On Friday, I attended an event where I learned about the Perfect Patient Pathway – I will call it PPP, or perhaps 3P for short, as it is a little bit of a mouthful, although entertaining in an alliterative sort of way.
The event, run by the Good Things Foundation focused on examining the ways in which those working in health and social care use, relate, understand and promote technology.
One of the first interesting aspects of the event was revealed in a table-top exercise where we expressed our feelings in relation to tech – unsurprisingly, many of us reflected the negative or downside – feelings** of alienation, disempowerment, fear and risk – when the internet goes bad, toxic websites, data scams, the superficiality, exclusivity and competitiveness of the next new gadget; despite this, the majority (in fact, all of us) in the room spend most of our lives immersed in technology – from the electricity that powers our toothbrushes to the kettle, microwave or Satnav; none of us were digital natives, but most of us have gone native.
The purpose of the lesson was to let us examine how much we are dependent on tech, although more specifically, to demonstrate how our lives are simplified, improved, streamlined by technology.
For most of human history the fastest a person could move was the speed of a horse – the modern world would be inconceivable without the cars which bring with them all the fun of commuting, holidaying and road-tripping (and crashes, pollution & congestion).
So, if we, those living in and benefiting from technology integrate devices into our lives with such facility that we struggle to move from A to B without the help of Google Maps, why do we not do more to support or at least encourage our patients to become digital?
We talked a little about barriers – with most people expressing that in healthcare, although there are the traditional obstacles that some might perceive – old folk struggling to remember control-alt-delete or, upgrade to the latest iOS, for example, the most frustrating and limiting obstacle most of us (that is, health and social care professions) encounter is the antediluvian relationship the NHS has to technology and Information Governance. ***
I have written about the fax absurdity before – the way in which I see a patient in clinic, dictate a letter electronically which is then typed by my secretary who prints it and posts it through the mail to a GP surgery where it is scanned into a different system before being seen by the GP.
You see, email is considered unsafe. Dodgy websites, phone-lines, data storage mechanisms – all threats, real or imagined that keep us buying Fax cartridges from Staples.
One of the demonstrations I provided to the room was the use of WhatsApp within my team in Mallard Ward – we have used this tech for a couple of years (we were early adopters, I believe :-)). Communicating where things have gone wrong and right, celebrations and appreciations, reminders to be mindful of hand hygiene or documentation from scrupulous healthcare assistants help maintain a healthy ecosystem that ultimately provides fantastic, high-quality, safe, patient care.
The takeaway message? Do something! Reduce the glacial divide between technology and patient care. Acknowledge the ability of people young and old to take advantage of their own health and wellbeing through technology. See it as a partnership. Know your conditions – explore and learn – get informed! Challenge the doctor or nurse, ask questions, don’t remain passive in your relationship, adopt the power of the net to shrink the hierarchy.
Not all tech is good, much isn’t useful. We can however collaborate, become ambassadors for the future.
The present and the future are all about people, human relationships, connection and communication. The latest gadget from Microsoft or Apple cannot replace this, even when the robots begin to talk and dance, they will still be machines. Cutlery is a technological advance on using our fingers, let’s apply this wisdom to health and care and see where we can go.
* I haven’t really talked much about the 3P – I’ll come back to this in a later blog once I have learned more.
*Which makes an interesting question… How do you feel about technology vs what do you think about it… different sides of the brain – different perceptions perhaps?
** Referred to twice on the day as ‘behemoth’.
This Blog is mindfully dedicated to our number one healthcare assistant Michelle Appleton.