NHS Hack Day – Making an Old Man Happy

I’ve been fortunate enough to fall in with some of those young clinicians and developers organising NHS Hack Day (actually two days 26/27 May 2012 in Central London) http://nhshackday.com and I think this is one of the most exciting things to happen in Health IT for many years. It also fit well with my latest not-for-profit venture www.handihealth.org about which more soon.

This free event is now “sold out” (they are trying to get more space at their venue) but you can still participate by joining “nhshackday” at http://groups.google.com/

The energy and enthusiasm of this group reminds me of the early days of GP Computing in the 1980’s and I think they might give a spur in the Acute sector like that of the early pioneers in  UK General Practice.

UK GP Computing was the first widespread application of IT at the point-of-care and retains a position of global leadership. Today over 99% of practices have been fully computerised for more than 10 years, most practices operate” paper light” and most mid-career GPs have never known general practice without a computer.

Progress in the Acute sector has been disappointing, but I think those behind NHS Hack Day are about to change this and I want to encourage them and suggest they take heart and learn lessons from what happen in GP land 30 years ago.

The reason for success in General Practice and the lack of similar progress in the acute sector are many (see: https://woodcote.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/lessons-from-gp-computing/ ) for more. But at the heart of this was the collaboration that emerged between young GPs and techies in the early 1980’s from which all of those companies that have shaped the GP System market emerged.

These young people were fascinated by the power of the early PCs (Apple II, PET, TRS80) and a raft of long forgotten micro-processor based mini-computers which meant a GP practice could afford a computer. They saw opportunities to improve care, build business but above all have some fun. The clinicians learnt a lot about the technology (programming their Sinclair’s, BBC Micros etc – Parallels with apps, open source and the RaspberryPi ?) and the techies developed a deep understanding of primary health care which they lived and breathed with their clinical mates. From the shared understand and respect came some amazing things.

Many of these people are now in positions of leadership in the clinical professions, academia,  industry and the global health informatics community, they haven’t all found out about NHS Hack Day yet, but those that have are much encouraged by what we see what is  (primarily) our children’s generation doing.

As ever, this new generation will need to ignore a lot of our advice in order to make progress (as we did before them) but there are things to be  learnt from our history and there is much we will try and do to support you.

We wish you well and stand ready to try and help.

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