I was recently talking to a friend, a young GP, who had just spent two hours on the phone figuring out how to help a patient with unusual symptoms. He told me he had been going through his address book of colleagues and physicians in different fields who could help with this particularly difficult referral. In the end, he had five different suggestions, three coming from cardiologists and was left with no idea on how to compare these discordant opinions. It sounded slightly surreal, like Richard Burton broodily looking through a list of old lovers, wondering who to call for advice on true love (something that had always eluded him). The blondes would give different advice than the brunettes. Bemused by this image, I was redrawn to the idea of how collaboration tools could benefit such situations, particularly how they could be used to ease communication between physicians.
As we know, hospitals and group practices are very particular organizations, quite traditional in their form, and subject to stringent rules and regulations when it comes to sharing information. Medical knowledge is confined to different areas of expertise, both by professional division and departmental delineations. However, the competence necessary to solve patients’ medical issues rarely resides with a single physician or even a department. It rather develops through collaboration. Surprisingly, the communication channels available to physicians are not as advanced as one would expect, especially given the stakes. In contrast, large corporations such as Google and Accenture have invested millions of dollars into building and implementing collaboration tools. Adapting these tools is now fundamental to the scaling of large organisations and is indispensable to corporate life. They are the glue that holds corporations together, channelling employee communication and identity. Enabling staff to satisfy their roles. For a company this would mean making more money, perhaps for a physician, improving the care they deliver.
In a previous post we looked at Yammer; we are suckers for fancy web apps, and here we suggest another that could find its way into the modern hospital environment.
In many ways, Podio is similar to Yammer. It comes with a snazzy interface but it also has an integrated app creation store as a key feature. Quite a success story so far. It is referred to as a Facebook for enterprises and was named Techcrunch Start-up of the year in 2011. Founded by Anders Pollas, Jon Froda and Kasper Hultin, the Danish startup took up Tommy Ahlers as a CEO and investor in August 2010 backed by $4.5M in funding.
Prior to its full launch, Podio spent 1.5 years sneakily in stealth mode where it was available only to a select group of customers, constantly being tested and optimized. This approach is still visible in its product today. Neat, canny and intuitive -it embraces you, whether you are or aren’t struggling to adapt technologically. Simply put, it’s friendly and it’s good looking.
The main principle behind Podio is that all work tasks happen within the app — and unlike the more social networking focused collaboration platforms, you don’t follow users but Spaces. Your profile allows you to see your Frequently Used Spaces, Contacts and Calendar on the right, with an activity stream of all actions on the left.
Podio is a promising alternative to the traditional communication media available in a modern medical practice. It stands out by offering a whopping 40,000 apps to choose from, as well as the ability to build your own. Anything in the imaginable app universe is possible, ranging from discussions to templates and symptom checklists to an endless number more. A particularly attractive and relevant feature is the way it addresses email efficiency. A recent study revealed most people spend 10% of their total emailing time dealing with etiquette. A further 30% is lost reading emails not directly relevant to the recipient. What a bloody waste of time when you could be using more spot-on templates, assigning attributable tasks and managing emails at a distinct project level. According to Podio, their new email tool isn’t so much about “killing email” as about “building the right bridges between your inbox and your collaborative work platform.
To err is human, the idiom says; technology errs less, one could add. This is why we should use it to enable the flow of information, to do our mundane and dirty work and to help us communicate better. Group practices and wards have many communication redundancies; one could eliminate these and put better structures into workflows.
Here are a few ideas of how this solution could be applied: In communication, streamlining internal processes and creating structured workflows. Instead of paging or calling busy colleagues, tasks could be posted to the next department for discussion. Apps in the form of templates, such as checklists, enabling better procedural safety routines and relieving the pressures on physicians to know everything. Very importantly, an online space could alleviate the difficulties of location, particularly in geographically-dispersed medical organizations. Designed for mobile devices it allows for greater mobility. Imagine fleeting through the hospitals with your suite of perfect collaboration tools, without being bogged down by papers, laptops and phones. All communication would be documented, creating greater accountability and allowing retrospective analysis and process optimization. It all sounds like a dream!
We would really like to hear from you about this sort of thing being applied. It’s clear that existing practices cannot be completely abolished or replaced. They do their job, so why change them? Giving that question a quick thought -it’s a pitiful argument. The antithesis being one of the most important drivers of innovation: to do things better! For obvious reasons, it’s often difficult to find creative solutions in the medical realm. We believe collaborative tools are a good place to start. I rest my case for today with a vision of svelte physicians gliding through the hospital with their weightless iPads.
Disclosure: Podio is providing MedCrunch with a free project managemenet software and this post is part of a series or sponsored posts MedCrunch is bringing to its readers.