Dubious quality but well intentioned.
Can you tell who inspired my athletes?
You may have been noticing people acting rather strangely this week. Why are that couple walking on the patch of grass next to the Tesco that leads no where? Why are those teenagers hanging around outside the church next to the surgery? Are there more families walking around together in the sun? And why are they all holding mobile phones in their hands
Fortunately, it seems nearly everyone knows the answer. My 60 year old parents, my eight year old nephew, the practice manager and and the patients all know.
They are all playing Pokemon Go.
A new and addictive mobile game which has taken the world by storm. It is giving us all one of those rare shared cultural moments when everyone, young and old, have something in common to talk about.
Pokemon Go has had more active users than Twitter, and replaced “porn” as the most searched term on Google, this week.
A patient told me about Pokemon Go in clinic this Tuesday. “My autistic son wanted to get up and go out of the house. He never wants to do that.”
Interestingly, Pokemon Go is also receiving praise for having a positive impact on people’s mental and physical health.
So what is Pokemon Go and why am I excited?
Sometimes you need to communicate a crucial point. To instruct individuals or a team to do something important. To encourage a trainee or team member to change a negative behaviour. It may be vitally important to a patient’s health or the success of your organisation. Fortunately medical training has prepared us well.
We know what to do. Present them with the facts. Support the message with data, graphs, risk ratios, tables and diagrams. This will help. Describe the options and the outcomes. Allow questions. Agree a course of action. Check understanding. Arrange to review progress.
People will then do what is best for themselves, society, or in the case of staff, the practice. Lose weight, complete the QOF prompts. They’ll be responsive to a logical case well made and do the right thing. Won’t they?
All too often, I find that, they don’t.
You will all recognise this story.
Tom is a smoker and we want to convince him to stop. We tell Tom that smoking kills 96,000 people a year in the UK, will shorten your life by an average of 10 years and that 80% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. The list of impacts and risks goes on. The logical case for stopping smoking is overwhelming. But, Tom had a friend… Bill. He smoked for 50 years and was fine. Until he stopped smoking. Since he stopped he had never coughed so much. He developed “heart trouble”, deteriorated and died. Bill always said that it was when he stopped smoking that his health started to go down hill.
“No doctor, I don’t want to stop smoking. It’s not worth the risk.”
Patients like Tom often show us the power of anecdotes and stories, and that they can be more compelling than the clearest of figures and facts.
It seems that many medics are missing a trick when communicating, motivating and leading. The use of stories and narrative are a great tool, and many professionals with technical and scientific backgrounds can under appreciate their impact.
Ask Practice Managers and GP Partners to list the challenges currently facing their practices and GP recruitment will poll high on the list.
Practices are facing a perfect storm of factors making it difficult to find and keep salaried and partner colleagues. Senior GPs are making an early dash for the exit and juniors are looking to other specialities or to more work-life balance friendly overseas or locum roles.
The issues almost roll off the tongue. Pension caps, insurmountable workloads, business uncertainty and risk, premises issues, increasing patient demands, more regulation, higher indemnity costs, the recent GP bashing mood of the media, and active recruitment by sunnier parts of the world. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated partner consider their position.
In many areas, even finding locum GP cover means using expensive agencies to find someone to drive across counties to the practice. It is not unusual for vacant sessions to go unfilled adding to the pressure on remaining staff.
Fresh thinking and innovation can throw up novel ideas and solutions to complex problems and turbulent times.
In 1439 Johannes Gutenberg combined the wine press and the coin punch to create movable type and the printing press. He revolutionised the world.
In March this year the the RCGP Vale of Trent Faculty applied an innovative idea to the problem of GP recruitment and retention in the East Midlands. Perhaps not quite in the same league as the printing press, but exciting none the less.
The worlds of speed dating and GP recruitment, together at last!