“Some is not a number and soon is not a time”

By Fiona Campbell (Medical Student at the University of Calgary)

It was refreshing to hear all of the insightful closing comments from all of the Telluride East participants today, and exciting to hear what we all plan to work towards as we return to our schools. It’s easy to see why we would all come away with such momentum and inspiration. This week was full of eye-opening discussions and thought-provoking workshops. It’s easy to feel empowered by everyone with a shared passion, and to think that we really can make healthcare better around the world.

But it’s also easy to succumb to real life and let that momentum fizzle away. It’s easy to forget how important patient safety is when you’re once again surrounded by leaders who don’t value it. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the knowledge we are expected to learn at school and forget about pursuing initiatives that will improve the system.

I’m still in the newlywed zone and every day I am reminded of the vows that I spoke one short week ago. They weren’t ground breaking, but by speaking them out loud in front of so many loved ones, it helps me hold myself accountable to following them. Today, we all vowed to each other to take what we’ve learned here, bring it back to our institutions and create something from it. Let’s not let life get in the way of accomplishing what we promised to do, and let’s hold each other accountable for making change. But as Dr. Mayer pointed out, some is not a number and soon is not a time – we need to think in realistic milestones in order to hope to accomplish anything. So let’s create more specific goals for ourselves and share our successes and shortcomings along the way.

My first step will be to do a patient safety project with the Human Factors group at the University of Calgary. I will start by defining the scope of the project this month and come up with a manageable deliverable to be completed before I start Clerkship in March. I’ll come back to this blog at least twice along the way to share my progress and get inspiration. Thank you to all of the Telluride East participants and faculty for the knowledge, motivation, and support to work on making healthcare safer one project at a time.

Hope everyone has a safe drive home from the airport!

Standards for Medical Technology by Fiona Campbell

We had a fantastic talk today by Dr. Terry Fairbanks on the role of Human Factors Engineering in healthcare. It was a very insightful presentation that sparked more questions than answers. Why do we insist, time and again, that people conform to technology and existing systems rather than designing with human limitations in mind? Why do we implement rules based on how work is supposed to be done rather than how work is being done, when we are all aware of the gap between the two? Why do we expect health professionals to achieve perfection when we accept errors from most other people?

It’s frustrating to see how far behind healthcare is compared to most other industries. We are slow to change and slow to adopt technology. It’s even more frustrating to see technology that we have adopted that looks like it was designed by a 10-year-old. As Dr. Fairbanks pointed out, we uphold healthcare products to a different standard than consumer products. When it comes to quality of materials and processing (eg sterility), healthcare products are often held to a higher standard, as they should be (and as is reflected in their price). But when it comes to intuitive user interface and logical design, this standard is often much, much lower. How can it be that virtually every website has a more intuitive user interface than the electronic medical records I’ve tried to use? Or children’s toys that seem to have more logic in their button design than the defibrillators used in situations when every minute matters? Is it because health professionals are supposed to be smart, educated people and therefore are up for the challenge of using more complicated technology than the average person? Perhaps those designing the technology don’t consult with or bother to try to understand their users? Well no matter how smart and educated I become, I think I would take a defibrillator that looks like it’s from Toys-R-Us over one that has the ability to turn itself off, costing 2-3 minutes and possibly a life, just because I pushed the wrong button in a moment of panic.

%d bloggers like this: