Saturday, November 3, 2007

Clinical Innovation - Low Tech Innovations and Simple Steps

I saw on television the other day how Doctors without Borders had come up with a low tech answer to save Africa’s starving children. The doctors created a peanut butter paste laced with essential vitamin and minerals that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Mothers from the bush pick up the paste at distribution points, carry it home, and feed it to the children . The results are magical and are turning around rampant malnutrition in Africa.

Genuine innovations are often simple, human, and commonsensical. For example, in her book, Managing Patient Expectations: The Art of Finding and Keeping Loyal Patients, Susan Keane Baker, says one simple office innovation boils down to anticipating “moments of truth” in patient encounters with your office.

These include: calling your practice, making an appointment, receiving directions, meeting the receptionist, waiting in the reception or exam room, meeting the clinicians, giving a history, having an exam or an invasive procedures, giving a lab specimen, receiving discharge instructions, leaving the practice, obtaining lab results, and receiving a bill. Here the innovation is low tech: training yourself and your staff to make each of these moments as pleasant as possible.

Also on the low tech side (innovation is too lofty a term), one can protect patients’ against infection, by simply washing hands, avoiding shaving procedural sites, discarding items in rooms of infected patients, changing catheters often, elevating the head of the bed and cleaning the mouths of respirator patients, listening to distress calls from nurses and relatives, and rechecking orders when patients are transferred from one hospital site to another.

A Low Tech Tribute

Effective innovations aren’t always rocket science,
You don’t automatically need a high tech appliance.
You don’t have to google.
Just rev-up the old noodle.
And rely on old fashioned self-reliance.

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