Looking for geeks who love the NHS

Dick Vinegar | The Guardian | June 6, 2012

Dick Vinegar, the patient from hell, on NHS Hack Day, an attempt to devise useful apps to improve health

...There are hundreds of potential champions lurking around out of sight: 120 of them came out of the woodwork two weekends ago for the NHS Hack Day. They were inspired by Dr Carl Reynolds, a clinical fellow at the Department of Health, who is "frustrated by the software I use at work". I know what he means. The clinical-hostile software was probably written by some programming clone, working for what Frank Dobson once called "the intergalactic rip-off merchants". These are people who rule the world of IT, but do not understand how to write a doctor-friendly, nurse-friendly or patient-friendly man-machine interface.

Carl's idea of NHS Hack Day was to assemble as many "geeks who love the NHS" as possible. They would include doctors, designers, developers and researchers. They were given the task of designing a useful app in 24 hours, and presenting it to the panel of judges. If successful, it could smash to bits the traditional ways of designing and procuring systems in the NHS, and make many of the large expensive private sector software houses bankrupt...

The NHS Hack Day was a eureka moment in the history of IT in the NHS. I am delighted that follow-up hack days will happen in Liverpool and Oxford. I am delighted that the establishment types on the judging panel have seen the light. They will ensure that the hack day will not just become another NHS pilot, which will fade away and be forgotten. Above all, I am delighted that at last the self-evident truth that clinicians should drive NHS IT, aided and abetted by developers and geeks in real time, looks likely to sink in.

Beware, however, there are powerful vested interests: multinational corporations, Department of Health bureaucrats and hospital chief information officers, who will try to kill the hack day spirit at birth. You, the new NHS IT champions, have a fight on your hands.