I’ve been having some interesting conversations recently about communications recently and how it has the possibility to fundamentally change the patient/provider relationship in the healthcare industry. This, ironically hot on the heels of a government announcement that the UK NHS Care.data scheme is going to be scrapped, although it seems that some sort of scheme will continue, likely under a new brand.
I spend much of my free time volunteering with St John Cymru Wales and so I thought it was an ideal time to talk to some of my colleagues who are healthcare professionals what they thought of this news. After all, we’re all familiar with the range of cutting edge communications available to everyone at their fingertips these days and I’ve seen several of them make reference to online reference guides on their mobiles when checking patient conditions.
What I wasn’t prepared for were some of the answers. Take a colleague of mine, a Doctor in an NHS hospital. He had recently seen a patient in a pre-hospital setting (i.e. a first aid tent at an event!) and had referred the patient to A&E for further treatment. When he got in to work the following week, he wanted to follow up with this patient (having already had agreement from the patient to do so) and so checked the hospital records – it was likely that this patient would be being referred into his department anyway. I was surprised to find out that the couldn’t access his patient’s records from A&E – in fact this was normal. A&E used a different system that didn’t interoperate with the main system and so to pass the details of the treatment to his department, A&E would write a letter detailing the treatment and send it through internal mail – an actual paper letter.
There were plenty more stories like this of IT inefficiencies in the healthcare sector, all the more shocking given the prevalence of high-quality and efficient IT systems elsewhere. When I described a recent article by a friend of mine, which described a US company offering video consultations with doctors, they were amazed.
It’s conversations like this that have help drive innovation in SIPHON. We have a diverse group of people working for us and by getting out there an understanding the industries around us and how they work – and moreover empowering our staff to come back to the company with an idea – we achieve a better understanding of the problems that the end users face. We have these conversations with our customers too – where we dive deep into the specifics of how end customers work – not only in relation to the systems available but also in more generic terms. By being informed we can help spot ways of working that people hadn’t considered before.
Interestingly, I’ve seen a big push on this sort of “workplace focus” over the past 6 months, but this sort of “shared understanding” (a term that developers who practice User Story Mapping are intimately familiar with) is really key to services and products “sticking” in an environment. People really don’t care about technology, they care about time and effort. Anything that helps give them more time with less effort will be regarded well. If all it takes is a little conversation and some thought, are you putting enough effort into establishing a shared understanding of your customers problems?