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Musings on introducing new technology

Prof Brian McKinstry

17th October 2017


As the Cancer Innovation Challenge aims to encourage new innovations in data and technology to improve cancer care and outcomes in Scotland, Professor Brian McKinstry, a GP,  the Professor of Primary Care E-Health at the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, and a clinical consultant to the Cancer Innovation Challenge, shares some thoughts on the challenges of introducing the "new". 

Introducing new technologies to an essentially conservative organisation such as the NHS is challenging. Many interventions which seem to work well in relatively small studies founder at the implementation stage. The most important features of those interventions that manage to mainstream are that the intervention is important and seen as real advance to those using it, often meeting a previously unmet need,  that the users themselves benefit or the benefit to patients is very clear, that it is relatively easy to use with minimal training required and that it does not increase workload overall. The principles of good design including co-creation with patient and clinical consumers increase the chances of a usable  Inevitably the introduction of any new system comes with a time cost (minimised with intuitive design) but this can be overcome with small amounts of extra time resource provided during the introduction. There has to be institutional support from the start ideally with encouragement from recognised champions and   the benefits widely advertised to staff. The importance making it clear that feedback at the early stages of implementation will be welcomed and acted on as quickly as possible  cannot be over-estimated. Patients and clinicians have to feel they are part of the process of change and not the subject of it.

We can take some comfort form the fact that. it has always been thus...

On Introducing New Systems

There is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new system of things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old system as his enemies, and has only lukewarm allies in those who might profit from the new system.

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince 1552

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