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Dr. Luke Farmery

Dr. Luke Farmery

Foundation Doctor (2)
St Richards Hospital
Luke Farmery is a junior doctor at St. Richard's Hospital in Chichester. Follow LFarmery on twitter https://twitter.com/LFarmery Contact: l.farmery1@gmail.com
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Death by Powerpoint.

Introduction Computerised presentations are a part of every medical student's / junior doctor's life. Sometimes we give them, often we sleep through them and occasionally we even listen to them. They are the backbone of medical education besides traditional bed-side teaching, having rapidly replaced the now extinct OHR (Over Head Projector) acetate-sheet presentations of years gone-by. The problem is that Doctors and medical students often struggle with creating and presenting coherent slides. This is most probably due to the general apathy most have for actually talking in front of an audience, or because those asked to present are often taken unawares, and therefore have little time to prepare. In these times of avolition or last-minute hurriedness, people often reach out for the industry standard of presentation production: PowerPoint. PowerPoint is the most commonly used tool for making presentations because it is simple to use and comes with a whole load of free templates. Unfortunately, most of these templates look disgusting. If a template doesn't look disgusting, then it is most certainly overused and you run the risk of having a presentation that looks identical to the student before you at the weekly seminar teaching - a scenario that can be easily likened to turning up to a lecture wearing exactly the same clothes as another person in the room, which would just be awkward. Another problem with PowerPoint is the phenomenon of 'Death By Powerpoint,' which refers to the general boredom and apathy experienced by those who have received way too much information in way too short a space of time via a series of over-cramped, poorly stylised slides. But why on earth do you care? People should care about 'Death By Powerpoint' because if your presentations cause people to zone out, then you are not getting your message across. And if you aren't getting your message across then you. are. not. presenting. at. all. (take a moment to reflect on that particularly Zen statement). Let me explain using a metaphor, if I am a sales person and I present my talk with well-designed slides, in an enthusiastic and well-rehersed manner to an appropriate audience I will make more sales than if I present using poorly designed slides at the last minute. Similarly, in Medicine if I present well designed, aesthetic slides I am more likely to convey accurate information to my colleagues that may very well be retained and enjoyed by all involved. Of course, this blog assumes a degree of presentation-related Altruism. The recommendations I am about to make require you to 'step out of the mould' and say 'no' to poor presentations. They require you to forgive others for the presentations they have inflicted on you in the past. You will 'lead by example'. Unfortunately I am not capable (or qualified) to make you an excellent designer, nor can I give you the motivation to feel as passionately about design aesthetics as i do when all you've got to do is slam some slides together for your monthly journal club. But what I can do is present to you a series of resources that might tempt you away from the horrific PowerPoint templates that currently infest medical student seminars and young doctors presentations. If you really couldn't care less, then I suggest using Prezi, a website where you can make quite eccentric looking presentations rapidly and for free. The only problem is that Prezi became cliched even before its debut and you risk inflicting travel sickness on your poor audience, what with all the funky zooming in and out of slides that occurs during a typical Prezi presentation (you will know what I mean if you've ever seen one). So, without further ado, here are my top 5 tips for making your presentations look smoother and more polished... Irrespective of whether the contents of your talk are any good. Step One: Typography Get yourself a good font. Typography is really important, when you speak to someone you use a variety of tones and gestures to convey the meaning of the words you are using. Fonts are effectively the printed version of your tone and gestures. Good font choice can help give 'umph' to a particular point in your presentation and help give character to what you are saying. Of course, it's important to remain professional so 'Wingbats' might not be your first choice, but anything that you could envisage on a nice business card is probably a good shout. Fonts are usually something you have to pay for if you want anything beyond the set given to you when you download Microsoft Word (for example). However, there are whole hosts of free fonts available from sites like [dafont])(http://www.dafont.com). The key is to be willing to trawl through these sites to find fonts that are actually useful! Beware those fancy fonts unless you know your audience can take it! If you are stuck on choosing a font, which is a common complaint, then maybe this flow diagram will help! Oh yeah, and never ever use Comic Sans. Ever. Step Two: Colour A good font isn't going to get you very far on its own. You need a solid colour scheme to bring your presentation alive. It seems blunt to say, but some people are not very good at picking colours that go well with one another. This is well evidenced in PowerPoint presentations where the yellow-text-on-blue-background is far too common. I mean yeah, in theory blue and yellow 'compliment' each other, but thats where the relationship between blue and yellow should stay... in theory. Luckily there are some useful colour palette websites available out there, which will match colours for you... Step Three: Structure After you've picked a sensible font and a suitable colour scheme, it's time to think about the structure or layout of your slides. It's absolutely crucial that you avoid putting too much information on your slides even if you are giving an academic presentation. An overloaded slide is about as useful as a dead cat. At this point, some of you may be tempted to resort to those dodgy PowerPoint default templates but there is another way! There are sites out there that have some pretty fresh templates you can use and they are completely free! They are sure to add a bit of spice to your slide's aesthetic. There will probably be a separate tutorial on this in the future, but basic principles apply. As a general rule stick to Left Alignment *and avoid *Central Alignment like the plague. Step Four: Imagery Images help to spice up a presentation, but try and keep them related to the topic. Google Images is a great resource but remember that most images will be a low resolution and will be poorly suited to being shown blown up full-size on a presentation screen. Low resolution images are a presentation killer and should be avoided at all costs. For high-quality images try sites like Flikr or ShutterStock. Step Five: Consider Software The interface of Powerpoint does not lend itself well to having images dropped in and played with to make nice looking layouts. I would recommend Adobe Photoshop for this kind of work, but not everyone will have access to such expensive software. Cheap alternatives include Photoshop Elements amongst others. Once you have created slides in Photoshop it is quick and easy to save them as JPEG files and drag and drop them into PowePoint. Perhaps that can be a tutorial for another time... Step 5: Additional Stuff Presentations typically lack significance, structure, simplicity and rehearsal. Always check over your presentation and ask 'is this significant to my audience?' Always structure your presentation in a logical manner and (it is recommended you) include a contents slide and summary slide to tie things together. Keep your verbal commentary simple and keep the slides themselves even more simple than that. Simplicity is crucial. Once you have produced your beautiful slides with wonderful content you will want to practice them. Practice, Practice, Practice. Rehearsing even just once can make a good presentation even better. Conclusion: This blog entry has covered some basic points on how to improve your medical presentations and has given a series of useful online resources. Putting effort into designing a presentation takes time and motivation, for those without these vital ingredients we recommend Prezi (whilst it is still relatively new and fresh). Perhaps the rest of you will only use these tips for the occasional important presentation. However, I hope that soon after you start approaching presentations with a little more respect for their importance and potential, you too will find a desire to produce high-quality, aesthetically pleasing talks. LARF - Mood: damn tired and feeling guilty that I just wrote this blog instead of revising haematology notes. Follow me on Twitter. Follow the Occipital Designs original blog. Check out my Arterial Schematic.  
Dr. Luke Farmery
almost 7 years ago
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My Top 5 Tips to Use Social Media to Improve your Medical Education

Introduction Hello and welcome! I am finally back to blogging after having a brief hiatus in order to take my final exams. Whilst the trauma is still fresh in my mind, I would like to share with you the top 5 social media tips that helped me through the dark days of undergraduate medicine. Some of you may have already read my old essay on 'How Medical Students should interact with Social Media Networking Sites' and this document deals with some of the problems with professionalism surrounding the use of social media. This blog will not cover such issues, but will instead focus on how you can use social media to benefit your learning/ revision processes. Top Tip 1: YouTube For those of you who are unaware, YouTube is a video-sharing website. Sometimes the site is overlooked as a 'social media' resource but if you consider the simple definition of Social Networking Sites as 'those with user led content,' you can quickly see how YouTube definitely falls into the social media category. It wasn't until I got to University that I realised the potency of YouTube as an educational tool. It has a use at every stage of medical education and it is FREE. If you are still in your pre-clinical training then there are a wealth of videos that depict cellular processes and 3D anatomy - very useful content for the visual learner. For the clinical student, there are a number of OSCE demonstration videos that may be useful in honing your examination skills. There are also a number of presentations on clinical topics that have been uploaded, however, YouTube has no quality control measures for these videos (to my knowledge) so it may be best to subscribe to a more official source if you like to use podcasts/ uploaded presentations for your revision. Another reason YouTube comes in as my number 1 top tip is because I find it difficult to procrastinate whilst using the site. Sure, you can start looking up music and videos that have nothing to do with medicine but personally I find that having a little bit of music on in the background helps me work for longer periods, which is a definite bonus during the revision period. On the other hand, there are many that find YouTube difficult to harness due to the draw of funny videos and favourite Vloggers (Video Bloggers) that can distract the unwary from revision for hours on end. At the end of the day, YouTube was created for funny videos (predominantly of cats it seems) and not for medical education, and this should be kept in mind if you choose to use it as a tool for your learning. Top Tip 2: Facebook Yes, the dreaded Facebook comes in at number two for me. Facebook is by far and away my largest source of procrastination when it comes to writing / working / revising or learning. It is a true devil in disguise, however, there are some very useful features for those who like to work in groups during their revision... For example, during the last six months I have organised a small revision group through Facebook. We set up a 'private page' and each week I would post what topics would be covered in the weeks session. Due to the nature of Facebook, people were obviously able to reply to my posts with suggestions for future topics etc. We were also able to upload photos of useful resources that one or more of us had seen in a tutorial in which the other students hadn't been able to attend. And most importantly, we were able to upload revision notes for each other via the Facebook 'files' tab. This last feature was invaluable for sharing basic notes between a few close colleagues. However, for proper file sharing I strongly recommend the file sharing service 'Dropbox,' which provides free storage for your documents and the ability to access files from any computer or device with internet. Coming back to Facebook, my final thoughts are: if you don't like group work or seeing what your colleagues are doing via their statuses or private messages then it probably isn't a useful resource for you. If you have the motivation (unlike myself) to freeze your Facebook account I can imagine you would end up procrastinating far less (or you'll start procrastinating on something else entirely!). Top Tip 3: Twitter Twitter is a microblogging site. This means that users upload microblogs or 'Tweets' containing useful information they have found on the internet or read in other people's tweets. Twitter's utility as an educational resource is directly related to the 'type' of people you follow. For example, I use Twitter primarily to connect with other people interested in social media, art & medicine and medical education. This means my home screen on twitter is full of people posting about these topics, which I find useful. Alternatively, I could have used my Twitter account to 'follow' all the same friends I 'follow' on Facebook. This would have meant my Twitter home page would have felt like a fast-paced, less detailed version of my Facebook feed just with more hashtags and acronyms - not very useful for finding educational resources. With this in mind, consider setting up two twitter accounts to tease apart the useful tweets about the latest clinical podcast from the useless tweets about what your second cousin once removed just had for lunch. A friend suggested to me that if you really get into twitter it is also possible to use one account and 'group' your followers so that you can see different 'types' of tweets at different times. This seems like a good way to filter the information you are reading, as long as you can figure out how to set up the filters in the first place. Like all Social Media Sites, Twitter gets its fair share of bad press re. online professionalism and its tendency to lure users into hours of procrastination. So again, use with caution. Top Tip 4: Meducation It would not be right to write this blog and not include Meducation in the line-up. Meducation is the first website that I have personally come across where users (students, doctors etc) upload and share information (i.e. the very soul of what social networking is about) that is principally about medicine and nothing else. I'm sure there may be other similar sites out there, but the execution of this site is marvellous and that is what has set it apart from its competitors and lead to its rapid growth (especially over the last two years, whilst i've been aware of the site). When I say 'execution,' I mean the user interface (which is clean and simple), the free resources (giving a taste of the quality of material) and the premium resources (which lecture on a variety of interesting clinical topics rather than sticking to the bread and butter topics 24/7). One of my favourite features of Meducation is the ability to ask 'Questions' to other users. These questions are usually asked by people wishing to improve niche knowledge and so being able to answer a question always feels like a great achievement. Both the questions and answers are mostly always interesting, however the odd question does slip through the net where it appears the person asking the question might have skipped the 'quick google search' phase of working through a tough topic. Meducation harnesses social networking in an environment almost free from professionalism and procrastination issues. Therefore, I cannot critique the site from this angle. Instead, I have decided to highlight the 'Exam Room' feature of the website. The 'Exam Room' lets the user take a 'mock exam' using what I can only assume is a database of questions crafted by the Meducation team themselves (+/- submissions from their user base). However, it is in my opinion that this feature is not up to scratch with the level and volume of questions provided by the competitors in this niche market. I feel wrong making this criticism whilst blogging on Meducation and therefore I will not list or link the competitors I am thinking of here, but they will be available via my unaffiliated blog (Occipital Designs). I hope the Meducation team realise that I make this observation because I feel that with a little work their question database could be improved to the point where it is even better than other sites AND there would also be all the other resources Meducation has to offer. This would make Meducation a truly phenomenal resource. Top Tip 5: Blogging Blogging itself is very useful. Perhaps not necessarily for the learning / revision process but for honing the reflective process. Reflective writing is a large component of undergrad medical education and is disliked by many students for a number of reasons, not least of which is because many find some difficulty in putting their thoughts and feelings on to paper and would much prefer to write with the stiffness and stasis of academic prose. Blogging is great practice for breaking away from essay-writing mode and if you write about something you enjoy you will quickly find you are easily incorporating your own personal thoughts and feelings into your writing (as I have done throughout this blog). This is a very organic form of reflection and I believe it can greatly improve your writing when you come to write those inevitable reflective reports. Conclusion Thanks for reading this blog. I hope I have at least highlighted some yet unharnessed aspects of the sites and resources people already commonly use. Please stay tuned in the next week or two for more on social media in medicine. I am working together with a colleague to produce 'Guidelines for Social Media in Medicine,' in light of the recent material on the subject by the General Medical Council. Please feel free to comment below if you feel you have a Top Tip that I haven't included! LARF Twitter Occipital Designs My Blog As always, any views expressed here are mine alone and are not representative of any organisation. A Worthy Cause... Also, on a separate note: check out Anatomy For Life - a charity medical art auction raising money for organ donation. Main Site Facebook Twitter  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 6 years ago
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Anatomy For Life: Calling all Bio / Medically Minded Artists and Students

Introduction Hello and welcome. If you are one of the few who have been following my blog since last year then you may be aware of a certain promise that has yet to be fulfilled... That promise is of a new set of schematic images similar to my Arterial Schematic that seems to have gained some popularity on Meducation. The truth of the matter is that I have actually been working on a separate project since finishing my finals. This separate project has involved making the website and doing some of the design work for 'Anatomy For Life,' an exciting medically-related charity art auction and exhibition. The event is due to be held in Brighton (venue TBC) during National Transplant week (8-14th July) to help raise money for organ donation and body donation via the charity; 'Live Life Then Give Life'. Where you come in... The exciting thing about the Anatomy For Life (AFL) art auction is that we are looking for everyone and anyone to donate. It doesn't matter if you get usually get paid £1,000 per drawing or if you haven't picked up a paintbrush since school. Each and every donation will be displayed on a level playing field, giving the unique opportunity for amateurs to pitch up against the professional medical illustrators out there and vice versa! As long as the artwork donated fits the criteria below you have free reign: Artwork submitted must be (at least loosely) associated with the 'Anatomy' theme. Artwork submitted must be on roughly A6 card (4"x6"). The AFL team recommend a paper weight of 250gsm or above. Create your artwork using any art media you choose on/with the A6 card. Sign the BACK of your masterpiece, but not the front* Donations should be received by the 17th June 2013 *The AFL team will be exhibiting the art work shown and running the auction anonymously. Artists will not be attributed to their donations until after the event via our online gallery. Once you have completed you artwork(s) you should fill out our downloadable information form and provide us with your name, a short bio about you and what inspired your donated artwork. You can also let us know if you want the AFL team to e-mail you a certificate in recognition of your contribution! Some Context... Organ donation is the act of donating ones organs or tissues to help save someone else's life after your own passing. One person can donate enough organs to save several peoples lives, which in the minds of many is a truly admirable feat! Body donation usually refers to the act of donating ones own body to medical education, so that students may continue to learn the real-life anatomy that forms part of becoming a competent doctor or surgeon. Organ donation is currently on the rise in the U.K thanks to the fantastic work of the Organ Donor Register and the charities that support organ donation such as 'Live Life Then Give Life'. However, the U.K still has one of the highest family-refusal rates in Europe for organ donation. It is hoped that by raising awareness of the benefits of organ donation this refusal rate can be reduced either by more people being registered organ donors or by families having more access to information about the topic. We really want to hear from you... If you have something you think might benefit our project please do let us know! Go To Our Main Website Donate Artwork to Us! Tweet to Us on Twitter Like Us on Facebook Thats all folks, LARF  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 6 years ago
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Current Social Media Guidance

Hello & Welcome! You may have already read my blog on 'My Top 5 Tips to use Social Media to Improve your Medical Education' and if so you will have an idea of what 'Social Media' is and how it can be harnessed to improve medical education. There are also features that could improve health promotion and communication but today I would like to focus on where we have to be careful with these resources. In my last blog I circumnavigated the drawbacks of social media in medicine so that I could give them the full attention they deserve in their own blog today. But its not all doom and gloom! I also hope to give you a brief overview of the current social media guidance that is available to doctors and medical students and how we can minimise the risks associated with representing ourselves online. But firstly, what actually is social media and why do i keep blogging about it? If you are new here I recommend giving 'Social Media' a quick google, but the phrase basically includes any website where the user (i.e. you) can upload information and interact with other users. Thats a definition of the top of my head, so don't hold me to it, but most people would agree that this definition includes the classic examples of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin etc, but there are many many more. These sites are important to us as (future) health professionals because they can be both used and unfortunately abused. However, several medical bodies including the General Medical Council and the Royal College of General Practitioners agree that these resources are here to stay and they shouldn't (and probably couldn't) be excommunicated. With this in mind, there has been much guidance on the topic, but as you are about to find out a lot of it is common sense and your own personal discretion. Before you read on, I'd like to forewarn you that I try and keep things lighthearted with this topic. I'll hope you can excuse my levity of the situation, especially if any of the original authors of these guidelines end up reading this post. But as I am sure you are aware, this is a dry topic and hard to digest without the odd joke or two... British Medical Association - Using Social Media: practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical 2011 The BMA guidance is the earliest guidance originating from a major medical body that i've come across. That said, I have not done a proper literature review of the subject. This is a blog, not a dissertation. But still, the BMA gives an early and brief summary of the problems facing health professionals using social media. Key points such as patient confidentiality, personal privacy, defamation, copyright and online professionalism are covered and therefore it is a nice starting point. It is also quite a short document, which may appeal to those who are less feverent on the subject. On the other hand, I personally feel that the BMA guidance does social media an injustice by not going into the great benefits these resources can yield. There are also no really practical tips or solutions for the drawbacks they've highlighted to students. Read it for yourself here or just google 'BMA Guidance Social Media' Royal College of General Practitioners - Social Media Highway Code Feb 2013 The RCGP guidelines are my favourite. After a cheesy introduction likening the social media surge with the dawn of the automobile they then take a turn for the worse by trying to continue the metaphor further by sharing a 'Social Media Highway Code'. Their Top 10 Tips that form the majority of the code don't look to be much more than common sense. However, each chapter there after dissects each of their recommendations in great detail and provides practical tips on how to make the most from social media whilst protecting yourself from the issues raised above. As I mentioned earlier, the RCGP recognise the inevitability of social media and they acknowledge this in the better part of their introduction. They make a great point that older doctors have a responsibility to become technologically savvy, whereas younger doctors who have grown up engrossed in social networking probably have to develop their professionalism skills more than their older colleagues (I'm aware this is a generalising statement). Either way, the RCGP highlight that everyone has something to take away from this set of guidelines. Read it for yourself here or google; 'RCGP Social Media Guidance,' but be warned, this is one of the more lengthy documents available on the topic. General Medical Council - Doctor's Use of Social Media April 2013 The GMC guidance kicks off with a little summary of the relevant bits of 'Good Medical Practice.' Again, nothing much that isn't common sense. That being said, they then go on to write that 'Serious or persistent failure to follow this guidance will put your registration at risk,' which sounds ominous and probably warrants a quick flick through (do it now! - the PDF is at the bottom of their page). Reassuringly, the GMC does not try and place a blanket ban on social media. They give a 'tip of the hat' to the benefits of social media and then go on to outline all the drawbacks as many of the guidance already has. Asides from the issue of anonymity there is really nothing new covered and the GMC actually gives a lot of autonomy to doctors and medical students. However, the GMC are, in many ways, who we ultimately answer to and so you would be a fool not to revisit the issues they cover in their version of the guidance. As I mentioned, the GMC brought online anonymity to the forefront of our minds. Should we, shouldn't we? A lot of health professionals believe that the human right to a private life extends to the right to have anonymity online. However, before we go into this any further lets take a closer look at what the GMC actually says... If you identify yourself as a doctor in publicly accessible social media, you should also identify yourself by name. Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the view of the profession more widely. As you can see, the use of the phrase 'Should also identify yourself by name' gives some room for manoeuvre and is a world apart from what could have been written (i.e. you must). To those who believe their human rights are being infringed, perhaps a solution is to stop identifying yourself as a doctor online, although I appreciate this can be difficult if you are tagged in certain things. There are a number of good points why doctors shouldn't be anonymous online and it is certainly a must if you are in the trade of offering health promotion via the world wide web. However, I can see the point of those who want to remain anonymous for comical or satirical purposes. A quick google of the topic will reveal that the GMC has said that they do not envisage fitness to practice issues arising from doctors remaining anonymous online, but from the temptations that arise from running an anonymous profile such as cyber-bullying and misinformation. Read the GMC guidance yourself here. National Health Service (Health Education) - Social Media in Education May 2013 The NHS-HE guidelines are high quality and cover the entire scope of what social media means to medicine. There are several key issues that I haven't encountered elsewhere. This set of guidance is written from a managerial, technical perspective. It doesn't really feel aimed at doctors or medical students but it gives such an overview of the subject that I thought it was worth including. If you feel brave enough, read it for yourself here. Conclusion To my knowledge, these are the current key guidelines for the use of social media in medicine. I hope you have found this blog useful in providing a quick summary of a topic that is becoming increasingly swamped with lengthy guidelines. In the future we need to see material produced or delivered that educates health professionals in how to use social media, rather than regurgitating the pros and cons every couple of months. I think webicina is a good example of a social media 'training course,' . There should be more material like this. Perhaps this is where I'm headed with my next project... As always, if you have anything to add to this blog, please feel free to add to the comments below. I will be able to take difficult queries forwards with me to the Doctors 2.0 conference next week! If you are a student and interested in coming to the conference in Paris next week you should get in contact with me directly (@LFarmery on twitter). Also, it would be a great help if you could fill out my very quick pilot survey to help me understand how doctors and medical students currently use social media. Also see my website Occipital Designs LARF Disclaimer The thoughts and feelings expressed here are those produced by my own being and are not representative in part or whole of any organisation or company. Occipital Designs is a rather clunky, thinly veiled, pseudonym. If you would like to contact me please do so on Twitter...  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 6 years ago
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Imagine a world where procrastination became a productive pastime…

Imagine a world where procrastination became a productive pastime… Procrastination, as it stands, is a core feature of the ‘human condition’ and most would argue that it is here to stay. However, what if we could hijack the time we spend playing Candy Crush saga and trick ourselves into contributing towards something tangible. Today, I wish to explore this possibility with you. The phrase ‘gamification’ is not a new or made up word (I promise) although I agree it does sound jarring and I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to use it in a game of scrabble (yet). The phrase itself refers to the process of applying game thinking and game mechanics to non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. For our purposes and for the purposes of this blog ‘problems’ will equate to promoting healthy living for our patients and maintaining our own medical education. For one reason or another, most people show addictive behaviour towards games especially when they incorporate persistent elements of progression, achievement and competition with others. The underlying psychology won’t be discussed here; call it escapism, call it procrastination, call it whatever you will. What I want you to realise is that every day millions of people spend hours tending to virtual farms and cyber families whilst competing vigorously with ‘online’ friends. If we can take the addictive aspects of these popular games and incorporate them in to the non-game contexts I indicated to above, we could potentially trick ourselves, and even perhaps our patients, into a better way of life. The first time I heard the phrase ‘gamification’ was only last year. I was in Paris attending the Doctors 2.0 conference listening to talks on how cutting edge technologies and the Internet had been (or were going to be) incorporated into healthcare. One example that stood out to me was a gaming app that intended to engage people with diabetes to record their blood sugars more regularly and also compete with themselves to achieve better sugar control. People who have the condition of Diabetes Mellitus are continuously reminded of their diet and their blood sugar levels. I am not diabetic myself, but it is not hard to realise that diet and sugar control is going to be an absolute nightmare for people with diabetes both from a practical and psychological standpoint. Cue the mySugr Compainion, an FDA approved mobile application that was created to incorporate the achievement and progression aspects of game design to help encourage people with diabetes to achieve better sugar control. The app was a novel concept that struck a chord with me due to its potential to appeal to the part in everyone’s brain that makes them sit down and play ‘just one more level’ of their favorite game or app. There are several other apps on the market that are games designed to encourage self testing of blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. There is even a paediatric example titled; “Monster Manor,” which was launched by the popular Sanofi UK (who previously released the FDA / CE approved iBGStar iPhone blood glucose monitor). So applying aspects of game design into disease management apps has anecdotally been shown to benefit young people with Diabetes. However, disease management is just one area where game-health apps have emerged. We are taught throughout medical school and beyond that disease prevention is obviously beneficial to both our patients and the health economy. Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to prevent disease is to maintain health (either through exercise and / or healthy eating). A prominent example of an app that helps to engage users in exercising is ‘RunKeeper,’ a mobile app that enables people to track and publish their latest jog-around-the-park. The elements of game design are a little more subtle in this example but the ability to track your own progress and compete with others via social media share buttons certainly reminds me of similar features seen in most of today’s online games. Other examples of ‘healthy living apps’ are rife amongst the respective ‘app stores,’ and there seems to be ample opportunity for the appliance of gamification in this field. An example might be to incorporate aspects of game design into a smoking cessation app or weight loss helper. Perhaps the addictive quality of a well designed game-app could overpower the urge for confectionary or that ‘last cigarette’… The last area where I think ‘gamification’ could have a huge benefit is in (medical) education. Learning and revising are particularly susceptible to the rot of procrastination, so it goes without saying that many educational vendors have already attempted to incorporate fresh ways in which they can engage their users to put down the TV remote and pick up some knowledge for the exams. Meducation itself already has an area on its website entitled ‘Exam Room,’ where you can test yourself, track your progress and provide feedback on the questions you are given. I have always found this a far more addictive way to revise than sitting down with pen and paper to revise from a book. However, I feel there could be a far greater incorporation of game design in the field of medical education. Perhaps the absolute dream for like-minded gamers out there would be a super-gritty medical simulator that exposes you to common medical emergencies from the comfort of your own computer screen. I mean, my shiny new gaming console lets me pretend to be an elite solider deep behind enemy lines so why not let me pretend and practice to be a doctor too? You could even have feedback functionality to indicate where your management might have deviated from the optimum. Perhaps more sensibly, the potential also exists to build on the existing banks of online medical questions to incorporate further aspects of social media interaction, achievement unlocks and inter-player competition (because in case you hadn’t noticed, medics are a competitive breed). I have given a couple of very basic examples on how aspects of game design have emerged in recent health-related apps. I feel this phenomenon is in its infancy. The technology exists for so much more than the above, we just need to use our imagination… and learn how to code.  
Dr. Luke Farmery
almost 6 years ago
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Apple iOS 8 - A step towards omnipotent healthcare informatics.

Introduction The use of smartphones amongst health care professionals is now estimated to be in excess of 85%, with Apple's iPhone currently being the most popular platform. There is a wealth of information (from popular blogs, to formal journals) that demonstrate the potential of smartphone apps (and technology in general) to improve healthcare. However, despite widespread use of smartphones, proper application of the software at our disposal has been arguably poor. The latest mobile Apple operating system 'iOS 8', may be the start of a long-awaited overhaul of the current health apps available. The App Store - as it stands The Apple app store boasts many hundreds of what it describes as 'medical' apps. A review of the 'Top 200' medical apps conducted in 2012 by this author revealed that 49% were in fact general health or lifestyle applications aimed at the general public. The same process was repeated this year (2014) and demonstrated that this percentage has increased to 54%. This increase in apps aimed at the general public suggests that Apple do not differentiate between 'medical apps' and 'health and lifestyle' apps. This could negatively affect health care professionals' perception of the otherwise high-quality medical apps that are available. In addition, of the remaining percentage of apps aimed at healthcare professionals, only 5.56% were deemed to be of clinical benefit (an increased from 3% in 2012). The overwhelming majority of 'medical' apps aimed at medical professionals are actually educational in content and usually focus on the learning of anatomy. Current health apps Much like the 'medical' apps, only a limited selection of the health apps that are aimed at the public/patient are deemed to be high-quality. Prominent examples include the blood glucose monitors that record data in to a smartphone and similarly, the blood pressure and pain diaries. These examples focus on people with medical conditions, but it is important to note the potential of apps in preventative medicine too (i.e. promoting general health). Typical high-quality apps in this category include RunKeeper and Map My Ride. These apps allow everyone to become their own personal trainer and keep an accurate record of their physical activity. Smartphones will even send reminders to the user that a workout is due, and the option is present to share your stats and 'compete' with friends/family via social media. These features highlight the absolute vanguard of what could potentially come in terms of technology influencing healthy living. A current criticism of health apps is that most (if not all) are individual enterprises with very little information shared between them. The metaphor of 'silos' is used to represent these large vessels of information that sit adjacent to one another whilst never benefiting from the contents of one another. The iOS 8 operating system hopes to ameliorate this current issue with its new Health app and HealthKit, which will enable developers and their apps to pull data from several health related apps into one streamlined app. It is envisaged that this app will be able to feed (with the appropriate permissions of course) health related information to your family physician for health monitoring purposes. This could have impressive effects in community blood pressure management and blood glucose management (just to name the obvious ones). Problems Ahead There are scattered anecdotal reports of users being wary of centralised health information and as always Data Protection is a major concern (whether it is warranted or not). In addition, whilst a large percentage of the population may have a smartphone many may still opt not to use health related apps. Poor uptake will obviously limit the perception of this medium as a method of health monitoring. Summary Smartphone usage is high and many healthcare related apps are already available either to serve as medical tools to healthcare professionals or health monitoring devices for the public. Currently, Apple does not seem to differentiate between medical and lifestyle apps on its app store and many lower quality apps seem to appear in 'medical' searches. Also, Current apps do not share information. However, with iOS 8 it seems that Apple seems to be addressing several key issues surrounding the use of the iPhone as a health monitoring device. For the moment it seems that healthcare professionals will have to harness this patient-held approach. Perhaps direct improvements to the medical aspect of the Apple app store and the quality and originality of apps aimed at doctors is still a little way off.  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 5 years ago
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Another Way Down Under

A snapshot of how I ended up starting my "FY3" in Australia teaching anatomy to medical students and the lessons I have learnt along the way. I hope this will help current foundation year trainees consider something a little different...  
Dr. Luke Farmery
about 4 years ago