Dr. Jama Nateqi believes in intellectual freedom. Driven by a desire to make an impact in medicine, he created Symptoma, a search engine for disease and together with his co-founder Thomas Lutz started Click For Knowledge GmbH. Contributing to the global movement of free access to knowledge regardless of background, financial status or current locale, Jama is an ethical thinker that doesn`t shrink from tackling global social issues. Putting into practice wise communication and dialogical research, he has been exploring what has been at the forefront of education, IT and medicine for over 12 years. In 1999 at the age of 16 he initiated his first internet start-up during the dot-com bubble, starting early what was to become the vehicle to widen access to his second discipline: medicine.
Having a desire to follow a career in medicine since the age of six, he developed skills to use the medium of the internet to share his expertise; he cross-pollinated these and nurtured them to their current full bloom.
Jama has been an inquiring and perceptive explorer through theworld wide web. In its infancy, he developed his first internet start-up. Whilst being successful (it has been without operating losses since the beginning) he still reflects modestly on the many lessons he learnt during the process. Whilst some were loosing their shirts during this dot-com bubble, Jama had 25,000 visitors per day, which in 1999 was rather a lot. However, he recognised that these visitors or “the traffic stream, can be gone in a day if the traffic sources dry out”. Initially acting alone by gathering and sharing information, he set-up a chat service to communicate with his users, but he realised this wasn`t sustainable enough.
“I wanted to build something sustainable and it occurred to me that with something like Matheboard.de, you can build up a community; then even if your traffic sources dry out, you still have this collective and you can revitalise your project at any time. I was 19 when I had this idea, that I had to build something sustainable by changing the business model, where it is not destroyed in a day, but rather, there is a community there”.
So with this idea of community and sustainability in mind, in 2003 he developed an educational platform, Matheboard.de with his business partner Thomas Lutz. Thomas is a scientist in the field of nano-technology and technician with whom he has been collaborating with for 11 years. Matheboard.de has been encouraging tutoring rather than providing all the answers, thus promoting intelligent self-help and participatory tools for the users that are mainly students and teachers. It seems that in Jama´s early motivation for transparency, accessibility and community, there was the germ of the idea for Symptoma. “It`s like a Google for Physicians”, it is improving diagnostic quality, without bypassing the physician’s knowledge. Rather it is actually supporting them with their own research. This is so that the physicians can more specifically diagnose the patient through their own knowledge and analysis. Jama has been able to continue using his strengths in gathering and sharing information, as the database for Symptoma itself took five years of intense research & development.
Building clusters of communities is certainly what he has achieved. Currently there are twenty-four physicians, medical students, developers and marketeers working on Symptoma. There are a further one hundred teachers and students working in a voluntary capacity on the educational platforms.
He has clearly identified what the public has been looking for. There are currently two million students per/month who are visiting the educational platforms hosted on matheboard.de. Jama tells me how some teachers post over 30,000 comments. With such active and consistent participation to support students completely voluntarily, there must be a secret ingredient. One sentence that Jama says makes it all click. “Every time you are on the other side, teaching the topic, you are learning it in a different and better way.”
Paulo Freire who is perhaps one of he most influential thinkers in education saw that informal education is dialogical (or conversational). As soon as Jama raised the dialogical aspect of Matheboard.de, both the teacher's and student's consistent motivation seemed to make perfect sense. Paulo Freire insisted that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. This is certainly what Matheboard.de provides. Having tried out the platform, it is clear that there is an equalising effect by everyone participating in dialogue through the organic community. Thinking back to teenage years, working late into the night on a Fibonacci sequence project, this platform would have offered solutions to all the questions that came to mind, yet without connectivity to this kind of community, isolation and panic ensued. These two terrible emotive twins are often are part of students daily lives. Having a supportive, respectful platform to go to with, not all the answers, but rather guidance and tools so that the students can find answers for themselves, is what has the potential to transforms education and society at large. There is less of a authoritarian mentality, and more of a co-creative kind of education, where alternatives are possible. It´s a kind of incubator for educational dialogue and tutoring where people harmoniously explore collaborative solutions regardless status, ethnicity or background. Wouldn`t education and society benefit from more of these collaborative spaces of learning?
Revolutionising Ancient Knowledge Management
We are in an age where there is a wealth of knowledge but the access to this knowledge is often restricted through a variety of barriers. Jama`s enterprise Click for Knowledge GmbH seems to be gradually dissolving barriers to accessibility. “Only 3% of physicians are satisfied with the current professional, medical research options, 97% aren´t. Unfortunately, they don´t have the proper tools and resources, in order to check differential diagnoses efficiently.” Symptoma`s five years of intense research & development has been developed and is being continually verified with the support of DDr. Stefanie Gruarin a medical doctor, whom Jama met at Paracelsus Medical University. She has been taking 16 physicians through training so that they can verify the research that provides the basis for Symptoma. They check the credibility of each source and for any redundancies because of contradicting with other valid resources. By deduction the redundant information is taken out. This empowers the connection to valid data. Click for Knowledge GmbH provides a platform for Symptoma that is modernising often outdated medical knowledge management systems. Furthermore, Symptoma brings these tomes of knowledge, clearly and directly to a physician`s desktop as well as on a tablet so that Symptoma is fully functional on the move.
Jama demonstrates how Symptoma`s interface has been designed so that all the research results can be displayed neatly on a tablet or ipad. This has major advantages for mobility. Being a fully functional, mobile, diagnostic research tool, consider what this means for medical doctors working in remote areas. In Sudan or Syria physicians working with Medecins Sans Frontier often have limited research tools; with Symptoma they could quickly find what they need and use their skills and knowledge to treat patients urgently, saving hundreds if not thousands of lives. Jama touches upon this by saying that indeed MSF plays an important role regarding Symptoma`s roll-out strategy.
Striving for excellence and thoroughness, Jama`s dedication was such that, by 2007 when Click for Knowledge received their first start-up grant from the Business Creation Center (BCC) in Salzburg, he was simultaneously given opportunity to study for half a year at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut. Having been selected as one of the six from forty-three in the class, it was a chance he could not miss. With the two major opportunities running concurrently, he certainly had his work cut out for him. Nevertheless, he balanced starting up Click for Knowledge GmbH with his co-founder Thomas Lutz, as well as studying in Yale for half a year. He spoke candidly about his time there, “It was one of the best times of my life. It was so international, you felt European not Austrian or German. Furthermore, you were encouraged to accomplish something and that, you could, if you were really willing".
Jama, through experience realised that universities like Yale and Harvard can offer acceptance and support for new ideas and an incubator. “There is innovation in Europe, but it tends to focus on their own work. This distracts them somewhat from something new, it`s some disadvantage for some start-ups. So you don´t have the incubators supporting new ideas”.
In the US, the response was, “Wow, what a great idea, if you accomplish it, it would have a huge impact on medicine. If I could support you in anyway like give you contacts to whatever you need” However, back in Europe, the idea for Symptoma was met initially with some resistance. However, with the support of a start-up grant from BCC and Jama entering into active dialogue, full support was given. Enthusiasm grew, with now there is clear evidence that Symptoma not only works but is bringing great benefits to the medical community. The initial support may not have been forthcoming however, when there is space create an incubator, to nurture the idea then there is an opportunity for it to flourish. “So this is one of the differences between US and Europe; Austria and Germany specifically”.
The medical degree at Paracelsus Medical University took five years instead of six to seven, like schools in Germany. Such intensive study seems to have not only suited Jama, but also given him an insightful understanding of a physician’s needs, “Studies have shown that misdiagnoses occur mainly due to cognitive factors. This is hardly surprising. Physicians have to consider 20.000 diseases plus adverse drug reactions at any one time”.
Beyond Edifice for Start-ups
Such intensive medical training could be part of the reason why Click for Knowledge GmbH is so successful. They`ve doubled their revenue every year since 2009 by a multiple of nine. Furthermore, Symptoma is addressing a real need in the medical community, similar to the way Jama and Thomas identified the need earlier in the educational community. Symptoma is a viable product that has proven results on a global scale. However, Click for Knowledge GmbH seems to have stayed away from the start-up shine that currently gleams the horizon, particularly in the hi-tech. landscape. Re-investing into the growth of his enterprise, Jama is well aware of the challenges of the start-up world. When asked if he has advice to start-ups, Jama carefully responds by saying “It depends on what your goals are. Many of the underdogs are doing the work and adding a lot of value to their companies. The start-ups that the tech industry tend to talk about are often working on huge loses. This means that the focus often shifts and instead of being on the company`s social goals, it is on the investors goals and often there is a discrepancy. Unfortunately this means that the company`s sustainability suffers". Articulating the Click for Knowledge model he says, “What we have done is to find proof of the market before you develop too much, because then you can improve it. We had a minimum viable product, and we sold it before we had a website, and a name”.
Jama is keen to offer valuable and sustainable advice to start-ups by adding, "Instead of burning through cash and working on huge loses, it`s better to start with a small amount of funds, gradually adding real value and then scaling up to maybe an IPO. An Initial Public Offering”
Abbreviations pose another problem in medical research. “Abbreviations are one of the most common causes of medical errors. Often there is the same abbreviation for a couple of medical conditions". Jama thoughtfully ponders on this aspect. "There was a doctor that had read the history of a patient and thought that the abbreviation written meant Urinary Tract Infection, but actually, it meant Mycadual Infaction”, what most people commonly know as a Heart Attack. “He only saw the abbreviation and couldn`t decode it right. The medical knowledge management can be seen as being quite ancient". Symptoma does not use abbreviations. Physicians search for symptoms and find a list of differential diagnosis that are then weighed by probability for their patients (by age, sex and region). There is a more complete and specific display of results enables the doctor to make the correct diagnosis.
Through thorough research and analysis as well as trial and error Jama has evidently tested his judgements against the medical community and market. Through rigorous analysis and careful attention to detail and by applying scientific methods that are so necessary for a Physician, he has been able to create Symptoma that is innovative enough to be already making that impact in medicine so plainly needed. If we are to find solutions to health in the 21st century, with the cost of research and development becoming higher and resources increasingly scarce, Click for Knowledge GmbH may have the solution and resources to cope with this deficiency. Already modernising outmoded medical systems and working with upwardly mobile devices, there is new hope for the medical community to continue to find treatments for unidentified diseases and misdiagnoses. The positive ramifications for our future are endless as our environment changes so does our health requirements. Click for Knowledge GmbH is the vehicle to drive Symptoma that is at the cutting edge of invaluable medical research. Without such a research tool, we would be in danger of risking further misdiagnosis and have thousands of unidentifiable diseases. With such a tool there is hope of exploring and coping with the uncharted territory that is irrefutably unfolding before our eyes with countless climate changes, conflict zones, evolutionary differences and medical modifications. Perhaps with Click for Knowledge GmbH opening gateways to further interconnectivity and accessibility to knowledge, there is greater hope for sustainable solutions we so desperately need. Without it, knowledge may have deteriorated. Like precious old books locked away in an old chest up in a dusty attic without a key.
For further information on Click For Knowledge GmbH contact: Dr. med.univ. Jama Nateqi, Click for Knowledge GmbH, Jakob-Haringer-Str. 1 5020 Salzburg, Austria. www.clickforknowledge.com and www.symptoma.com.
This interview was initially conducted for Inventures. You can read that version here:
A German version of the text has been published here: Der Standard