Why Patient Success is a series from Luma staff about their experiences as patients and caregivers navigating the healthcare system.

“You have so much on your plate, but you’re also trying to spend time with your loved one and make things as normal as possible,” says Kashif Sheikh, a customer success manager at Luma. As a caregiver for both his father and his son, Kashif has experienced the difference that guidance and resources can make for families navigating serious health conditions. 

Kashif’s father Dr. Javed Hasan was a primary care physician who often provided extra medication to his Medicare and Medicaid patients at no out-of-pocket cost. “He had such a patient-centric view of healthcare,” Kashif said. When Dr. Hasan was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in 2013, “becoming his caregiver put that legacy into perspective.”

A family full of physicians and his father’s care team on speed dial helped ease some of the uncertainty of providing full-time care. “My Dad’s doctors even gave us their personal phone numbers,” said Kashif. “That was a comfort during a really challenging time.” 

Kashif’s next experience as a caregiver was quite different. His son Zayd was born with a rare genetic condition and spent much of his first year between the NICU and a bevy of specialists. “The entire first year, Zayd went to 4 appointments a week – a different doctor for each health issue.”

Managing Zayd’s health journey meant daily calls to different offices and hospitals, and multiple Excel spreadsheets to keep track of the details. “My wife Sara is a rockstar at planning, and she handled a lot of the day to day when I first went back to work – and after she returned to work herself as well,” said Kashif. “Our biggest struggle was coordination of care and figuring out referrals – it was a full-time job.” 

These experiences ultimately spurred a professional shift to healthcare. “When I started at Luma, things clicked,” said Kashif. “Patient access is incredibly important, and I see administrators light up when they’re able to communicate with patients more easily. It seems simple, but it really makes a difference.”

Kashif is driven to make a difference for other families in his work at Luma.

“Getting the care you need shouldn’t be a burden – needing care is enough stress in itself. My family has been so lucky to navigate this process with amazing healthcare resources, and with physicians in the family who can provide guidance,” Kashif said. “So many others don’t have those resources – we have to meet every patient where they are.” 

Why Patient Success is a series from Luma staff about their experiences as patients and caregivers navigating the healthcare system.

“I initially came to healthcare out of a passion for sports,” said Maggie Hanlon, senior manager of operations at Luma. “But it wasn’t until I sustained an injury during a sprint that I truly understood how hard it can be to navigate the healthcare journey as a patient.” 

From a young age, Maggie was interested in health from a sports perspective – she played soccer and was a competitive sprinter for a decade – and was excited by technology. “My brother convinced my parents that we needed a computer, even though that was uncommon in the early 90’s,” Maggie said. She eagerly switched majors to study health informatics after discovering the field at university, and gained hands-on experience working as a project analyst for the University Health Network in Toronto.

In 2015, during Maggie’s graduate program, she became a patient herself after tearing her meniscus. “I got the impression the orthopedic surgery I needed would be no big deal, but I wasn’t prepared for how intense recovery would be,” Maggie said. “I realized I didn’t know how to gauge normal symptoms of recovery or when to call my doctor.”

She recalled scheduling a treatment for her knee before commuting to work, not realizing that she’d be in significant pain later that afternoon. “I could have planned ahead and scheduled things differently if I had known,” she said. 

Her mum flew to Toronto to help Maggie take care of daily tasks after surgery, but recovery took longer than expected, and Maggie struggled after her mum returned home. “I needed someone to check in and ask ‘how’s your pain level?’ or ‘how is your wound healing?’, but there was no patient-to-provider texting,” she said. “If I needed to get in touch with my doctor, it was by phone calls.” The experience showed Maggie firsthand how much patients rely on hands-on guidance from their care teams. 

At Luma, Maggie has made it her mission to get the right information to patients. “When I started as a customer success manager, I realized that the right technology and processes could improve experiences like mine,” she said. Her experiences as a project analyst, and a patient herself, have helped her build workflows and technology to meet customers’ unique needs. “I love technology and computers, but I’m always trying to keep the patient’s real-life experience top of mind,” Maggie said. 

“Patient Success is thinking about what we can do for a patient’s care journey, instead of leaving it to them to be engaged,” Maggie said. In her operations role, she’s dedicated to helping patients be more successful across the Luma community. “Anything we can do to make other peoples’ lives easier, and in a way that scales, that’s powerful.” 

Why Patient Success is a series from Luma staff about their experiences as patients and caregivers navigating the healthcare system.

“On a daily basis, something in our manual system fell through the cracks,” said Kristin Bowen, RN, about her past work as an oncology nurse. “I loved the patient care side – my patients often became like family – but I’d wake up in the middle of the night worried I’d forgotten to fax in a patient’s cardiology referral or give them important instructions written on one of my hundreds of sticky notes.” 

Kristin split her workdays between direct care and helping her patients navigate their next steps, including tests, referrals to other specialists, new cancer treatments, and anything else that arose during their healthcare journey. Details were documented manually, which meant hundreds of sticky notes to track.

She remembers having to choose between completing her manual follow-ups and teaching a much-anticipated class about what first-time chemotherapy patients and their families could expect.  “The paperwork was overwhelming at times, and meant that I spent more time managing paperwork than caring for my patients,” Kristin said. “It felt like a disservice when I needed to cancel the class, but at the end of the day, coordinating patient services took priority.”

Eventually, patients felt the direct impact of an inefficient system. “When patients with GI cancers were scheduled for surgery, they were handed a piece of paper with a long list of prep instructions. If a patient missed a step, the surgery sometimes had  to be rescheduled at the last minute. That meant unused OR time for the hospital, and it was extremely frustrating for the patient, who likely took time off or had family in town to help with recovery.”

After 10 years in direct patient care, Kristin decided to make a difference in other ways, working in policy advocacy and research with Medicaid before joining the Luma team.
As a customer success manager, Kristin sees the impact of technology on clinical outcomes. “Patients are just people trying to live their lives,” she said. “They don’t have unlimited time or energy for repeat trips to the pharmacy or daily calls for their place on the waitlist. I love knowing that when I take a manual task off a nurse’s plate, it means they’re able to make life easier for their patients. I wish I had something like Luma when I was a nurse!”

Why Patient Success is a series from Luma staff about their experiences as patients and caregivers navigating the healthcare system.

“I’d been experiencing symptoms for weeks before I mentioned anything to my doctor. I was in a lot of pain, but I thought it was normal,” said Ashley Gordon, who leads technical documentation at Luma Health. In late 2018, Ashley started experiencing abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, which her OBGYN diagnosed as a symptom of a large uterine fibroid.

Only after her diagnosis – over a year after incapacitating symptoms began – did Ashley discover that uterine fibroids are a common condition affecting 20-70 percent of women during their reproductive years. “There are a lot of conditions that women don’t always talk about or get diagnosed with,” said Ashley.

For Ashley, open communication was vital during her treatment and eventual surgery. She says the ability to message her provider’s office with questions was both convenient and reassuring. On the other hand, when her ultrasound results were released early, “no one reached out, and I panicked.” Ashley said. “I read the results but didn’t understand what they meant for me and my care journey. I didn’t know what to do.”

Ashley is feeling better since her 2019 surgery, but she still feels a sense of vigilance and urgency around her health. “Every month, I’m still concerned,” she said. “Am I bleeding heavier than usual? What is normal supposed to be? And who do I talk to about this, if needed?”

The experience validated Ashley’s mission as a technical writer at Luma Health. She’s passionate about playing a part in keeping communication candid and open between patients and providers.

“Messaging was so valuable for me as a patient – anytime I needed to reach my doctor, I could send a quick message. It’s been meaningful for me to be able to work with the product team at Luma on features like patient-initiated texting, so that patients can stay in touch with their providers. I love using my writing skills to improve the lives of doctors and (especially) patients.” 

Ashley encourages anyone experiencing health concerns or symptoms of any kind to communicate with their care teams and feel confident in advocating for themselves. 

“Patient Success is about empowering patients to have control over their healthcare journey – especially those who might not feel comfortable speaking up,” Ashley said. “I saw firsthand how important that was in my own healthcare journey.”