The Herman Trend Alert
October 25, 2017
Pathways to Saving Lives
For countries that have a national health service, and perhaps for those that do not, family doctors (General Practitioners, i.e., GPs) must know about the specialists and sub-specialists in their areas, so that they may make the appropriate referrals. They need to know about the new specialists in the area, as well as those who have retired, numerous sub-specialties, different insurance referral forms, varying wait times, and specific pre-visit instructions.
A solution from New Zealand
Speaking at a medical conference in Canada, a New Zealand physician, Dr. Dee Mangin, shared information about a website called "Pathways", a website considered "indispensable" by New Zealand doctors.
An agile and updatable website
The doctor's advice included two critical suggestions: first, separate the online physician database with all of its details from the electronic medical records; and second, create an agile and easy-to-update structure. She also said that the crowdsourced website needed to able to be updated by physicians in real time, and to include both patient and physician resources.
A Canadian doctor saw the possibilities
Dr. Tracy Monk, a Canadian, saw this concept as the answer to major challenges that had been facing general practitioners and other physicians in British Columbia. She enlisted the help of fellow physician Dr. Ron Warneboldt, who had been teaching and filling-in for other vacationing docs since retirement.
Warneboldt was the perfect person
With just the right combination of work ethic, community standing, and diplomacy, she knew Warneboldt was the perfect person to lead this project. With the tech-savvy assistance of a couple of other physicians and his son Russell, a well-respected Information Technology expert, they got to work.
A commitment to crowdsourcing
One of the driving factors in the success of this endeavor is a commitment to distributed data acquisition or crowdsourcing. However, the specialists had to be convinced that it was in their best interest to share information, including updating their own wait times, areas of focus, and other profile information in real time.
A real resource for all of the physicians
Not only does the website offer the needed referral information, but it has also become a tremendous source of peer-reviewed, up-to-date research on a variety of medical specialties. Plus, the website provides the physicians with downloadable, malady-specific information, they may print out for their patients; this information sometimes even replaces the need for a referral.
The results have been phenomenal
Not only is the website being accessed thousands of times every day, but the GPs and specialists consider it a critical source for their practices. Moreover, it really is saving lives by cutting the time it takes to refer a patient the right specialist. And because the wait times are shared, GPs can make better decisions, and it automatically encourages the specialists to reduce their wait times to be "more competitive".
A model for the province and the world
Though this model is currently in use only in New Zealand and Canada, the opportunity for other countries and regions is obvious. With a mobile-friendly website that is updated constantly, we expect this design to be copied many times in the near-term future. It is a shining example of how we can use current technology to harness the power of crowdsourcing and actually save lives.
Special thanks to Ron Warneboldt, MD for alerting us to this important development.
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