A Faster Horse

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
– Henry Ford

At the age of 11 my father contracted polio virus. It was 1956 and he was admitted to the local isolation hospital. He was paralysed and spent one month in a large room on his own. His only visitor was the isolation hospital doctor who he remembers as being very kind and who brought him a sweet every day. No other visitors or family were allowed in. Thankfully, he recovered, and it was due to Dr. Jonas Salk and the success of the polio vaccine that the epidemic ended. More than 400 million doses of polio vaccine were distributed between 1955 and 1962. Polio became a faint memory by the end of the century. It was therefore with a sense of joy and hope that I attended my local hospital for my Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.

Today we have technologies to help us to deliver vaccines safely against the deadly COVID-19 virus. But how do you get your team onboard with the use of new technologies during a time of seismic stress.

Most people willingly embrace technology in their personal lives e.g., smart phones, smart watches, and banking/fitness apps. They make life simple, convenient, and easy. They save time. Therefore, people need incentives.

1. State your vision – you must have a clear vision for what the technology will do for your practice in terms of benefits for your team and for your patients. You must emphasize the value. If your aim is to introduce online booking and get rid of the bottle neck of the telephone explain how it will ease their workloads and make their life better. Automated triage will help to ensure that patients with COVID-19 symptoms will not show up to vaccine appointments. Patients will be consented remotely. Reminders will be automatically sent prior to appointments with specific instructions for patients on what to wear and where to wait. Zero contact check in means no need to check in at reception hence keeping administration staff safe. A recurring appointment module ensures the return visit is automated for the patient.

2. Engage a team leader – get a well-respected team member to lead the change. Have someone with good communication skills and good networking skills be the person to plan the roll out.

3. Invest in the infrastructure and figure out what you need.

4. Customize training – people have varying levels of digital ability. Training efforts should reflect that. An online training session may be sufficient for some and other may need more coaching. Be careful not alienate the more technically challenged. Keep training to small groups with plenty of time for questions.

5. Set milestones – e.g., how many team members do you want using new technology tools by a certain date. Are you going to introduce the change in small increments? Once milestones are set there must be commitment and follow through.

6. Make it routine – integrate it into your weekly meetings.

7. Highlight success – are you managing to fill every appointment? Have you successfully stopped patients with COVID-19 symptoms attending the surgery?

8. Keep the conversation open. Be patient with those having difficulty and try to analyze the cause of their problem.

This is a time of great change and great opportunity.

Adopting new technologies such as MyClinic365 can make the business of general practice less fragile, more adaptable, and resilient.

“There is no alternative to digital transformation. Visionary companies will carve out new strategic options for themselves — those that don’t adapt, will fail.”
— Jeff Bezos, Amazon