Doctors + Designers = a tool that can reduce NHS Waiting lists

This last week has been a whirlwind for Infix Support, a business I have worked on with my brother Dr Matthew Freer for the past four years. Our flagship product Infix Schedule has won a competitive tender (against enterprise software companies) to deliver our operating theatre scheduling tool across the entire country.

Don’t just take my word for it though, the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary Neil Gray said: “This is a shining example of how we are embracing cutting-edge tools to tackle the challenges facing health and social care.”

Many of you in my network will think, ‘Hold on, I thought he was a graphic designer?’. And you know what, you’d be right. Not only am I a graphic designer, but I’m quite a traditional one: aesthetic standards, concept led, print, illustration etc. I am a partner in O Street and I’m working on some wonderful projects with the team there. So, how did I end up developing a piece of software that could be part of the jigsaw puzzle that will solve the waiting list crisis in the NHS?

The answer is… people.

My understanding of what makes a good designer is someone who understands people.

In the traditional sense of being a visual designer that might mean something that delights them, makes them smile, engages them in a story you are presenting. With O Street that might be the banknotes we designed for Scotland, with life size midges and hidden poetry. It might also be the Glasgow Film Festival campaign that paints bright colours on the streets and billboards of Glasgow once a year.

Doctors + Designers = Infix Support. Single illustrated chair on yellow background

But understanding people is more than just delighting them, it’s also about listening to the challenges they face and providing tools that can help them overcome them. My brother Matthew might be a doctor, but his observation of the stress admin teams were under scheduling operation lists, inspired his idea of a better way of doing things. In some sense, he is the designer in this story.

When he drafted me in to help we enshrined the belief of a software application where the user was the inspiration. Since our first pilot we have continued to speak to the admin teams and surgeons about their needs, and iteratively improved our product continually. We’ve also not lost the delight—with clean and considered user interface design. Adding the design talents of Peter Newman and Chen to our team shows our commitment to Design.

Through work with design specialists like Graft, Jeni Lennox and Tom Inns we have pushed our user focus even further, communicating that the software tool is only half of the solution. Aiding behaviour change and aligning processes (and people) is as important, if not more so.

The future of Infix is looking bright, alongside this initial product we have a number of others in the wings. I am also by no means hanging up my paintbrush just yet. However, I am already thinking of future blogs on this theme: Designer + Musician =; Designer + Brewer =; Designer + Cinema =.

But, for now, thanks for reading this far, it’s much appreciated.


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