5 Reasons Doctors Are Vital to Digital Health
Network Locum (now Lantum)'s Dr Gyles Morrison writes about why GPs are vital for digital health...
As a clinician who has changed careers, and as a career coach, I am very much aware of the many transferable skills that doctors hold. Digital health is an area that can do with more support from doctors and their knowledge and skills. Read on to discover my 5 reasons doctors are vital to digital health.
1) Doctors know healthcare
Even doctors fresh out of medical school have a better idea of healthcare than most IT professionals because they have immersed themselves in that environment for years. Combine at least a few years of medical practice, and you have an individual who doesn’t just know the lingo, but also the various stresses, strains, highs and lows, felt by clinicians. They know what clinicians want, and certainly know what they don’t want.
2) Doctors understand user-centred design
Doctors know all about Patient Centred Care, a work practice where the patient is at the centre of the decision-making process. Doctors genuinely care about the wellbeing of their patients, that’s why they are willing to not have lunch or going for a wee just so they can continue giving great care. This is the same as User Centred Design (often without the lack of food and toilet breaks doctors are accustomed to), the only difference being that the user doesn’t have to be a patient. It could be anybody. So yes, even if a doctor is working on an IT project to create a digital solution for doctors, they should not be just designing for themselves. They should in fact be using their clinical skills to get all the facts they need from the users so they can make informed decisions, which nicely leads on to…
3) Diagnosing patients is like designing IT solutions
This one might seem strange, but trust me, I’m a Dr.
The whole process of going from presenting complaint, e.g. “Dr I’ve got chest pain”, to confirmed diagnosis, “It’s not a heart attack Mr Jones. You just have indigestion, have a Rennies.” is the same as being asked to make a website and having it developed and released. You can find out more about this in one of my other posts by clicking here.
To summarise though, in IT, you take a detailed history, gather further information that the client could not (or would not) give to you, then using the support of further investigations, come up with solutions to solve the digital or technological request or conundrum, and then use the best solution. Note that this cycle doesn’t have to start from square one, you can go backwards and repeat steps too, as ultimately you want the best solution possible.
4) Doctors make for great transformation champions
To get buy-in from a community as humongous as the clinical community, you will need insiders. In the UK, doctors don't run hospitals, managers do. But that is slowly changing. More importantly, the younger generations of doctors are much more interested in change management and improvement. They are often from Generation Y and so embrace modern technology. This is the generation you will want to engage if you want to find someone most likely to be enthusiastic about working on IT projects and making them successful post launch.
Put design thinking into the minds of eager doctors, and you will see a change in culture as the years go by. It won't happen immediately, especially if the doctors are very junior. With time, however, as their reputation and experience grows, their ability to influence will grow too.
It also helps that doctors are amongst the most well respected professionals in the world.
5) Doctors are more than just doctors
A doctor can be described as a person who has a medical degree and is employed to treat the sick. But doctors are more than their profession. This is important, not because we should find a way for all doctors to leave medicine and stop being doctors. Rather it is because doctors have so many others skills that they are not using in their day job as a doctor, but could use on IT projects (or anything other than medicine for that matter). This includes graphic design and coding skills, which are not the main skills needed on IT projects (although they are very important!). They may not even know that they have the skills until they are given the opportunity to use them.
If you have any doubt that a doctor is more than just a doctor, here’s proof.
Dr Gyles Morrison MBBS is Network Locum (now Lantum)’s Community Champion for Personal & Professional Development, a career coach for clinicians. He is also a Clinical UX Specialist where he makes healthcare technology and services more usable, accessible and fun. To find out more about Gyles and his exploits, visit his website, Dr-Hyphen.co.uk.
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