Connected conversations sees DHA talking to some of the digital health industry’s brightest names. Talking to us this time is Dr Kit Latham, CEO of drfocused, an organisation designed to help reduce the amount of clinical time which is wasted on paperwork and slow digital systems. The company has designed an e-rostering service that is user-centred to help teams schedule their rotas. The company is currently raising funds through a campaign on Crowdcube to help launch its software at initial partner trusts.
- How did you enter the digital health segment?
As an Accident and Emergency doctor I was constantly frustrated with how much clinical time was wasted on paperwork and slow digital systems. Evidence shows that up to 43% of doctors’ time is wasted. Studies in America have shown that for every hour doctors spend with a patient they have to spend two more at a computer. I think that’s backwards. We started drfocused to bring user-centred design to healthcare IT, to take back that precious wasted time.
- How do you use digital health in your own life?
I have a Withings scale that I use to track my weight. I track my running on Strava and I use drfocused and it’s secure encrypted messaging for clinicians to communicate with my colleagues.
- Who is your inspiration?
I’d have to say Earnest Shakleton, Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis and Professor Robert M. Wachter. Shakleton was a polar explorer who led his men on an ill fated expedition, but through tremendous courage and tenacity brought them all home alive. Semmelweis saved the lives of countless millions of women through puerperal sepsis and was the first person to figure out that doctors should be washing their hands. The medical profession was not kind to him but time and history have proved him right. And finally Professor Robert M. Wachter who wrote ‘The digital doctor’, a book about how to get health IT working properly. His writing is funny, engaging and the examples he gives are brilliant.
- What do you think will be the biggest benefit of digital health?
Firstly, a reduction in the cost and difficulty of patient care, and secondly a refocusing of caregiver attention back onto the patient. More human, empathic care with technology in the background. Right now digital systems for doctors can get in the way of the patient interaction.
- Can you name one goal to achieve today which will have a positive impact on others?
Saying “thank you” to the medical teams we come into contact with. They are stretched very thin and they are all that stands between us and untreated disease and suffering.
- What motivates you to work?
A desire to improve the quality of medical care, and to design better digital tools for my brothers and sisters in the medical community worldwide.
- What frustrates you about current healthcare systems?
The biggest frustration is that 43% of clinical time is wasted, doctors spend two hours at a computer for every one hour of patient interaction. We know this is a huge cause of burnout amongst doctors, and we know patients don’t like it either.
They say that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. At drfocused, our hammer is user-centered design, and a relentless focus on efficiency. We try and make our digital tools for doctors up to 90% faster than the current solutions. So when I look at health systems, all I see is clinical time that’s wasted. That needs to be fixed.
- What technologies excite you?
Voice recognition is getting really good, which is also really exciting. Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, etc. There many times in medicine where it’s not practical to write notes, but the requirement for accurate and timely record keeping is unchanging.
We are working on voice activated tools to help doctors with their record keeping for when they have their hands full or engaged with a patient.
I also think we have only just begun to think of the possibilities of bio-electrical technology.
- Besides from technology, what can the NHS do to improve its services?
Support its most precious resource, it’s over 1M members of staff. Well rested, valued and motivated staff are the biggest single factor in care quality.
- If you didn’t do this job, what would you like to do?
I have the biggest respect for ambulance crews and paramedics. Those guys are double-hard heroes. It’s one thing to treat a patient in Accident and Emergency, but to be the first to get to them after a terrible accident or illness takes remarkable fortitude.
If I lived another life, I would love to be a dog trainer/walker. I love dogs and the idea of a job where I got to walk around looking after dogs all day seems very peaceful. If not that then perhaps a lumberjack in Canada. I have a beard and a plaid shirt, all I need to learn is how to cut down trees.