Q&A With MyLiferaft Founder, Nicola Murgatroyd
A successful business entrepreneur, Nicola set up the first centralised electronic clinical trial records solution for the pharmaceutical industry in 1998 (leaving in 2011). As a mother, Nicola’s 1st hand knowledge of looking after her daughter Faith, who had multiple complex special needs, created a desire to make sure other parents and carers in her position were better supported. MyLiferaft started taking shape in 2014 and is now a successful personal management solution for care and health data belonging to the person, with data being owned by the person and shared with the care circle as well as health and social care professionals as required.
What was the driving force behind developing MyLiferaft?
Wanting to help make the lives of those who are caring for someone, or themselves, better. I’ve had first-hand experience of how exhausting it can be – people struggle on in a heroic way. It’s time to ensure that we use modern technology to help with care, and to help streamline services.
In your experience what was one of the biggest challenges you faced as a parent with a daughter who had complex special needs?
Balancing the needs of the whole family. When one member of the family necessarily requires huge amounts of additional time and energy, exhaustion quickly kicks in.
You mention about the constant repeating of information when visiting different specialists; how crucial was this in developing MyLiferaft?
It’s distressing, invasive and tiring to have to go over painful, very personal, information to strangers. I had to re-live the moment of learning that my daughter had been born with a profound disability over and over as each new professional came into the resulting large circle of people around us. With MyLiferaft, all that information is held in the system, ready to share without it bringing back the emotional pain quite so much. Crucially, up-to-date care information is also available ensuring continuity of care. With my daughter, I carried all the intellectual knowledge of her ways, likes, dislikes and how to look after her with me, either on paper but mostly in my head – with MyLiferaft this information can be captured in real time and relayed to others wherever you are. I’ve seen avoidable distress – people who are already in such a painful place, emotionally, physically or both, suffer even though everyone around them wants to do their best for them but can’t because they are just not aware. With Liferaft, carers get a better chance too, information is key to successful caring.
The Sofia’s Story video tells a strong message; was this based on your own experiences?
To an extent, yes it was and when I saw it for the first time, I realised how true and powerful it is. We wanted to show visually how one person’s disability can affect so many people and how MyLiferaft can help bring all those people together through using an online system with the individual at the centre.
What was your background before launching MyLiferaft; what skills helped you?
For most of my life I was a stay at home Mum, though I had been given a good background in business before that working for the family firm. I was a bit of a late developer, and began my previous business in my forties. It was very fast growing and successful, and meeting unexpected challenges was a daily occurrence. Through looking after my daughter, I had developed good coping strategies, these without doubt helped me in my demanding business life.
Have there been any unexpected challenges when you launched MyLiferaft?
Communicating the requirements of a specialist product to the Software Developers who have to build it! Luckily, Matthew, our CTO, is brilliant at taking our ideas and translating them to the software team.
What have been the highs?
Working with a brilliant team, and seeing thoughts develop into a really good, useful product.
How do you see the portal developing?
What we have now is only the beginning – we are already working on accessibility, voice (Alexa) capability, and making condition specific versions, and have expanded the capability to self-populate forms such as Disability Living Allowance.
You are very active in your local community with local charities, can you tell us a bit about this?
When possible, I take my Carriage Driving pony (Fred) to the Isle of Wight Driving for the Disabled group where people enjoy forgetting about their disability for a while as they take the reins and trot around the beautiful grounds of Osbourne House. I also support my colleague Gail, who works tirelessly with Pat A Happy Pony – we actually take my cute little miniature Shetlands into care homes and the faces of the residents are a delight to see!