I recently had a technical problem with my Mac computer. It had been gradually slowing down and then one day it simply refused to turn on. The little spinning wheel just kept spinning ad infinitum. I consider myself to be reasonably tech savvy, so it was with a hint of defeat that I paid a visit to the Apple store.
After booking the appointment online, I arrived to be greeted by the iPad-wielding store managers, who directed me to a back desk where I would be seen by one of the Apple Geniuses. Meanwhile, they logged the serial number from underneath my computer to get a full record of exactly where that computer was sold, when it had been repaired, what Apple user IDs were associated with it. All of which appeared on my Genius’ iPad when he arrived to help us.
The Genius turned out to be quite an eminent diagnostician. He took a history of the problem, asked about any previous issues I had experienced with the computer, and then began a very methodical series of investigations. He ran a script to check the integrity of the hardware, used an algorithm to detect logic errors in the software, checked the most recent internal error logs. The conclusion – a fatal software problem requiring a full reboot of the operating system.
At each step, he documented his findings in an electronic pro-forma built into an iPad app, which in the end generated a full report of the encounter for upload to Apple’s international database. Before he rebooted the system, I had to sign (with my finger on the iPad) an automatically-generated consent form. And when I left, with a software-refurbished Mac convalescing under my arm, I was emailed a complete summary.
It struck me afterward how medical this whole experience had been. My computer had basically come in GCS 3 on a background of chronic dementia with an acute deterioration. There was triage, investigations, diagnosis, intervention. And finally the computer was discharged. Yet it was all done with a level of slick technological efficiency that I had never seen in a hospital before. So the question naturally occurred – what if a hospital was run like an Apple store?
There are three aspects in particular of the Apple model that would be interesting to imagine in a healthcare context:
Of course, we cannot model our entire healthcare system on an Apple store. There would not be very good patient follow-up, no personalised healthcare, and we would only treat people if they were still under warranty. And the hospital gift shop would have to expand considerably.
However, by leveraging technology to streamline routine tasks, Apple has designed an amazingly efficient computer healthcare system from which the medical world can learn some valuable lessons.
The old mantra an apple a day keeps the doctor away almost implies a rivalry between doctors and apples. In fact, there should probably be more crosstalk.
This post was first published at jmo digital on Monday 1 February 2016 and is available at What if hospitals were run by Apple.