Lessons from Building an Open Source Quality Community with Gill Berry


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Gillian Berry is a qualified clinical nurse specialist and founder of PerCen Technologies. She founded PerCen Technologies in response to challenges she felt were not addressed in Healthcare. It’s aim is to use scientific knowledge and the latest technologies to compliment clinical evidence based practice. PerCen Technologies is supported by the first national Health Innovation Hub of Ireland. 

We love seeing healthcare innovation coming out of Ireland, so we had to talk to Gill.  ;) 

Gill shares her takeaways after co-founding one of the first open source efforts in response to the Covid19 pandemic, the Open Source ventilator project and the Open Source Volunteers Extended network. She managed over 1,000 STEM  professional volunteers, academic institutions, SME’s and Multi-National’s and facilitated 30 projects with a transfer of knowledge and skills. 

It’s amazing what can be accomplished when we network, open source ideas, and collaborate together. Gillian’s story and lessons learned about the power of a network are certainly inspiring and applicable today.


Show notes

Music by keldez


Robert Fenton: [00:00:20] I'm really excited to welcome Gill Berry as a guest at our From Lab to Launch podcast today. Gill is a qualified clinical nurse specialist and some are for more recent roles include working in education, practice development, facilitation and project management. Gill is driven by quality, patient safety, and person centered care.

She holds an HDip and CCU nursing, PGD infection prevention and control, PGC and clinical trials management and pharmaceutical medicine, and PGC and medical affairs in pharmaceutical medicine. She also has certifications in quality and safety. With this knowledge, Joe founded PerCEN technologies in 2019 and response to challenges that she felt were not being addressed in healthcare.

They are supported by the first national HIHI call by health innovation hub in Ireland. It was set up to create person centered, innovative solutions to clinical unmet needs. Its aim is to use scientific knowledge and latest technologies to compliment clinical evidence-based practice. Let's bring Gill in.


Thank you for being part of the journey and for sticking with us through all the past year.

Uh, I guess the first thing I'd love to understand is could you tell me a bit more about I believe it's pronounced PerCen Technologies the company, you started it in 2019.

Gill Berry: [00:01:35] So P E R capital P and CEN with the capital C. So it's PerCen technologies. Basically it can be pronounced person, but it's person centered. So it represents person centric. Yep

Robert Fenton: [00:01:46] Obvious when you know the answer. So tell me, tell me what made you, what made you start the company?

Gill Berry: [00:01:51] I suppose I've been in healthcare for nearly 25 years at this stage Robert and I had been working on lots of innovations as an intrepreneur within the system at the HSC, which is our public sector health area or health boards. And I'd been working on many different projects in my own time as well.

And one particular one was electronic risk assessment and screening. the common denominator for the electronic risk assessments and screening two was the person's wage. So it became, I suppose, looking at the innovation as. You know, most people's weights were being done. And on there once the electronic assessment has been adopted, it was very good, but there was a cohort of patients who were not being adapted to.

And one of them, it was actually the immobile patients, the patient in the bed who couldn't actually be weighed conveniently easily. So I was looking to see whether there was any improvements in, in relation to weighing the patient and there wasn't and I had been kind of had that been my bond for a while.

And I submitted that to our national health innovation hope in Ireland, you know, basically saying this is a need and a want, and I'm like everything else in life you're going to, if you want to do something advisors, do you have to do it yourself. Yeah so I started collaborating then with Tindall institution, which, who you would know, Dan and Clark to make it to do, to do a proof of concepts for a particular device.

Now that's, I'm not sitting on hold, it's put at the minute, you know, it needs would need major R and D and investment to go further.  But I suppose that's kind of why. And in order to get the collaboration as well, I have to set up a company in order to get some European funding for Tyndall institution.

So that's, that's, that's the story behind that one.

Robert Fenton: [00:03:40] Ah, and I want to rewind a small bit because you're talking about the, the act of weighing people as if it was some complex endeavor. And I think you've mentioned for immobile patients, that's clearly a bit more complex of stepping on the scales is how it's done today.

Like just stepping on the scales. That's pretty much it?

Gill Berry: [00:03:57] Well there's lots of variables Roberts. It would be, you know,

Robert Fenton: [00:04:01] not to nerd out too much on this now but yeah.

Gill Berry: [00:04:04] Yeah, no, no, it's fine. Uh, for somebody who wants to step on the scale, that's fine. If they can do it, if they have the gait and the balance, but for other people might be stroked, might be on bed rest and might be burns.

You name it. It's not that simple. So then there's the hoist system, which you probably would have seen a hoist in your day. It's like a huge hammock that you put on during quite  undignified. And that is a huge issue in itself. So I suppose it's not as simple as say, and I see. 10% of people who go into hospital are malnurished in terms of sense of the population.

So in order to get the risk assessment for that, you really need accurate weight. And unfortunately, you know, there are other models where beds can be weighed, et cetera, but they're not readily available. And it's not only healthcare that needs. It's just people at home. You know, keeping people well enough at home, it's a huge need as well. So that  that's why I set up PerCen as per se. what, as I said, that stops the beginning of the story, the story hasn't finished there.

Robert Fenton: [00:05:07] Well, thank you for sharing that. And I wanted to pause on that because it sounds like such a trivial thing that some of us do a lot. Some of us don't do very often, but we all know what it's like to weigh ourselves. And it's, you often forget in the healthcare setting that these things are far from simple, right? You have all these edge cases that you have to solve for. That's when I had never, ever thought about myself, but now that you've said it, it seems incredibly obvious. So thanks for sharing. And you're doing that.

And you were working in like you're in a nursing career in various areas until that moment that that's correct.

Gill Berry: [00:05:38] Yeah. Yeah. So I took a career break from my, my position of presence that my position to present was nurse practice development, which would be absolutely everything from policy formation to education, basically ensure an evidence-based practice is in, you know, in everyday practice.

And even though it was nursing, it was also multidisciplinary along the lines. That was my last role. Yeah

Robert Fenton: [00:06:01] in Ireland, I think nursing has been transforming an awful lot that you said, you know, about 25 years of experiencing nursing's property, a great launchpad to experience different areas, because I think it's transformed a lot in, in my lifetime in Ireland and a lot of different avenues to explore and get experienced.

So it's great to see it come out and say things like this that you're at, you're able to do. So your nursing career. You started PerCen technologies to work on that project with the Tyndall Institute and  Cork, I have to keep mentioning Cork every time I can. Uh, I can't help it. So you started that. Uh, you're also working with the open-source ventilator group with the Empower Her Network in Ireland as well.

So maybe, maybe getting to the next thing. How did you go from all of that to working with open source ventilator group? It feels like you have more than 160 hours in your week?

Gill Berry: [00:06:49] Uh, it was pretty much like that for, for the beginning of the pandemic push, I suppose I was I'll step back. The Empower Her program was actually my first little touch base.

So I'm not actually working with the empower. I actually was a participant on the Empower Her program. So that would have been my first. You know, stepping stone into entrepreneurship. So as I was working in the hospital and, and thinking about taking a career break, they had started the Empower Her program in the West of Ireland.

It was part of the, yeah, so it was promoting female entrepreneurs in the West of Ireland. And it's where you just kind of had a guided education. So it was one day a week. I signed to go to that program. so that. That that comes from the Empower Her I am part of that network as well, in terms of female entrepreneurship in Ireland, and I would coordinate the alumni for EIT health, which is a European,  kind of innovation technology group as well.

So in, in healthcare. So that's kind of where I suppose I am. and then obviously PerCen technologies as well, and, and trying to, as I say time, Trying to loose ends. The open source ventilator group. We actually started initially and they were looking at the ventilator group and I was helping a few different groups at that stage.

And, but within a week of the ventilator group, I suppose, it's not that I broke free. We kind of have to make a choice. The ventilation is all from Morton's and look, I have over. 15-16 years of cardiac coronary care experience. So I absolutely know what a, what a ventilator is needed for, but unfortunately, if you don't have staff or if you don't have facilities that don't have tools you know, that's the end game you don't actually, it's not that you don't need the ventilator, there's other important things we could do to stop the chain of infection.

So I would have created the OSVX, which was the, everything other than the ventilator. So I put together a brief. Because I have different strings to my bow. I would be specialized in infection prevention and control coronary care, as I've mentioned before, clinical trials management,  in pharmaceutical medicine and medical affairs quality.

So a lot of those areas kind of combined, especially with the infection control to actually put together a process. So early March had put together a process sounds ridiculous but by 45 projects or briefs, where if we had people or facilities, we could actually work on them. So it was everything from Corvette.

We called it. Like education right through to PP, true to the fluid off which Qualio and everything has been involved with. and, and other, you know, contact tracing, for frontline users and patient interaction too. So we actually had, we put together like 45 things that could help that we knew we could do.

You know, using the smart scale and you could do under quality regime. so, and that's what happened. And we had 1500 volunteers  came on board the back door through Twitter, through LinkedIn. And actually we ended up working as much as we could on this money, those projects that were valuable, you know to bring forward, we weren't going down the route of reagents or anything like that.

And because it was, you know, companies and. Major leads you in those things. So we weren't going to go into that space regulatory, but we were doing as much as we could possibly do. Yeah.

Robert Fenton: [00:10:12] I'm just looking at your site as, as you're saying that, and like face shields, face masks make an airway support and biohazard suits, ice shields.

These are all the things that were just as such short supply and enormous cross geo work went into coordinating the supply chain. So being able, I think that's a really huge thing. You folks stayed to train to help.

Gill Berry: [00:10:37] Yeah. we did And that the website really doesn't take that. Doesn't take onus on it.

Cause we didn't have OSPX ourselves didn't have full ownership on that website. So a lot of this projects we finish. They wouldn't even be off that they, you know, they haven't frequented on thought they would've went direct to source direct to, you know, procurement people just are different heads of quality and in different organizations.

Um, so actually that website, unfortunately, you know, if, if there was no fires in a day, I'd love to put something completely new up there. 

Robert Fenton: [00:11:06] Probably not the best use of your time.

Gill Berry: [00:11:08] Yeah. Yeah, it does. It doesn't, it doesn't really, it, it reflects a certain amount, but it doesn't reflect the overall and the outcomes.

It's the outcomes that are being reflected. You know, some of the stuff was really, really good laundry processes, fluid apps. They're not even up there, but yeah.

Robert Fenton: [00:11:24] So there's so much in that I could spend hours. But maybe start with telling me, how did you possibly work in a team that large? And we see things like this as an open source, like software products, right.

But they tend to happen over time and it's not life and death. If it doesn't work, it's, you know, some something that gets built into developer community, how did 1500 people collaborate in all these different areas?

Gill Berry: [00:11:48] Yeah, no, I suppose the 1500 or people joined, to be honest with you, we probably had about 400 just working continuously.

Yeah. Yeah. So we broke it down. And so every, and I was so fortunate because Roshen lyons as well. She actually, she helped me. Collaborate and set up the Slack channel. so I was very, very fortunate. and Tim was another guy who actually came in and he was the community coordinator as such. So every project we had, we put two project managers on.

So we started off with a full brief for each thing. So, you know, the reason behind us. You know why we wanted, et cetera, et cetera. And then we ended up just bringing groups of people levitated to what they kind of liked naturally the starting Slack channel was all about communication. So we had 60,000 entries in the Slack channel onto the Slack on could, we could not afford to pay the subscription fee, but we had 60,000 entries in the Slack channel.

So we actually had. Two project managers assigned to each Slack channel that was actually taking leverage. Not all of the projects took leverage naturally enough. and then from that meant that if anyone was off, if anyone's sick, cause anyone was gone back to work, this was in the lockdown period as well.

So if people wanted something to do, people wanted to help. Not everybody. And the lot, most were from engineering. So it was engineering. It was  mainly STEAM. So it was like science, engineering crossover with art and technology. So it was a very, very interesting mix of people we had on. And it was basically for some people, it was their lifeline.

And then for others, it was just, they just really wanted to help. And they get two, three hours a week, but some people actually give days and days, 18 hours a day in my case which was nuts.

Robert Fenton: [00:13:37] I'm still not sure. I understand how you managed to make it all. All work, but just congrats on that. That's a huge, huge undertaking.

And you've gotten how many projects are now like available for people to actually get into the community for use.

Gill Berry: [00:13:52] Yeah. See that. I mean, I don't mean that there, with where the channel, the challenge lies, you know, five or six big projects, there were submission to quality improvement teams, et cetera. I know lots of  I can't even quantify cause I know, you know, Teams from New Zealand in different parts of the world actually had used our  education.

And it's not that we just didn't have the capacity for follow-up. And so, but I know five or six, really, really good projects went to our own organizations in Ireland, which I would say, yeah, they did. No, they didn't follow through on some of them. And I know for a fact, You know, we are in a very challenging state in Ireland at the moment, as you're probably aware, I know some of them were, some of the projects would have been very helpful.

They were used in nursing homes that were used in, in, in various other areas. You know, our contact and tracing frontline users were adopted by the company that was helping us. They ended up adopting them for like sports where people for, for nursing homes for, for boxing societies, you name it. So, regardless.

I think we were really, it wasn't about products. It was about cross getting the knowledge base there. So we were like knowledge exchange and a skills exchange as well as everything else. So lots of PhDs come out with lots of individuals brought that other stuff people dropped in and dropped out and they did take a lot of information.

. I couldn't quantify exactly what has come out of it but  a lot has come out of Robert.

Robert Fenton: [00:15:22] So where does it go from here? Do you think?

Gill Berry: [00:15:26] To be totally honest with you after six months, it had had burned. I don't mean burnt out. People had got to that certain stage and the original, you know the ventilator group there, they were tech because we weren't in the incorporation group.

They kind of, you know I suppose. The time was, was done in it, but for other projects that we continued, including the fluid up, we continued to collaborate off site because every time you entered in Slack, you were actually removing other information you had there. So we continued  a lot of it off, off the Slack site.

So we were more than a Slack channel that we were, you know, we were a proper community. So for the likes of the fluids, Fluids up that was done as a cross-collaboration with, with healthcare, with the Irish Heart Foundation. I mean, the app itself was ourselves, you know, on OSVX, but it was, it was definitely a cross collaboration and that's continued offsite. as it were along with a few other projects,

Robert Fenton: [00:16:24] Any, any lessons learned, stand out now, looking back, knowing that it's almost a year ago, this all began.

Gill Berry: [00:16:32] Oh, yeah. Loads, loads of lessons learned. Do you want a list? Oh my gosh  look, people genuinely are absolutely fantastic. I mean, we even, you know, in terms of leadership and that, you know, we, we seen everything from empathy, transparency, the most wonderful people, you as OSVX.

Um, and I'm not joking here. We had like, over. The biker group BCT so, which is Bravo. Charlie Tango was formed out of our group on day two. I'm not sure if you know, you've seen any of this. and then Mary was mus Serola and she joined us as well. So, so the people. The power of the people in the community in Ireland was absolutely amazing.

Um, but you did have one or two, you know other other things mightn't have been as good, but I would say if you, if yeah, to, to start something like this, again, you need ownership, you need ownership, honest, and, and then an added on Slack channel doesn't make ownership and it's not about control by any means.

It's about, you know, Accountability. and all of those things you need to ensure you have quality kind of set up. so that's probably all I change. Uh, you know,

Robert Fenton: [00:17:50] that's good. I thought I was getting coffee here, but no, that's good.

Gill Berry: [00:17:55] Yeah. So maybe not even a cup of coffee, maybe we need something stronger for, for a realist


Robert Fenton: [00:18:00] 10:00 AM here in the Bay area. So it's a bit early for me some other time.

Gill Berry: [00:18:05] Yeah, I got teetotal for a while as well, you know, after the Christmas. Cause yeah, look. You know, I suppose  would we do it all again? Absolutely. But I would, I would say a little bit more, not, no, we did collaborate with health service and they asked us to do projects, but they were in a fire and they didn't, you know

Robert Fenton: [00:18:27] The whole world was on fire

Gill Berry: [00:18:29] Yeah. Yeah. So look, I won't go, I won't go into that one too much  but we had, you know, there was, there were challenges and there was definitely challenges, but there was, there was more good things and challenges.

Robert Fenton: [00:18:43] So it's like you're describing some of the common challenges of open source projects, right.

And many don't work out long-term because they don't solve some of those things you just mentioned, then the ones that solve for these things off often, I think do work. Yeah, but it's about what's happening in the world right now, is, is that a lot of the lessons learned in, in just pure the pure software world or over the last few decades is now starting to translate itself over to healthcare.

And I believe there are going to be a lot more of open source type projects like this. And I think it's really exciting to see a you're the first one I came across and, and considering the amount of people you had come in and out, I think it was a lot of great lessons learned that people involved in this we're going to have a lot of opportunity to.

Be part of future programs to kick off,  so I think it's fantastic.

Gill Berry: [00:19:33] Absolutely. And anyone that came into OSVX, I have to say genuinely anyone that anyone that came in as a newbie were absolutely, you know, we all have the same values. We all have the same fear is, I mean, the value was the patient at the end of the day, not just the patient, the person , the community, saving lives.

Um, and the biggest fear we all had the fear of the pandemic and the virus, and we knew, I mean, we were at vacation and with the education I just on, on, on my face masks, Back in March, we had even face mask I saw back in may. I mean, these are, this was unheard of anywhere else. We were advocating that the very early stage, and we were looking at all different information that was coming from all the different countries.

Um, so, you know, we had a bit of a lobbyist group going without being political, but we did, we did try our best, you know You know, definitely. And even from the beginning process, it would have about borders closing and everything else.  So the reason I'm saying that as we all have the same values, we all have the same fears and that's what made us really, really strong community.

Robert Fenton: [00:20:41] Looking back on the experience and. And knowing that under the assumption that what you folks have done is one of the first times, right. In healthcare, this is kicking off, but it's going to happen more and more. Any advice you'd have for others outside of what you've shared already, who were interested in doing something similar in future?

Well, I hadn't thought that one, but do you know what the funny thing is Robert? I've had about  five or six different calls from different people that were, are setting up something similar now and now for the future, going ahead and not because of pandemic and they're not looking at the infection control or anything like that.

Gill Berry: [00:21:13] And just in general, and a lot of them are actually financed by universities throughout Europe. And I've had one from the U S as well. And. It does seem to be, they've actually called me and said, look, it looks like you've already formed what we're trying to do for the last number of years. And I said, it just happened because it was an age.

Um, and I think people, you create people wanting to help or join or support when that need is there. And it's, they're right in their face. I don't know. There'll be periods of time where people are just wrecked and they're tired from, all this giving and, you know, and then there's lots of other exchanges.

So I suppose  the question you asked me again, was what.

Yeah. Any

Robert Fenton: [00:21:56] advice, any advice? What did you share with those people who called you?

Gill Berry: [00:22:00] I suppose, just to make sure you know, that first we had. Uh, so OSVX everybody in our group, in the groups that joined in, we were all valued equally, and that is hugely important.

However, we didn't have our own ownership on what we had done, you know, on those 30 or 40 projects. And I would advise obviously to have a structure in place, but yet have the  the shared ownership, but have to have a structure in place. because legally and otherwise, you know, you cannot continue.

You can't, you know, we done this all on, . I won't say ear, you know, but we did. And for even the likes of Qualio come in and help us and support us in any way. I mean, you were there. If 40 projects were gone to market, you were there to support us with the 40 different projects of the different abilities, whether it be looking at software, whether we were looking at hardware and whether we were looking at physical medical device.

You were there for us. And we also equally had lots of other groups that came in to help and support us. Cause we had, we had Steam organizations. We had research centers, we had universities come to us. We had companies, you know, in the very early stages when we had no gowns which is part of PPE it's, you know, the overall gown that you were, there was no gowns in Ireland, or there was very little gowns and there was flights coming from China.

And unfortunately those gowns were not fit for purpose. And we, at that point had. We've been asked by our health area or health procurement to work on gowns it was not one of my things because I had no intention to go down the road to gowns.. I, I, it was just something I wasn't going, you know, in, in, in the projects we stopped.

It's not that we stopped everything. We set up, we done gowns, we had six companies test roofing material to see if the material was compatible with gowns, whether it's on everything, . And I'm talking about huge companies. I don't know if they'd want to be mentioned here or not, but I'm talking about multi international companies that were willing.

And with co we had taught, we actually had companies willing to switch over from wool to actually textiles. With other companies that was testing this for, you know, the piece of there, we're testing this for, you know for the, the material itself, making sure that it was Virgin material, you know, you name it.

Um, so that's, I know I've gone off on a tangent, but that was the level of stuff we done. And that was, that was early April and we had a test and we had to solution and we actually had a design that came from a nurse. Friends of mine and anesthetics in the, in the U S that was FDA approved and lovely hoods and everything else, but it wasn't approved in Ireland as in not approved.

That just says we don't need that here, but now unfortunately, they're looking to up the PPE value. So, so I don't, I don't know, I suppose where I brought that tangent on, but that was the level of stuff we done. I mean, that was the amount of collaboration we had. It's amazing.

Robert Fenton: [00:25:11] You know, from what you've shared and I didn't get to ask you much about kind of what influenced you growing up that might've led you to be such a self star to root with a lot of this, but I feel like it sounds like just get started if I was to, if I was to summarize everything I've learned from this chat, you've been awesome.

Thank you for taking some time and speaking with me today, before we finish up is there anything you'd like to share about kind of PerCen technologies, anything, a place people should go to read more, or if there's anything you'd like us to kind of share on the show notes, um you can let me know.

Gill Berry: [00:25:40] Absolutely. I just say, watch the space. Anyone who wants to link in with me on LinkedIn I'm Gillian Barry, Ireland on LinkedIn and but for PerCen technologies. Yeah. It's watch the space. The fluid up is on PerCen technologies just as I suppose, you know, for, for regulatory purposes.  Yeah, watch the space, the future.

The future is there and I'm not sure exactly how I lead with PerCen but you know, it's opened my eyes to, of the capabilities I have. but I know I not a business person. That's my only downfall. 

Robert Fenton: [00:26:19] We never, are from the start.

Gill Berry: [00:26:21] Not a money magnet.

Robert Fenton: [00:26:22] It's it's a learned a, learned a skill. Thank you so much for taking the time I've loved this .

Please keep in touch and we'll add your LinkedIn on the show notes. If that's okay with you with a little note on, on that, as well as to people that can easily find you and reach out  when they'll listen to the podcast.

Gill Berry: [00:26:38] Perfect. Thank you, Robert. I have to say on behalf of Team OSV and especially  OSVX and the Irish Heart Foundation, and everybody else that has been involved with the fluids up and all the other different projects I'd like to thank Qualio because you really have, you know, you put our minds at ease on that, you know, to have a quality mechanism is just amazing. So thank you.

Robert Fenton: [00:27:03] Well, thank you for saying that. It means a lot to hear it. Have a great evening, stay safe and thank you so much.

Gill Berry: [00:27:08] Thank you. Take care. Bye bye.



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