Chris Netherton, M.D.

Innovation leads to... more innovation

As most doctors know very well, the stethoscope wasn’t originally invented to solve a medical problem – it was created to overcome a shyness problem.

Up until 1816, it was standard practice for a doctor to listen to a patient’s heart by pressing their ear directly against the patient’s chest. However, when faced with a young female patient, French physician René Laennec felt that such behaviour would be… inappropriate. His initial solution was to use a rolled up tube of paper instead, placing one end on the patient’s chest and holding the other end to his ear.

This absolutely inspired idea led to three years of research which resulted in an instrument that transformed the day to day practice of medicine. In turn, the use of the stethoscope opened up a whole new field of medical understanding and innovation. Within 200 years, this would lead to a world where, amazingly, over 5,000 heart transplants are carried out each year.


The year René Laennec invented the stethoscope

In the area in which Microtest operates, we are only just beginning to realise the full implications of the latest developments in clinical software, and the advances in care that these exciting new tools will help our medical professionals to achieve. It is a fantastic time to be working in our particular field.

Like Laennec’s stethoscope, innovations such as electronic medical records were originally created to deal with fairly mundane problems: saving time for practice staff, facilitating more accurate and consistent prescribing and recording of data, allowing different members of the practice team to access the latest records, and so on.

But without electronic patient records, you couldn’t move on to the next logical step – which is sophisticated electronic record sharing. So now, with products like Microtest Guru, it is possible for all parties involved in a patient’s care to have immediate real-time, secure access to their latest records, including when practices are closed. This includes GPs, hospitals, pharmacies, ambulance services, specialist clinics, care homes and more. We are only just beginning to understand the wonderful plethora of benefits that such joined up healthcare can have for patients.

In turn, the above developments led recently to our creation of Planned.Care, a system for sharing a patient’s care plan with all their key medical practitioners and care providers. This is the first time all organisations across the UK can have online access to a central record showing a patient’s comprehensive care plan, creating significant benefits for patients, clinical staff and other organisations. Planned.Care will integrate with any primary or secondary care system, as well as any first responder service, social care, community teams and voluntary organisations. It has already attracted great interest from care providers and yet, only a few years ago, no one even knew that such a ground breaking innovation would be possible.

It is amazing how quickly this ‘chain reaction’ in innovation is transforming the way in which the medical profession thinks and operates. In five or ten years, when people look back on this time, they may well view it as an era of innovation that is every bit as important as the leap forward that was made following the invention of the stethoscope.

After all, every day we ask ourselves exactly the same question that René Laennec must have asked all those years ago:

“There must be a solution – how do I find it?”