Sunday, 19 October 2014

Innovations in a small hospital

Have you heard of Goole Hospital? If you have not heard of it, that is not surprising. We generally don’t want you to hear about it/us.  It is a small hospital with about 30 beds and we do not do brain transplant.

We have a minor injuries unit, some medical in-patients, elective services in ophthalmology, orthopaedics, general surgery. There are outpatients and other services – you can check out the website

What fascinates me is the number of innovations that have happened in Goole. Why it happens could be the subject of another blog post.

I am defining innovation as, ‘use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method’ (Wikipedia).

Goole Innovations

Here I write about a dozen innovations that I have seen or been involved in at Goole.

1)      No clinic letter Clinic notes faxed to GPs as is

This when the general surgery clinic’s doctors’ handwritten notes are faxed to the general practitioner (mostly within 24 hours) instead of a letter first dictated then typed and then cross checked before signing and sending. Saves a load of secretarial time and money.

2)      Tests before OPD (USS OGD Flex Sig)

When we know by reading a general practitioner’s letter that the patient would undoubtedly need a particular test, such as an ultrasound scan, gastroscopy or a flexible sigmoidoscopy the doctor who vets the letter orders the test so that the result of the test is available for discussion at the patient’s first out-patient clinic consultation. Allows sensible discussion, often gives answers.

3)      Same day pre-assessment for general surgery and endoscopy patients

When the doctor tells the patient ‘you need a surgical procedure’, the patient if they have the time are pre-assessed at the same first surgical clinic visit. A kind of a one-stop service. Saves a lot of time for patients. We try to do this as often and as many patients as we practically can.

4)      Single Visit General Surgery

For general surgery patients who are suitable for day case surgery the Goole Single Visit pathway offers for suitable patients the option of visiting the hospital just once. Consultation and operative surgical procedure (occasionally some smaller additional investigations) all done in the same visit. Lumps and bumps right up to gall bladders.

See this link that blogs about the single visit service

5)      Laser Haemorrhoidectomy

Formal surgical operation for piles done with local anaesthesia and laser with patients discharged in two hours. We have been doing this for a few years now. Brief blog about that can be found at

6)      Entonox for colonoscopy

Entonox, also known as gas & air can be used instead of sedation for colonoscopy. That is neither special nor surprising. In Goole, at the last look, we found approximately 35% of our colonoscopy patients opted for Entonox when the general published number is 17%. All I can say is our patients and staff are very special.

7)      Straight to test two week wait colo-rectal cancer referrals

Overwhelming majority of patients referred as two week wait cancer referrals end up having a colonoscopy. We have a system where suitable patients have their first consultation and colonoscopy at the same visit.

8)      Own reporting software for endoscopy

External software involves purchase cost, maintenance cost and annual licensing costs. We have created our own reporting software with Microsoft Infopath which was already available in trust computers. We have been using this for a few years. Spending your money responsibly, eh?

9)      Single length endoscopic accessories (0 error)

We use the colonoscopy length accessories for colonoscopy and gastroscopy. This has resulted in zero error hence zero waste (since there is no possibility of opening a gastroscope length accessory for a colonoscopy procedure)

10)  Home enemas

Patients who are for flexible sigmoidoscopy need an enema. To have someone unknown administer an enema in an unfamiliar environment and then have to use the unfamiliar toilet can be bothersome. We ask patients if they want to administer the enemas themselves in the comfort of their own homes.

11)   In-situ simulation training

First in-situ simulation training with two scenarios, two trainers, one volunteer ‘patient’ and a professional actor, in our organisation with three hospitals. Even before our nearest tertiary hospital could do it (they have since done it)

12)  Local Anaesthesia option for most inguinal and umbilical hernia repairs

Once the patient is considered suitable the patient has the choice to go for local anaesthesia (with or without sedation) or a general anaesthetic. A large number go for local anaesthetic repairs.

13)  Synchronised test-opd

When routine follow up ultra-sound scans are needed to monitor a situation, we used to get them done a couple of hours earlier than the clinic appointment time. Latest information available. One visit instead of two for the patient. We used to do this typically for patients who were being monitored for abdominal aortic aneurysms.

I said a dozen things done differently at Goole but have listed 13; that would be typical of Goole, we try and often tend to over deliver.

There are a number of innovations from our colleagues in orthopaedics, ophthalmology and other departments.

You will not hear too much from Goole, the people there are a bit shy of fame, a bit skeptical about awards, a shade reluctant to talk about themselves; it is a unique micro-culture - more on that later. There are very specific reasons why innovation happens at Goole (though I do not have too high a regard for CQC ratings you may be interested to know that Goole Hospital scores all greens ‘good’  for its services, we at Goole are neither bothered nor surprised about this).

At this point I have to say that I am one of the very few variant ones for Goole, talking and blogging about these things, I suspect my team often wonders why I am so vain.

Many hospitals in the country could be doing one or more of the above, but I do wonder if all these things happen in a small hospital.

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PS: We follow Noble prize winner's Kahneman's methods to improve our patients' experience, I have already blogged about this

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Power words to avoid in healthcare

On words such as 'intelligence', 'insight' and 'discretion' used as tools in demonstrating power.........................

A colleague had an email from a clinical director asking to ‘acknowledge that CT Cologram is a scarce resource to be used intelligently’.

When we got talking about this we wondered how one was supposed to respond, react or put this into action. What did that mean? Does it mean that they as a department they were using the resource like a bunch of idiots? Is this saying that they were a part of a group of people with not such a high intelligence? They were talking about doctors most of whom had at least two degrees and many years of training and experience - generally thought of as abundant proof of intelligence.

You can see this has raised my hackles. What is really interesting is this comes from a hospital which had one of the highest utilisation of CT scans in the country. If they were abusing CT facilities already, why would a cologram (colonography) be an exception? 

The issue is not the CT use intelligent or otherwise. The issue is the lack of understanding of how clinical management works and the use of operational management language. It is the lack of analysis and lack of definition behind these statements that are the problem. Of course no manager who imagines he/she is worth his/her salt will ever agree that this type of communication is grossly deficient. In fact the managers will insist that ‘intelligent use of resources’ is essential. And they can prove it. They will prove it by letting others use the resource and then using their higher hierarchical authority by making a post-event, ad hoc individual judgement on others who used the resource intelligently. You can see how it massages the ego of individual managers and riles up everyone else.

There are many other terms which lack analysis or definition yet used very liberally by everyone. Insight is one. Discretion is another.

Many doctors in trouble are accused of lack of insight. A GMC related official described insight as breathtaking arrogance in the face of overwhelming evidence.....  So, it is safe to assume that when evidence is presented to a doctor that he/she is no good and yet the doctor maintains that he/she was good would probably classed as lack of insight. At this point, it may look acceptable.
The point is, the use of ‘lack of insight’ as a reason and sanctions that follow often comes from a people with higher authority and directed against people with lower authority. In medical practice there is none or very little evidence for many things we do. In such a situation evidence becomes the view of a group of people in power who are then not inclined to look at the evidence presented by the weaker party. Insight becomes a power game. 

Let us look at discretion. Let us say that your boss in clinical medicine says that all patients are not the same and you must use your discretion according to the given situation. You are likely to think that your boss has given you a lot of freedom. What you are actually being set up for is another power game where your boss retains the right to question your discretion, pitch your discretion with others discretion and to override your discretion. Now you might think that is why you have bosses. But what actually happens is a clear recipe for failure and conflict. 

There are better ways of dealing with these. At a simple level as a starting point is to stop using such words which have the potential to confuse and cause harm; words such as discretion, insight and intelligence in day to day operational activity. I am not saying these words or their implications are not important, of course they are; I am questioning if they should be used in day to day operational management especially in healthcare. 

Instead clear definitions agreed as a group, in the form of specific and detailed protocols with further second and third order protocols defined when the first one does not fit might be a better way in operational management in healthcare. There will be a situation when these definitions will not work in which case a variation made after very quick group consultation which is then analysed later may be needed.

The main issues are that you will not like this since you might feel your autonomy is being reduced; your boss won’t like it since he/she may feel that his/her power is being reduced. Finally the chances are you, your colleagues and your boss will not agree on most things at an operational level; well you see this is not your fault as clinicians are taught only how to make individual decisions implemented according to a power based hierarchical scale. 

Clinicians have never been taught on how agreements are reached and never experienced the power of agreements between them.
There are clear ways to achieve this. That is when you will find Success in Healthcare.


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PS: If you would like to get away from the conventional use of terms such as discretion, insight, intelligence and move to a different approach; if you would like to know what agreement actually means and would like help to achieve it – you are welcome to get in touch with me mr.hemadri at gmail dot com