How precious are your ideas?

There’s a famous saying that “Ideas are cheap, execution is everything”.

Having lived through some moments where my ideas were instantly ‘adopted’ elsewhere, rapidly proliferating, while I was still dragging my feet around it, living in a cocoon of grandiosity. It was clear that while I was thinking about those ideas, perhaps thousands, if not millions of people were having the very same idea. Unfortunately what matters is how those ideas are translated into reality.

The culture of sharing ideas must be cultivated. Breaking down barriers to communications between different specialties and industries will be important if we are to make significant advances in technology. The unfounded fear that your ideas might be hijacked will only hamper its execution.

Although the intellectual property (IP) rights must be respected, early ideas are likely not unique to that individual. Once the ideas become a tangible project, talking about IP rights become more apt.

In Healthcare, the communication between healthcare and technology professionals must be as seamless as possible. Developing digital solutions for healthcare requires a clear understanding of the processes and its complexities. This aids in developing meaningful and impactful solutions for healthcare.

The next time you have an idea, develop it by sharing with a clear plan of bringing it into reality.

How to best utilise tech in medicine?

Technology can be expensive in healthcare. Developing a custom solution can cost one thousands to millions of ringgit to create. Even then, the solutions are usually fraught with bugs and inabilities to integrate with other existing softwares. The market is so fragmented that solutions are usually purchased separately resulting in the use of different solutions at the same hospital or place of practice.

Thus the use of technology in healthcare can be disruptive in every sense of the word. Although we cannot escape the digitisation of healthcare and the many benefits that it brings, we cannot deny that, perhaps, it is still not quite ready for prime time medicine. The use of big data analytics and how we interpret the information, following which we present that in useful manner to the patients in order to bring benefits, is still science fiction on most occasions. It adds noise and sometimes confusion to the art of medicine. The art of looking at the patient, asking the right questions, watching the non-verbal cues and at the same time exude empathy, will soon be a lost art as digitisation aims to rob both doctors and patients of the chance to “intimately” know each other.

Most EMRs in the market is packed with features. It almost parallels a airplane cockpit control panels. There are lots of devices that gives out a lot of information. The key is to focus on the right things at the right time and to interpret the information in a coherent manner, especially during critical times. Training in EMRs is often not robust and regular enough for healthcare personnel. There is literally no checking mechanism to ensure that the system is utilised appropriately and that staff will be trained regularly to ensure quality of data being entered. It is assumed that this should be second nature to healthcare staff, when clearly it is not. Most EMRs require substanstial learning and practice to be fully proficient.

In my opinion, the best systems are ones that uses tech which is familiar to all. Large multinational tech giants have done some of the work for us in terms of gaining familiarity, be it Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Dropbox, Evernote and the list goes on and on. Perhaps using some of these platforms to launch a healthcare solution will be best in order to minimise re-learning and to ensure that the systems continue to be developed and improved on. Perhaps custom made EMRs are going to be the thing of the past as many of them are not easily upgradable and spending on server space and security can be a very costly affair.

Indeed, the technology that we need is already there for us to use, maybe in an innovative way. A way that it was perhaps not intended to do when it was first developed. This is also way cheaper. Tech does not have to be expensive. It just takes some creativity and bravery to think of ways to use existing tech solutions in unconventional ways.

Dealing with a digital life

A recent distasteful picture of a selfie during a digital vaginal examination has exposed the perils and treachery of social media. Calling for doctors not to partake of this media is certainly not the answer as well. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc are likely to stay with us for many decades to come.

The question is how do we handle this new found freedom of expression where you could ‘verbalise’ anything just by a click of the mouse. How do we manage or prevent that spur of the moment angst, often regretting later? Remember what you leave digitally is forever imprinted in the Internet, even if you attempted to delete it.

A few guides and rules to live by.

1. Never post anonymously. If you are to post anything online, the very least you could do is to own up to those comments. In this way, one might think first before putting up a post or comment.

2. Maximize the function of groupings and security settings in your social media. Colleagues may need to be separated with family members or for some, patients. Hence, postings can be directed to only a certain group and won’t be blasted out. Social media does not necessarily need to be an open forum, unless we allow them to be publicly posted.

3. Pretend that the conversations are happening face to face. Do realize that we can no longer hide behind the screen. Digital conversations are real, well most of the time, unless you are dealing with computer robots!

4. Never friend someone who does not even dare to post his photo or details online, unless you know them personally. It usually signifies that he/she is unwilling to put their reputation on the line and is not ready for the digital realm.

5. Share your digital ID with your real life contacts. That’s you after all, be proud of it.

6. Practice common sense. This can’t really be taught. Exercise this everytime you go online. In fact, exercise this with your every breath!

Social media is here to stay. Deal with it!

What should IT be in healthcare?

The embrace of digital technology is slow in the healthcare industry. Comparatively, industries like aviation and banking have long maximized the benefits of digitisation. This has allowed us to manage our banking accounts or our flight bookings, just with a click of the mouse. This ‘vision’ can be adopted in healthcare, however, it is not as simple.

I have long believed that in order for the future medical practice to fully utilize digital technology, medical education needs to be overhauled. The conventional way of teaching medicine has to change. The adage of “Do not fix what is not broken” should no longer be adhered to, if we are to move quickly forward.

Just the other day, I was introduced to 3D children’s books. I was amazed at the app which brings a 2D image to life, much to the amazement of children and adults alike. Why can’t we use this in medical education? There have been early adopters in some medical schools but we need all medical schools to follow suit if we are to ensure that the entire healthcare industry is on the same page.

IT is not just putting some digital text online. It is about maximizing the power of digitization in making information interactive, meaningful and engaging. This will make learning more efficient, yet fun. Gone should be the days when we learn anatomy from lengthy paragraphs and grainy images, often relying on our powers of imagination to reconstruct the passage. Imagine learning biochemistry using digital animation. I would probably remember more than I can now!

IT should be innovative, intuitive, adaptive and progressive. It should assist, not hinder the daily processes. The future is bright, and the investments in that future starts today.