28 June 2016

Why know-it-alls come off worse in business

Companies need not tackle challenges alone. Great Ormond Street Hospital reveals how an unlikely partnership helped it kick-start a new phase of growth.

While the partnership between London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and Formula 1 racing may appear unusual, the firms share common threads that have resulted in success for both sides.

Professor Martin Elliott is Professor of Paediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at University College London and Director of the National Service for Severe Tracheal Disease in Children. Based at GOSH, he has spent the last ten years looking at how the technology used by racing teams might save lives

Prof Elliott recognised commonalities between healthcare and Formula 1 when analysing the journey patients make between operating theatres and intensive care units. He noted that such trips carry high risks where the slightest complication can add days to a person's time in intensive care, or worse.

GOSH deduced that the application of racing technology could lower this risk. Ahead of IFB2016 Prof Elliott shares his method and stresses that tech firms should look beyond their own sector for growth opportunities and valuable collaborations.

  1. In the mid noughties, Prof Elliott noted the speed with which coordinated Formula 1 pit crews made changes to cars. He likened it to his own medical team, which carried out similarly complex procedures on a young patient the night before. This was the common thread that sparked his concept.
  2. After reaching out to contacts, Prof Elliott and his team were invited to Ferrari's Formula 1 home in Italy to see first-hand how complex F1 cars are stripped down and altered in mere seconds. His team invited F1 engineers to GOSH to offer guidance.
  3. Engineers noted shortcomings in GOSH protocols when transferring patients. For example, no one was placed in charge of a patient during critical handovers between units, and data captured at each stage of their journey was not retained when they were hooked up to new equipment.
  4. Using this insight Prof Elliott's team introduced checklists to ensure procedures were followed, while new channels were created for junior doctors to voice their concerns clearly and foster a stronger culture of teamwork. Surgeons were also trained to soften their approach and convey information more clearly to ensure teams were confident and coordinated at all times.
  5. The process was formally trialled over a two-year period, resulting in a four-times reduction in mistakes and an increase in team performance across the board. Patient handovers are now practiced regularly to ensure standards are maintained.

Today, Prof Elliott and the wider GOSH team continue to innovate with Formula 1. Both parties have recently explored the application of 3D printing in the operation theatre, enabling surgeons to print surgical instruments on demand to conduct complex procedures.

GOSH is now open to collaborations with firms from other sectors, and Prof Elliott now has the tracking systems and sensors of logistic firms such as FedEx in his sights. He feels the technology could enable medical professionals to monitor the progress of recovering patients after they have been discharged from hospital.

They key takeaway from the joint efforts of GOSH and Formula 1 is that however qualified you are or successful your business, there is always more to learn. Being open to the possibility can reveal great opportunities.

The three biggest lessons we learned from the pit crews were rehearsal, rehearsal and rehearsal. We never ever rehearsed anything because there was always another baby to deal with

Professor Martin Elliott, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Key takeaways

  1. By allowing Formula 1 access to appraise its patient transfer methods, GOSH was able to identify shortcomings it would have otherwise overlooked. This openness may help tech start-ups unearth new partnerships or efficiencies.
  2. Prof Elliott researched beyond the medical sector echo chamber to identify technology that could advance his team's work. Humility and a willingness to reach out to other firms can help grow networks and unlock new growth.
  3. Although GOSH implemented Formula 1's insights to good effect, Prof Elliott's team is not resting on laurels. The hospital continues to research, appraise and test new technologies on an ongoing basis to encourage new growth.

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