by jantzl on October 15, 2020

Last week I was watching CAEP National Grand Rounds and caught a segment by Dr. Doug Chisholm titled "Automating the Boring Stuff: Lessons from Software Development". He gave a really great presentation, as did all of the other presenters, and I highly recommend you check it out.

His talk included some tips to use technologies to achieve marginal gains in medical work. At this point, my cyclist partner’s ears pricked up because margin gains is a concept from cycling whereby small improvements accumulate to create a significant impact. His talk is full of gems and if the concept of marginal gains interests you at all, I again highly recommend that you check it out. To entice you, here is one example from his talk: he demonstrated how to use text expanders to speed up data entry (charting). If you are unfamiliar with text expanders, they are a software tool that lets you create custom short phrases that represent longer, commonly used phrases. You can type the short phrase and the software will expand it out into the longer phrase, saving you a bunch of typing. For your quick reference, he shared Phrase Express (free) and Text Expander (not free) Enticed? His segment starts at the 6:30 mark.

Excited from the talk, I tried to share the text expander concept with a doctor that I know and while it was promising to her, it did not feel accessible in that moment. And that is something from the world of programming that I would like to share with the world of medicine. One tenant of programming is to always look for ways to reduce effort, even marginally. Another that my friend Saul and I often discuss is the difficult choice to invest time to learn a new tool that you know will make things faster and better while putting off more immediate concerns. Obviously, "more immediate concerns" in medicine has far greater implications than in software, but I read on one text expander site that they estimate 1 hour saved in charting per day. If it takes 2 hours one weekend to set it up, you've gained that time back before the next week is done.

Two ways I can think to help with this are 1) find and share ways to reduce effort 2) provide detailed instructions for how to do it. Because the biggest hurdle and time investment is in that “Where do I start?” moment.

So I'm going to try to find and share or create some tips like this. If you have any that you want to share, or areas that you’re interested in and would like me to digest for you, please let me know. We’ll see how this goes! Maybe we can start next week some practical tips for setting up and using a text expander in medical context.