If you’ve pulled a long shift in an NHS hospital you would have recognized the wired call buttons that patients use. When it comes to clinicians innovating and using tech to optimise their own projects, they don’t give these buzzers a second thought and I know why. They’re clunky and they are a complete pain to install, you have to wire it into the wall with these wires connecting to a buzzer system. After all that hard work you cannot really use it for another project. Nowadays, if you cannot repurpose hardware I wouldn’t recommend investing in it. This is why the smartphone was such a success. The uses of the phone could be constantly re-invented. Right now, most of the clinicians I know who want to monitor something either put it on an excel file and try and get people to input the data, or code a web framework and a phone app for people to log information. None of these are ideal if you just want to log simple data. Thanks to Amazon, there is a simple, slick, reusable way of logging data, it’s called the dash button.
First of all, let’s clear one thing up, the dash button was built for one thing and one thing only, to sell more Amazon products. There’s a button with the brand’s name, and when you’re getting low that product, you push the button and it will order more of that product:
However, this is why I love the free market and capitalism. Their desire to sell more product has given us the opportunity to log data cheaply to bring simple solutions and insights. Now there is a way to hack one of these dash buttons so you can get it to alert for anything. For one project someone managed to hack it to track baby data [link]. However, if you’re not into hacking there is a product now. It’s a little bit more expensive but it supports 3rd party developers [link].
So what can you do with this? My mind goes back to my first days of coding. In A and E patients were transferred to a range of departments and wards. It was rumored that some departments will keep nurses longer than others. Also, the time it took to get a patient through a CT scan on the way to the ward was unknown. If a particular ward was taking longer, we could contact them and work with them in bringing the transfer and handover time down. Transfer times are honestly just dead time. When the nurse is transferring they cannot do anything in the department. I coded a simple interface in visual basic (god what was I thinking??). Users had to go up to the same computer where it was running, and click to say that they were back. You’re not surprised to hear that I barely got any data. Having one of these and simply pressing when you’re done, may not have completely solved the problem, but it would make it simpler. Surgical communications could be improved with this simple device. Every surgeon has a numbered push button on their neck tabard:
When the surgeon walks into the theatre, they push the button. This can send data to the web app saying that they walked into theatre at time X. Other applications like fire safety, entering and exiting buildings, going on break etc are now a cheap reality. I cannot wait to see what solutions clinicians will come up with using this cheap tech.
I help clinicians get to grips with coding and tech, I also code for a financial tech firm