#donthatecollaborate

 “None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

In this time of divisive politics and schisms in society it is easy to be fearful of what is to come.
It seems wherever we look now there is division and tribalism. Our facebook and twitter feeds are echo-chambers in which our own world views are strengthened and vitriol is spouted to anyone who disagrees with our view, whilst extreme voices shout out above the cacophony of media misinformation and government spin.
Many feel we have lost the art of constructive conversation. We cannot disagree intellectually with anyone anymore – do we feel we are only heard if we regress to personal attacks and denigration. How do we go forward? I felt this acutely especially as I have just relented and joined twitter to help promote myGPevents (shameless twitter handlings – @shubsmygpevents)
The NHS seems to have been in a low ebb of late – more cuts, demoralised clinicians and stifled innovation. Technology has connected us, yet we feel more isolated and divided.
Over the last few weeks I have come into contact with lots of clinicians working on innovative projects within and outside the NHS. There is a real momentum and a quiet but profound resolve within this group of people. And slowly we are beginning to connect in the spirit of collaboration. Seeing how we can help each other succeed as we tread common ground – offering advice and sharing insights.
One person, Colin Coulthard, GP and co-founder of Itamus – a platform using IT to create better pathways to support clinicians and patients  – who is a few years into his project, offered me some great insights and resources in order for us to ask the right questions to move our own project forward. Also Sami Triki, a web developer, who on speaking to me over a drink  agreed to help in solving our issues with deployment. These people did not request anything in return – it was in the spirit of collaboration – with the attitude that we learn and discover things for ourselves in the act of working with others. These are people who see beyond what short-term gains they can quickly exploit.
Another great example is Network Locum – a tech startup for GPs to link to Practices – as one of their Community Champions we are trying to build an inclusive, supportive community to address the increasing isolation felt so acutely in General Practice at the moment. Their support for our project has been great – always encouraging, discussing and seeing where our common touch-points are to help each other succeed.
I also attended the Giant Health event last week in London – a platform to connect people and organisations involved in Digital Health worldwide. Sometimes these large events can end up being a bit fluffy and generic – this was my experience. However the connections made with other people, including those that are part of the Doctors Digital Collective were immensely satisfying.
As clinicians we often default into a ‘silo’ mentality (a result of our training and system experiences?).  This can lead to being defensive about our ideas, not willing to talk to others about them. Whilst it is important to protect our value and intellectual property, I feel that this can be done in conjunction with working with others who are treading common ground – sharing insights, resources and discussing ideas.
This is an exciting space – and if you are a clinician with an idea reading this and looking for a collaborative environment – I strongly recommend looking up the Doctors Digital Collective group on facebook. Other opportunities exist in the NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs fellowship  as well. Also check out the work that @keithgrimes is doing with Virtual Reality and applications in healthcare.
It is the small things we do day to day – in the spirit of working together, helping those around us; our everyday interactions – that extra mile for our patients (that so many of us walk every day), or that 5mins of encouragement to the colleague or friend who might need it – that will close the schisms that surround us.
Well I hope anyway.

The last 5%

“The last 5% of your project launch will be the toughest.”  – probably Confucius or Rumi

It has been an interesting few months. Apologies for the radio silence, though it would be bold of me to assume people would be checking back here after merely one blog post (a gushing thanks if you did).
It was with wide-eyed hope that I last posted. It was with a youthful zeal as I bound into new territory, with everything possible, leaping (of faith) towards launch.
I am still leaping, but now with a world-weariness as I have come to realise with some leaps come some falls. There have been many challenges. Max and I contended with so many – problems with fusing my work (front-end code) with the work he had done creating our database. And then problems with uploading to the server, problems with the database, or the server, problems with the domain. Every week we would say – ‘Okay – this will be sorted next week’ – only to find a new problem the following week. Although each week we delayed, we were able to make other improvements to usability or design.
This is familiar ground to many of you. A commonly shared experience for anyone who has been involved in start-ups or new projects – I guess our struggle was amplified by our relative inexperience and we became bogged down and fed-up with these issues.
We have received lots of advice and guidance, learning about iteration, testing and also better collaborating through Github (a project collaboration platform). We learned so many things with each mistake/error we solved.
I had also been reading The Lean Startup – a book which really helped us focus on what we were trying to achieve here – a core product which people can get using – all the while learning about how people interact with it, (and whether they actually use it!) Asking the right questions. Not assuming what users want, but creating a way to meaningfully learn this.
I thought we would never get here, and we have only got to the start line. There is so much to learn and improve on. But a GP and an ED nurse have created a website from scratch that will hopefully make one group of clinicians’ lives easier (don’t worry hospital docs and nurses – we are coming for you)
And so it gives me great joy to reveal to you the culmination of our work. A way for GPs/Primary Care Doctors in the UK to easily Search for and Find educational events to stay updated. We are so excited about the potential this has – one big difficulty has been holding back the great ideas and features we have whilst focussing on making sure the core product is right.
The adage mentioned at the start certainly rings true for us. Creating the moving parts was one part of the problem – getting them to sync and work seamlessly is part of that last 5%. We go on with the appreciation that we are just at the start.
A huge thanks to Sami Triki and David Fallon for their help and guidance. A big thanks also to Network Locum for their support.

Doctors and code

Love at first site?

When most Doctors think of tech, like I did a few months ago, it is often with a mixture of mild curiosity but mainly fear. Curiosity at the thought of using or creating products that make our lives as clinicians easier; with the fear usually being how complex ‘all that code’ must be and also threats of obsolescence (we are regularly reminded by the government and media that robots and AI could replace us).
As a GP (and previous hospital medicine junior doctor) I am all too aware of the challenges of IT in the healthcare environment. The NHS is often seen as a lumbering, rusting ship with change being slow and ineffectual – especially with tech. Many a department goes into meltdown when the fax machine stops working. I feel as clinicians we are ideally placed to help overcome these challenges – and overcoming the barriers to us doing this, perhaps, lie in taking a (small) leap of faith.
Over the last few months I have decided to bite the bullet and try and learn HTML and CSS (one of many tools to create websites) – mainly out of necessity for a website I am trying to build for GPs. Maxwell Flitton, a friend who is helping me with this (an A&E nurse who is coding and about to do a Masters in Physics) encouraged me to attempt learning to do the ‘Front End’ (lingo alert) of the website.
There are lots of free courses available online  – I used Codeacademy – an excellent introduction with clear steps and live examples. Going forward and seeing the benefit I am now using others that are paid.
Healthcare is changing. Taking some time away from Clinical practice has afforded me some flexibility to try and start up new projects and it has been a great journey getting to where we are now – hoping to launch a fully functioning website over the next few months.
To those who think tech/AI will replace doctors – I would respectfully disagree – I do however believe that technology has a huge part to play as an adjunct to improving our decision making as clinicians, and also hopefully patient experiences.
There is more to medicine than the conveyor belt and traditional pathways we are all advised to follow. If we can overcome the fear of ‘learning to code’ then instead of clinicians being subjected to a changing landscape my hope is that we can be instrumental shapers of the future.