TechTool Talk 002

As part of TechTool Thursday, I thought it would be interesting to look at more than just app reviews.  This week I interview Ian Callander

Ian Callander is a Neonatologist at Liverpool Hospital and has been working in Neonatology for 27 years.  He has been instrumental in creating NICUS, a neonatal database used across NSW.  Dr Callander is a perfect example of how clinicians can improve technology within hospitals in spite of the bureaucratic barriers faced

Can you tell me a bit about NICUS?

The original NICUS database has been around for years but became very old-fashioned and out of date.  Perinatal Services had looked at replacing it, but an outside IT company quoted over $500,000  (this was 10 years ago) which was never going to happen.  A few of us had some tech experience and decided to collaborate to improve the database.  In 2007 we completely restructured it

What benefit does it offer to health professionals?

It can be used as an audit tool as it keeps track of interventions, problems and outcomes.  More recently we have introduced the clinical module which has a handheld interface allowing us to do a ward round with the information on a tablet and allowing consultants to access their patient information from outside the hospital.

What is the future for NICUS?

My main goal is to use automated data systems to induce improved neonatal clinical outcomes while seducing the user with clinical utility. My ultimate fantasy is a universal networked healthcare community with DataMining capability to detect previously unknown associations.

What was your previous tech experience?

This is my biggest project, but I had previous experience with Microsoft Access, and that’s what we used.   I don’t have any formal training, just a mind that works the right way to understand technology and have always been interested in computers.  Microsoft have so many free resources to make web development a pleasure – any problems I encountered I simply searched the web to find a solution.

How did you manage to get past all the hospital IT bureaucracy?

We run this system through NETS (Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service).  As they are independent from the hospital, we were able to implement this without having to go through hospital IT approval.  After it was designed, we obtained permission from each hospital director for implementation.  It was a challenge to implement, especially motivating people to actually use the software initially.  We made changes to make it more useful to staff and this resulted in people using NICUS more and more. 

What advice would you give to a doctor with a health innovation idea?

Hospitals have an unbelievable amount of red tape.  If you do ask permission you will almost certainly be told ‘no’ and if you aren’t told ‘no’ it will be made pretty much impossible for you to complete it.

My advice is that if you have something that is really worthwhile and you can do it without asking permission then just go for it.

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