Any conflict of interest to declare in 160 characters?

chat about conflict of interest


Last week I saw an interesting public twitter conversation started by Dr Jonathon Tomlinson (a NHS GP) and Dr David Oliver, a Geriatrician and President of the British Geriatric Society and attempted to make a contribution. The chat started as a comment on ‘government hypocrisy on making dementia a priority‘ and it interested me as the chat veered into talk about how uncertainty all too often encourages Doctors to perform interventions that aren’t necessary/desirable.

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I merely chipped in because I remain stunned that in 2016 the EHR still belongs to everyone but the Patient and that in the NHS it is all too often exclusively accessed by Doctors and I thought the comment by the Geriatrician that Patients hate uncertainty is wrong (they just hate the level of uncertainty when their care remains effectively undocumented) and hoped that I might be able to offer to help the President of the British Geriatric Society a different perspective for consideration when when writing his article (the BGS is the Professional association of Doctors who practice geriatric medicine).

My contribution was merely to highlight that we are in a fortunate position that Patients today can (and want to) help their NHS GPs and that this opens up opportunities that could not be realised before because ‘more information leads to less uncertainty‘. I then posted this link to my most recent blog post reporting on the incredible success that Dr Rupert Bankart (a NHS GP in Peterborough) is enjoying after providing his Patients with access to interactive questionnaire tech similar to that we built into the 3G Doctor service 10 years ago and that I believe the evidence shows Patients and Carers deserve.


Any Conflict of interest to declare in 160 characters?

I think the most important take away here is that in a 160 character medium when you haven’t stated your own going and asking for COI’s from someone else who has been working for 30 years is nonsensical and it’s disparaging for dialogue. Imagine how a Patient or a Doctor without a blog/online pressure might feel discouraged from engaging when their 160 character contribution is branded as a crusade or thinly disguised effort to sell something. Perhaps David Oliver just needs some quality social media training because he’s clearly not noticed that his public chat with a colleague is not a private conversation.

For the record my COI’s are easy to find on the author page of this blog: Personal Disclosure: I have conflict of interest to disclose. I have made it my mission to try to fire people up about the mHealth opportunity and actively seek relationships, financial and personal, with Patients, Carers, developers and companies that are seeking to leverage mobile (the newest mass media) to create better healthcare experiences and outcomes.

Our open sharing approach to business confuses lots of medics because it often looks like we’re selling  things when we’re not but it still made me feel better that the Director/Founder of AskMyGP (the private company that sells AskMyGP to the NHS) contributed to make it clear that I have no commercial interest in the service I blogged about but I think it’s important to realise that financial interests aren’t a bad thing, we don’t all have to operate registered charities to make a difference for Patients and we can have Patient interests that we put long before we ever even consider any commercial ones.

Personal crusades are a good thing: Let’s be prepared to welcome ideas from wherever they come.

I think a lot can be learnt from this exchange so I will be adding insights from it to the content of the mHealth for Healthcare Professionals CPD course that we developed and sell to the NHS (and others) but the real takeaway is that we shouldn’t be automatically dismissing new ideas because we’re uncertain of why they are being suggested or the background and financial incentives of the person who is making them.

Suppliers to the NHS

I think there are so many opportunities for commercial suppliers to the NHS to contribute to improving how it works but at nearly every NHS healthcare event I go to I see none of the suppliers in the conference room (they instead feel lucky enough to be allowed to hang about outside the room in the exhibition area where the free sandwiches and drinks they pay for are consumed). Could you imagine the mess if pilots had no interest in dialogue with aircraft engineers apart from sales meetings!

It’s sad that this situation is now developing online (eg. in the above exchange you can see a prominent NHS GP telling the CEO of a supplier that they’re now not going to be doing business with them because they think they have been insulted by a fan of their work who interrupted a conversation they were having with a colleague).

The NHS needs all the help it can get but it’s fundamental to appreciate that many of the best ideas and suggestions will come from some of the most vulnerable Patients (who have first hand experience of it’s services). I may have a very thick skin but there’s an urgent need to ensure that senior NHS staff don’t behave in this way online as it gives the impression that they will make you feel as though you are an intruder in their office who is butting into a conversation they are having.

We must not give the impression we would slam the door in the face of someone looking to help.

About David Doherty
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