Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Just text me and I’ll be on the operating table within the hour

I love trying to solve things: it's one of the reasons I became a computer programmer/nerd/geek (delete as you see fit) in the first place.

With the wonder of growing older, stuff starts happening (if you're remotely squeamish you may wish to jump the next sentence).

I've got this cyst on the side of my head and annoying it is too. My GP has seen it and has managed to convince me that it's not my brain growing larger in my older years. By the way, this is not a call for sympathy or action. It's a user story...

So the long wait for hospital appointments starts. First to see the consultant, then a pre-operation assessment appointment and then the wait for the day itself. Now for simple day cases you'd like to think that this could be speeded up. With the advent of all this mobile internet socialising I think we could turn it around.

Think of it this way. You have to wait along the lines of three months for your operation date for day cases. If someone cancels then it's a wasted opportunity. Events occur when you have to cancel and sometimes you can’t get out of things. The question that remains is how to fill that space at short notice.

Now I don't want to start a whole NHS rant; this is not about that. The way I look at things is this: there’s nothing to stop all the hospitals in Northern Ireland being linked. When a free slot opens up due to a cancellation then the ideal thing to do is fill it.

Historically, for major operations where life is in danger, then it’s a phone call. I don't know if anything happens for the minor operations. Most people carry a mobile phone of some sort and while I’m not even suggesting an application for the iPhone, I’m suggesting SMS messaging, email or even a website. The cost of texting 100 people is cheaper than an empty operating room and staff resources being wasted. I would also argue that an individual waiting for an operation would be happy to travel and rearrange plans if they knew the operation would happen in the next 24 hours.

Northern Ireland is the perfect testing ground for this type of alert system as most hospitals are within driving distance. I can be from Limavady to Belfast in under two hours, in Derry in thirty minutes.

Think about the wider context — a UK-wide solution — where hospitals collaborate with each other to fill the spaces and use resources in a wiser way, potentially reducing waiting lists for non-urgent cases.

A simple problem with an incredibly over-simplified solution, it’s execution wouldn't be as straightforward as that, but sometimes it makes sense to look at existing problems and improve on them before trying to convince the world a start-up is the next best thing. The good part of all this geekery is that together we could make this world a better place.

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