Hospitals – why can’t we have software to manage their ‘systems’?

I heard a story yesterday of a colleague who took a day off work to take his fragile elderly mother for some surgery in a hospital by ambulance, only to find that the consultant scheduled to do the work did not turn up. He said it was a stressful wasteful day.

Your first reaction may be ‘this is completely normal, why are you telling me this’.

Yes, it certainly feels like normal, what we might expect from a hospital in 2016. But why is it like this?

I don’t know any more about the story than the two lines above. But I am guessing that a few things are happening.

First the consultant is probably under a lot of stress. The consultant certainly doesn’t see it as her ‘job’ to inform patients if she can’t come to work or is engaged somewhere else. Perhaps the consultant had 4 other patients to see that day and wasn’t sure how long the other 4 would take?

Second it is perhaps ‘nobody’s job’ to inform the patient, the patient’s family, or the ambulance driver about consultants who are not able to do scheduled work.

Third the infrastructure in the ‘middle’, where people co-ordinate the ‘system’ of connecting patients with consultants, probably does not exist in a very strong way. Hospitals are co-ordinating patients in the hospital and consultants in the hospital, there are surgeries around the country co-ordinating local patients.

But fourthly why is no-one thinking about this? There has been a big waste of resources (including spending money on an ambulance) which could have been saved with one text message.

Hospitals are big complex organisations with lots going on – and this could have been one of tens of thousands of ‘meetings’ scheduled for the day. One central scheduling office would barely have been able to cope.

My solution – and the ‘Software for Domain Experts’ solution – is to do it with software – but not software designed as medical software usually is (around patient records, or finances, or diagnosing health problems) but about whether the goal of managing patient health with minimum resources is actually being achieved. Software which monitors what is actually going on – and could tell that this problem is about to occur.

Perhaps the sort of software which is designed for computer games, which can co-ordinate millions of people in a single environment, and work out where things are about to collide.

Is that so difficult?

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