I attended Ottawa’s first Hacking Health Hackathon a couple weeks ago. The place was humming with energy and it reminded me of my internet start-up days. The projects and teams were diverse, excited, and committed to their ideas.
It made me wish I had more time and energy to get involved because I learned a long time ago you want things to change, you have to get involved. Besides, as a patient, it’s my responsibility to ensure my perspective is part of all this innovation. And, I take that seriously.
However, something happened to me as I walked around speaking with the teams. I became less excited about the “innovation” which in many cases wasn’t anything new. There are many wait time tools, self-care monitoring tools, and the like already available. As a patient I was disheartened that there was so little participation from patients (the ultimate beneficiaries), including no patient representation among the judges.
And then it occurred to me: Yet again, people presume to know what is best for me.
I continued to smile and speak with people as I walked through the next room, but I couldn’t help but begin to look at the people and projects differently. I began to feel more uncomfortable about being there as a patient.
I took away two things from this event.
First, the greatest projects aren’t the ones that try (and fail) to solve the big stuff. The best aren’t trying to catch your attention and they sure aren’t innovative. Projects like the free flap monitoring floored me. Why? Simple, really. These teams took on something they could accomplish in a relatively short period of time. These projects have immediate impact on the quality of a patient’s life. You don’t need to convince the patient the benefit of this project, unlike so many of the apps.
These guys get patients.
There are projects that are not sexy. They are even boring. But, they are doing what needs to be done. Many cases, these should have been done a long time ago.
It isn’t all about innovation: Finding the new, the exciting, the panacea … it is about doing all the simple things that make the overall life of the patient better.
My second take-away is a two-parter. I should not be surprised that there is inequity in patient involvement because that has been the status quo for generations. Instead of leaving me dis-spirited, this inspired me. But, because there was little patient involvement, it got me to re-think what innovation really means.
Innovation is about change, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, and breakthrough.
Innovation doesn’t have to be a thing; it can be a new way of thinking.
Innovation isn’t the end; it is a means to an end.
Innovation can take tried-and-true from other industries because these ideas can be revolutionary or innovative simply by virtue of never having been done that way before in healthcare.
When you look at it that way, who wouldn’t want to be part of it?
However … you cannot bring innovation to healthcare … you cannot transform healthcare … without actively involving patients throughout the process. I’m not saying you won’t get it right without patients. I am saying whatever you do can be better with patients … if for no other reason than you get all stakeholders in the same room.
So, you want innovation? Be careful what you ask for. I’m a patient and I intend to change your opinions, revolt against your way of thinking, cause upheaval in the status quo, and transform the way we get things done.
I can’t wait to see what happens next…