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My Future Self, I hope the Emergency Department has learned these lessons

Jim Roberts  | 25th October 2021
Dr Mark Harmon

Dr Mark Harmon is our Brand and Strategy Director here at eConsult. He is also an A&E clinician who works at Lewisham Hospital. Mark’s journey into healthcare wasn’t a typical one, he has previously shared his story on becoming an A&E doctor later in life. We asked him, ‘if you were to write a letter to your future self, what would it say?’. The outcome was raw, emotional, and deserves to be shared…


Dear My Future Self, 

As an ED doctor, I feel myself finally taking a breath after the 2-year onslaught of an unprecedented global pandemic. Yet, the institution I love and believe in continues to struggle in the aftermath and faces wave after wave of misinformation and slander in the press.

I am hoping that when you read this, we will have learned many lessons and your job will be safer; ‘never events’ will actually never happen, you will have the tools you need to do your job, and your patients will be cared for in the way we all want. I am hoping that the NHS has been restored and renewed, receiving the funding and respect it deserves.

Maybe we will have learned from other safety-critical industries, such as the airline industry. Taking inspiration and opening our eyes to welcome in others from very different walks of life who challenge the norm, embracing the innovation and creativity that it can bring. Maybe we will have broken free from our echo chamber of like minds and restricted thinking, I hope so.

There are many challenges I face in my current day job. The pandemic has brought us much heartache, but as we start to see glimpses of normality, we are still compounded by record ED attendances.

Two key concerns stand out for me now.

1. The safety of our waiting room. 

How do we identify the sick patients quickly in the wave of people at our front door? How do we keep patients safe once in the department? The list of considerations seems endless:

  • Separating Covid from non-Covid,
  • Ensuring P1 patients are treated within minutes of arrival, 
  • Enabling staff to give analgesia to those in pain quickly, 
  • Keeping waiting patients happy, or try to stop them waiting at all,
  • Making sure that lovely, stoic elderly lady in the corner who does not want to trouble anyone does not deteriorate awaiting triage?

2. Releasing the pressure with redirection 

How do we quickly, within 5 minutes, and safely know which are the worried well or those that are better treated by other health professionals, meaning we can decompress our front door? Or, how do we give staff the visibility of their waiting room, so that they can pull out lower acuity patients for treatment elsewhere? This would offer a valve to release pressure as and when needed.

I do hope, My Future Self, that these simple but critically important factors have been resolved by the time you read this. Waiting over 15 minutes for triage in the 21st Century is simply unacceptable.

But with crisis comes creativity. With despair comes hope. Covid has taught us many things but it has also forced us to think differently. If any positives were to come out of this hardship, the advancement of technology would be one.

We are now opening our eyes to the possibilities that digital can bring. The joining of technical know-how, advances in medical/life science, and receptive attitudes are a hope for the future.

Technology now exists to assist me and help address my key concerns.

A digital front door is a much-needed solution for staff and patients. Electronic triage means that there is never a queue for check-in, and a patient’s history is taken quickly, in their own words, with privacy and dignity intact. Histories are standardised, auditable, and triaged automatically into priority order. We know within 5 minutes of arrival who the patient is, how sick they are, and where they need to go for the best and most appropriate treatment. Because of this, waiting rooms are safer, calmer places. And, most importantly of all, patients are better cared for.

We are at a pivotal point in our journey. The ED of the future is coming. Technology can help us make better, faster, and more accurate clinical decisions. It can augment the care we provide our patients. I see a brighter future. I see a better future. I only hope, My Future Self, that you experience it.

Mark Harmon.


What next?

Want to find out more about the digital triage technology we are creating for Emergency Departments and UTCs? Book in a call with our team.