I couldn’t get to sleep until 4am. It wasn’t nerves, I’ve become used to giving talks. I’d recently done a stint of nights and ever since I passed the age of 25 I find it harder and harder to readjust back to a normal sleep pattern. Luckily my talk was at 3pm so arriving at 11am wasn’t the end of the world. Despite the venue, the organisers and attendees were polite and informal. I get the impression that this is the case for most of the modern events happening here. The lavish imposing and frankly impressive central London building of the Royal Society is more of a testament to medicine when it was first built.
As philosophy, ideology and attitude has changed again and again over time the building hasn’t. Changing such a building would be a shame and I’m glad it hasn’t. My message of my talk was simple. Learn some basic code and use it to solve simple clinical problems and analyse data.
“Have you heard of NHS hack days?”
Was a question I’ve heard many a time so I wasn’t surprised to hear it here. The problem that I have with initiatives that set out to make huge changes is that they have a poor track record. Groups that cause disruption in a tech field start organically. Silicon Valley is a prime example of this. Bill Gates started an amateur computer club and focused his efforts on writing articles for his club. People came and went and a core stayed making bonds that lead to them selling computers on a small scale. Their initial purpose wasn’t to bring a revolution. Same for Apple. Facebook was first built for Harvard students. Due to its popularity, it expanded to other Ivy League universities. Zuckerberg didn’t sit down and set his first project on changing the world. Twitter was at first a group of bloggers who shared ideas. Eventually, they built a framework to share their ideas in a more effective fashion.
My message is, learn a simple language, solve small problems that are practical, find others with similar interests and build a community. Healthcare is complex, you will come across many practical issues when trying to implement a simple solution to a minor problem. See what works, develop it, if it still works run with it. Dr Chong and the other organisers were very forward thinking in this. They also agreed that the NHS hack days didn’t deliver the goods that were expected. If you’re reading this and you want to play remember that you can download a python interpreter on your smartphone for free. And you can download my scripts on my downloads section for free, alter them and run them on your phone. I cannot help but think we live in the most vibrant time. Considering the enthusiasm, talent, interest in coding and dedication I’ve seen hidden away in pockets of clinicians it is inevitable that we will see drastic change and innovation in this field sometime in the future. The prospect of being a part of this excites me no end.