Analog Solution

I’ve been living and breathing digital for more than 20 years. My passion for solving problems with software is what got me into computer science and kept me in the industry all these years. There’s always new problem that can be brought into the digital realm.

After graduating from SFU, my first project was having people send and receive faxes on their PC. You no longer need to print the document and walk over to the fax machine. Another project was to virtualize the networking equipments so you can configure the whole stack of different network equipment with software. Even with physical security, we digitized the zone around high-value objects so that a notification is sent to security personnels when they are moved out of the zone (a.k.a geo-fence).

As you can see, my brain is trained to think about how to solve problem with software. Be it backend processes that you don’t see, mobile App that you interact with or web applications that you access universally. As Marc Andreessen famously called it “software is eating the world”.

When we launch v1.0 of Ratchet Health PRO to clinics a year ago, we were told by the clinicians that some of their patients prefers to fill in the patient-reported outcomes questionnaires in the clinic. They are either not tech savvy, or do not have access to connected devices. This is no surprise given that we’re serving a population of patients whose average age is 70 in the joint-replacement clinic.

Naturally, our digital-biased mind kicks in: “No problem! we’ll build a tablet interface that mimics the paper form that can easily be given to the patient in the clinic.” It’ll be so easy to use that even a non-techie senior would find it easy to use. Simple!

The digital solution was deployed into the clinic and we quickly find out that the population we were targeting still can’t deal with it. Too much precious time was wasted by the medical staff on teaching the seniors how to use the device. Patients would get stuck when they accidentally hit the home button on the iPad and didn’t know how to get back into the questionnaire! We have to find a different way to approach this.

Here comes the good old analog solution: let’s bring back the pen, paper and clipboard.

In the end, it’s about achieving the goal of collecting good patient data without impacting the clinician’s workflow and making it friction-less for patient to participate. For this particular population of patient, it’s pen, paper and clipboard. Once the paper responses are collected, we introduce a digital file vault in our application for the PDF version of the scanned responses to be uploaded and digitized.

Not every solution needs to be digital. It’s good to step out of the digital box and think of different ways of achieving the same goal. Sometimes a proven analog solution is all it takes.