So what would a website look like?

By Lawrence Loh, MD MPH

In our last post at the beginning of April, we started to talk a bit about what a potential coordination website would look like. Most of what weve come up with has been through informal discussion with lots of people - the local community were building the site for, the other teams that have significantly longer and diverse experiences participating down there, and what programmers feel is feasible. Weve settled on a few common elements that are going to form the basis of our product.

The keystone of things will be a centralized calendar and contact database. After all, if were going to be working together and coordinating together, at a baseline we should know who everyone is, and where everybody can be reached at. Further to this, this calendar and contact system can one day form the basis for recruitment - trying to find specific young professionals who happen to have a week to come down and join a group for a week - with that group as part of the wider project going on. At the least, this will let everyone know who is who, when someone is heading down, and who to contact that might be on the ground right now or imminently.

Then comes the information sharing. And we had a long think and some very fruitful discussion with the other great people heading down there. From a disease perspective, it comes down to standardizing everything - protocols, program logistics, and information sharing. So wed look to have team reports, that would be part of a record of whats been done, but also serve as an information source for upcoming teams. Wed like to see some real-time inventory and tracking of projects that the teams are working on. Wed love to standardize protocols based on best evidence identified by teams (something to do while home and not on the ground there!) as well as experience. And of course, building a wiki of information on cultural customs, what to expect when heading down there, general tips and suggestions - filling into the idea of a virtual library of ideas that will eventually form a valuable knowledge base for anyone doing short or long term work in the community.

Then the biggest part of the interaction - a forum for discussion and communication. Teams can share ideas for new projects, plan how theyre going to go down, set goals, objectives, and indicators for how theyll measure progress. They can give heads-up to teams heading down after them, or check-in with teams before them to see if theres something that needs to be followed-up on. A continuous stream of information shared between teams, all on the same side, still individually autonomous, but using technology to push towards the same goal, with the local leadership always at the forefront of making sure things go.

And for those young professionals looking for a shot in, they can join a trip; read up on the locale through the virtual library and ask questions on the forum; source meds in their home community that are identified as in need on the inventory; head down on their trip with their team, and then come home and keep track of what theyve started and participated in down there virtually until their next trip down in a year, or six months, or whenever.

In todays busy day and age, it would mean that our valuable week down there becomes something more - it becomes part of solving the puzzle of work down there and turns our investment into something more valuable, part of a mosaic. Its working together. And in our next post, well talk about how weve started discussions with other folks, the general reception, and challenges weve faced in the development of our web platform.

Dr. Lawrence Loh is Chief Medical Officer of The 53rd Week, and a physician in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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