Problem Solving Techniques in the Digital Health Space
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In most cases, a digital solution is requested to replace a manual system or another digital system that is not functioning optimally. A typical example of a digital solution in this context is adopting electronic health records to replace paper-based records. Computerized health records must address the challenges of paper-based records otherwise. The digital investment is wasted. In this article, we intend to share some techniques in problem-solving for digital health: simplification, analogy, and inversion.
The technique provides room for original solutions as they are developed from the ground up. Let us assume that the main reason a facility needs electronic health records is to allow multiple doctors to access patient files simultaneously. A basic solution might be a cloud-based shared drive or intranet where scanned patient files are organized in folders that allow multiple doctors to access them simultaneously. We know that, in reality, electronic health records are implemented to address several problems. However, this would be a workable solution in cases where a fully-fledged electronic health record may not be affordable.
Assume you are working at a hospital that just conducted surgery on the wrong patient. You have been hired to prevent the problem from happening again. You may consider learning from big international airports since they deal with thousands of passengers daily and ensure that every passenger boards the right plane. They scan the passport to make sure that the passenger booked the flight, check the face on the passport against the person checking in, look out for a visa if the passenger needs one, scan a boarding pass before the passenger goes through security, collect biometrics when going through immigration/customs and monitor each boarding pass at the boarding gate. You may consider adopting some of these strict checks to prevent your hospital from operating on the wrong patient in the future.
An example is, “what if doctors were taken care of by patients?” This shifts the importance we put on doctors to patients. Patients that cannot walk would prefer to provide care to the doctors remotely. Doctors would not wait too long to be seen because there are more patients than doctors. Patients would use simple language to talk to doctors. Both digital and non-digital solutions would come out of this line of thinking.
In his 1925 speech at Bell Labs on Creative Thinking, Claude Shannon emphasized exploring different problem-solving techniques in providing new solutions to old persistent problems. The techniques we have explored above can be applied to digital health and other areas. The key to arriving at a workable solution is to keep an open mind and let your curiosity help you find the solution. There might be other techniques that you may know beyond these. Please feel free to share through comments.
By Christopher Mwase - Deputy Manager Research & Development, Compelling Works