Practice what you preach

introductions_1600_wht_10909This is a guest / cross post of  Marije Elderenbosch.

Last year, I got a giant pill of inspiration. Afterwards, I was sky-high on hope and ideas. You too can get one of those pills, on April 8th. All you have to do is get an invitation to TEDxNijmegen, sit back, and let it happen. Meet mad-but-brilliant scientists, people whodo manage to jam square pegs into round holes and doctors who not only think outside the box, but use the box to get one step closer to the sky, and what fool said THAT was the limit anyway?

You’ll go home as I did. I was going to change the world. Well, at least my own world. Some parts of it, anyway. I was going to be a health 2.0 advocate, a pioneering patient as a partner, and of course social media would improve healthcare no end, from the back office to the broom cupboard and preferably my doctor’s consulting room too. I was going to start small. One hospital, one department at a time.

I had two ideas.

One: I wanted to be able to make appointments with my endocrinologist like I do with my dentist: I get a link through email (although I understand that’s, like, soooo last century already), I pick the date and time that suit me best, all online, no waiting rooms, no queues, no assistants with bad hair days and moods to match. Begone with the ‘doctor’s got time for you in….four months. Monday. Five past 8. Next option is…sorry, the system is a bit slow today…in …six months. ‘But I was told to come back in three weeks!’ ‘Sorry.Computer says no…

Two: I was going to suggest virtual meetings. I’m always slightly miffed when I have to wait for more than half an hour before I am ushered in and thrown out of the doctor’s office withing 10 minutes. Could do that from home. Through Skype, maybe. Web cam on, no fuss, no travel, no waiting room blues, save us all time and trouble, probably cheaper and more effective too, etcetera etcetera. Later on, I learned that there’s something called Facetalk, a virtual consulting room. Yes please, I’ll have one, don’t bother to gift wrap it.

So I asked my endocrinologist what he thought about the electronic appointment idea.

‘Not if I can prevent it’, he said. ‘We have enough to do as it is.’ ‘But it would make things easier! I mean, my dentist uses it, why not the hospital?’ But he didn’t want to talk about it any more.

Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him about idea two, but since it might be a couple of months before I’d see him next, I did it anyway. ‘And how about virtual appointments? For routine talks, or when I have an urgent question? ‘Over my dead body’, the doctor said. ‘It’s not safe, and I’d be buggered by patients all the time! Besides, there are more than enough ways to contact us if you need to’ Which is true; they’ve got telephone hours (every morning between 8 and 10 and don’t you dare call five minutes late), email (‘we’ll try and answer you within 24 hours) and, ehm, fax. (People born after 1980: this is how it works) I didn’t dare say any more on the subject. I felt powerless. If not even my own, friendly, pragmatic doc would listen, what more could I do?

I still believe both of my suggestions are relatively easy to implement and easy to use. They would be small, but very useful improvements for me and the hospital. And surely it could be organized in a safe way? My hope, my inspiration and my optimism have faded away and it’s time I got a new inspiration pill. I would also like to give one to my doctor. A whole new load of great speakers will take their place on the famous red spot and deliver their TED-talk on april 8th in Nijmegen. I would like to ask all of them one thing:

Please, mad-but-brilliant scientists, square peg-jammers, box-climbers and sky chasers: how do I practice what you preach?

The best ideas, after all, are the ones that stop being ideas and become practice. So, show me the way!