings for partners and customers. Is every such training different and a new experience, and what do you personally get from them?
It's not always the same since our customers are solving different problems with our solutions, and it takes different paths during the process. Yes, we are delivering a predefined set of topics and explanations, but the core part needs to be understood by everyone. That's how I started this path as well. I was curious, I wanted to know everything about the technology and underlying standards that we were basing our work on, and as a "collateral", I became an educator. I took over the role of transferring the knowledge to our partners and customers, and it became a two-way channel because they're also talking to us about their needs and their experience. It is never boring. My work is usually associated with a pilot or with a small project, where we establish that our technology and the standards we use are really the right way to go. And once the customer is convinced and believes we're on a good path, they start bringing back feedback and their specific needs. And this is where I believe my secondary role starts. I'm not just a one-way educator but also someone who listens to them, hears about their challenges, and brings them back to our development teams.
Do customers often come back to you for advice?
It's always about cooperation. It's not like we deliver the materials and say, »good luck«, but we stay and support our customers at every phase of the project. It's a steep learning curve, and each time around, they have their own individual requirements or specifics, which we have to address in some way, adapt to and make it work. We help them with the architecture and sometimes even help them find development teams that could help. It's a mixture of everything. A lot of times I have the first contact with the company or with the partners when the business cases are put on the table and discuss them. I help them understand the technology and what we bring to the team. Once we get along and start cooperating, I do the trainings and knowledge transfer, consultations as well, since I'm working with a lot of groups within Better, and I try to connect them to the people who can advise or help bring the project to a successful end.
Do you have a typical working day, and what does your day look like?
My days are never the same, and as a consequence also never boring. It's a rare day when nobody comes by asking questions or needs some guidance in one way or another, not just from partners but also internally. We also work in different time zones, starting with the Australians in the morning, taking care of Europeans during the day, starting with the East Coast US in the afternoon, and ending up with people from Alaska as well.
Better builds all of its technology and products on openEHR. Are you an openEHR enthusiast as well, and why is it the best standard for healthcare?
I want to understand every beat and last detail of openEHR, because I like the approach. It's not a product, it's the way of thinking, it's the way of accommodating the needs of modern healthcare. I believe it's open to accommodate every use case, and it addresses the majority of modern problems with long-term data persistence, which people usually do not focus on enough. It's also about interoperability and exchanging data. It started 30 years ago, and today, with the fast-changing approach to how we work and with the modern needs for healthcare data, where data has become the centralised part, and it's about the person-centric world, not the application-centric, openEHR fits and checks all those boxes. I like it. I always see room for improvement, but these improvements sometimes are one-off, and you can address that on a local case-by-case scenario, which, compared to solutions from the past 15 or 20 years, feel like heaven.
How do you see the future of digital healthcare, and is Better, with its digital health platform and low-code tools, a trendsetter in the healthcare industry?
How do I see the future? There are not many options in the future for a successful outcome. We need to go the way we are going already because we had options in the past that didn't play out well. I think what we're doing is the best way to continue. I believe that Better is understood not exactly as a trendsetter but as an omnipresent and reliable force. Most people who care about data and standards and the future of healthcare have us on their maps, which is a great achievement. The tools we are working on solve the current problems in an advanced way. There is always room for improvement, but I believe we provide solutions that are up to date with current and future challenges. We need to stay open since we are working with open data, open access and open standards, we need tools that will be able to adapt to all the challenges of the near future. Are we trendsetters? The level of knowledge and the level of experience within the company should put us ahead. But it's not a competition. It should be cooperation between all the vendors because we should all work together for others, not against each other.
You are also a sailor and a sailing judge. Why sailing, and what does it give to you?
I've tried many sports, and sailing is a really complex thing if you want it to be. I was a racing sailor, but I didn't start as a kid, I was really involved in it only in the last 20 years. It's something that occupies my mind to the level where I can't think of anything else, and I get rid of the problems, current workloads, everything. It's a "mental" white noise for me and a personal challenge. Plus, the sun, breeze, and the sea. :)
You were also a sailing judge at the 2012 Olympic Games. How did you get to it, and how did you experience the Olympics?
When I started sailing, I wanted to know everything about sailing there is. I also learned the sailing rules and then taught them to others. After a couple of years, I passed the seminars and the exams, I was involved in some top-level racing as a judge as well. With experience, recommendations and certifications, the International Sailing Association said I'm good enough to start working as an international judge and an international umpire as well. In 2011, I took part in a test-event audition, I passed it and became one of the judges at the Olympic Games. It was quite a recognition for me at the time. I've been involved in judging the regattas, which have been more difficult or complex or at a higher level than the Olympic Games, but the Olympic Games are special. And a PR nightmare. There are 20 cameras on you at each moment, and everything's on the top level. The preparation, the security, and safety measures as well, so it was more of a logistical challenge rather than being a judge because we've been trained for that for a long time. Still, I'm not saying the Olympics are easy. :) I am not judging actively now. After 14 years of being involved all around the world, on all levels of sailing, judging, and teaching, I'm focusing on my family and my personal sailing now. I've got more time for that, but I feel like I might return in the future.
What does Better mean to you?
It's a fun workplace with lots of people with a high level of experience and knowledge in their own individual areas. So sharing experiences and having fun with them feels like teamwork all across. It means a lot to me because I've been working solo in the past, I've been working with teams that were not ideal, ... It's been seven years now, and I'm not fed up with it. I would like to continue because it feels good. It feels great when you see the results of your work, not just in terms of code and products but also the feedback of our customers and people who come back for more, they take our advice seriously, and they implement it all across. You also see the results from the patient's perspective. I feel like we're doing a great job, and that's what matters.