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DOCtalk by Dr. Gregg 4/1/11

April 1, 2011 News 1 Comment

First, a word from our sponsors. Oh wait, I don’t do sponsors. Well, then…first, a word about the title change.

You may notice that Intelligent Healthcare Information Integration has morphed into DOCtalk by Dr. Gregg. That is something I requested because:

  1. The original title came from the blog I was just messing around with when Inga first saw it and asked me to join the HIStalk party. I had never intended it for use here, but out of lassitude, mainly, I left it how they originally posted it. (Actually, it was intended as a sarcastic statement on the state of HIT at the time.)
  2. The new title seems to be more in thematic keeping with the whole HIStalk Empire. I’m honored to be allowed to use it.
  3. Thus, going forward, this’ll be the new overarching tag for my prattle. Just in case anyone wondered.

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Baby Talk

I have been away from the hallowed wall-less halls of HIStalk Practice for a few weeks, but not because I haven’t been writing. Rather I’ve been pretty busy writing (and doing other assorted duties) for healthcare, for information, and for technology. So, though it is healthcare information technology of a sort, this project is really tangential to what most people think about when considering the realm of HIT. But, an intriguing corollary has become evident to me of late that I thought might be worth sharing.

The other project involves writing scripts for animation videos. These are short, about three minutes in length, and the first “Common Conditions” bundle of 14 videos covers a wide range of topics such as dehydration, diabetes, post-op infections, fractures, anesthesia, and even cancer.

Think about that for a minute. In a three-minute story, try to cover the important basics of, say, Type 1 Diabetes. You need to make it simple enough for a child to understand and engaging enough so that they’ll want to watch.

(In med school, I remember professors saying that if you understand diabetes, you’ll understand all there is to know about medicine. I’m not sure that’s really true, but the idea is valid: diabetes covers a whole heckuva lotta turf.)

So, pick about two minutes of diabetes material to try to get the most important points across for the first overview. (You’ll need a minute or so to get the engaging part, the gags, in there.) Make room to explain terms like “insulin” and “glucose” and try to make sure none of it sounds scary. (Hard to do when talking about shots and blood draws with kids.) Wrap it all together in some sort of “story” and, again, you have a hard ceiling of three minutes.

Challenging? Yes. But not undoable, not by a long shot. The tremendously positive responses we’ve received from test audiences verifies that we have been able to meet this challenge.

So, why do I mention this in the HIStalk Practice world? Because I see a very interesting parallel with what is missing in most HIT products, at least most that I’ve ever seen. That is, most providers don’t really want to be techies. They don’t want to talk — or even learn — the language of the geek. Just like most patients (kids or adults) don’t really want to spend their time learning the techno-babble of medicine.

I think exactly the same approach and process could dramatically advance the cause of most HIT vendors. In other words, spend some time really trying to humanize your tech. Not just the product, but also the training, the descriptors, the “Help” sections, your emails to clients or potential clients – everything that goes in front of the mostly non-geek providers. Talk to them in their language. Don’t try to make them learn yours.

I’ve noted a few vendors who seem to have this concept well in hand. For instance, SOAPware has a great online video education library which is easy to access and understand. From SRSsoft, Evan Steele’s EMR Straight Talk does just that. A few of the new iPad EHRs, like ClearPractice’s Nimble, Dr. Chrono, HealthFusion’s MediTouch, Mayo’s VitalHealth, and Quest’s Care360 seem to present in “people-friendly” formats.

And, the recently developed Thomson Reuters Pediatrics (just about to launch) addresses an old pediatric nemesis, weight-based dosing, which is something every provider who treats children needs. Most EHRs either ignore this or do it poorly. It’s something perfectly suited for the talents of a computer which then truly makes Rx’ing kids much simpler!

This isn’t about baby talk. Personally, I don’t do baby talk, not even with newborns. That’s an unnatural language (and somewhat condescending in my book.) This is about talking with people on a level consistent with their needs and experience and giving them useful tools that help them to take advantage of your special knowledge – without making them learn all that you know. It’s about translation. Making things easier to do and understand for people who don’t have the same expertise as you can go a very long way in facilitating adoption.

From the trenches…

“For success in training children the first condition is to become as a child oneself, but this means no assumed childishness, no condescending baby-talk that the child immediately sees through and deeply abhors.” – Ellen Key

Dr. Gregg Alexander, a grunt in the trenches pediatrician at Madison Pediatrics, is Chief Medical Officer for Health Nuts Media, directs the Pediatric Office of the Future exhibit for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and sits on the board of directors of the Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP).

Comments 1
  • “Making things easier to do and understand for people who don’t have the same expertise as you.” That perfectly sums up my biggest challenge whenever [our CEO] comes into the room and we are doing UI mockups. He just doesn’t get that others don’t get what he gets. (He actually dismisses their input because “they don’t know enough to know what they need.”)

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