I’m not sure how many of these ‘the future of Trip’ articles I’ve written over the years, but there have been a few. I like to set out my current thinking of the direction of Trip with some reflections on the past.
Business model – our move to a freemium business model last year (most of the site free but a ‘pro’ section for those willing to pay for extra content and functionality) has been a great success. For years we have been concerned about the financial security of Trip and this new approach has allowed us to diversify our income streams and bring the security we craved!
New Design – It’s been out for a few weeks now and I’m loving it and the reaction. We rolled out a few new features but it was more cleaning up the interface. It was a major piece of work and it’s great that this particular project has finished.
Answer engine – This has been talked about for years and it’ll finally be here shortly. It’ll be a learning system to give answers as well as search results.
As all this has been going on as I’ve been reading the very interesting ‘Business for Punks‘ which is an overview of the rise of the Scottish brewery Brewdog. It’s refreshing and has given me the inspiration to write this post. One big factor in their success has been the relationship with their customers, in effect, being their brand ambassadors – helping promote the business and the brand. To a large extent this happens with Trip. We have lots of fans and a great connection and I can always rely on our registered users to help out when I need advice. But one thing that Brewdog have shown is that you cannot do enough customer/user engagement. So, I’m hoping to reflect on better ways of making the Trip users feel part of Trip.
But another really powerful message is to properly define what you’re trying to do and really focus on making that magical. This is something I’ve been pondering for a while and this book helped crystallize my thinking:
What is Trip about?
Trip started as a service to my work answering clinical questions for general practitioners in Gwent, South Wales in 1997. Q&A is my passion. When we ask users about Trip we get three main reasons for using the site:
- Clinicians seeking answers to their clinical questions.
- Information specialists carrying out literature reviews for systematic reviews, guidelines etc.
- Academics using the site to plan research.
The focus of Trip developments has always been the top reason (Q&A) but I’ve been keen to support the other two. I think this will always be the case. But I do think I may have lost sight of what the Q&A component means. What do I want the site to do, in relation to Q&A? A few alternatives:
The best place for health professionals to obtain answers to their clinical questions
Clinical question answering heaven
The ‘go to’ place for clinical question answering
They all amount, roughly, to the same thing. The top one answers it best albeit being a bit wordy (but we can work on that). So, the plans for the next major developments involve supporting clinical question answering! This requires a number of components:
Answer engine – as mentioned above it’ll be rolled out soon. It won’t be perfect but it’s a great start and it’s a learning system so it’ll get better with time.
Search algorithm – we’ve followed the same basic algorithm for years, arranging results based on a mixture of word matching (between search term(s) and documents in the Trip index), year of publication and quality of the publisher. This is fine, to a point, but search has moved on massively and we’ve not moved with the times. So, we will be looking to overhaul this. As part of my work in the KConnect I will be working with information retrieval experts to exploit current ‘best practice’.
Belief – Underlying the changing has to be a belief that we can be the best.
Community – Trip needs to state our aim to be the best and to actually be the best. This will rely on our community of users letting us know when we’re great and when we’re less than great. So, our engagement with users needs to be enhanced – from good to great.
So, Trip’s future:
Community and site moving closer together to deliver something magical
April 1, 2016 at 5:17 pm
“Magical” makes me think “Disney”- whether at their resorts or on their cruise ships, they always strive to give a “magical” experience. In common parlance, calling something “mickey-mouse” generally is a slight, or a indication of being cheap, low-quality, or child-like (though the last of those 3 may not be a bad thing). However, in my (somewhat limited) experience, Disney really does deliver on “magical” – what does that mean operationally? For the customer, I think it means an experience that is both top-notch, and has an element of fantasy or at least being “special”. So, my question for TRIP is, how will trip become “Top Notch” (not say it isn’t, but how can it become even better), and how can trip provide a user experience that is fantastically special?
No answers (not even clues to answers), but a couple thought’s I figured I’d share)
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April 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm
Thanks for the comment and the term ‘Mickey Mouse’ this side of the pond! I use the term magical as, recently, some of the work I’ve seen – that can be applied to Trip – appears magical (as in it’s beyond my comprehension – so perhaps a low bar).
But it’s about delivering an experience, for our users, that makes them think ‘wow, that’s magical’ (or you could replace magical with ‘amazing’ or similar words). While I think Trip is good it’s not perfect and doesn’t deliver ‘wow’ most of the time (as I don’t think any tool does).
So, we need to focus on our user’s needs and – principally – this is around helping them get quick answers to their clinical questions. If they associate Trip with the starting point for their Q&As – we’re doing something right. The answer engine is part of the solution (coming soon and improving with usage) and an improved algorithm will also help loads.
But, as a clinician and a user yourself, what would make you go ‘Wow’? And this is where the community comes in.I want you (and other users) to care enough about Trip to tell me when we’re rubbish.
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April 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm
Hmm – I do think that “magical” in medical circles could be equated with something having a “wow” factor. One recent example of “wow” with TRIP was my last weekend on call – Patient with cancer metastatic to the brain, but admitted with an acute orthopedic fracture, so at risk for VTE. Question whether or not to anticoagulate. I entered “enoxaparin AND brain metastases” in the search box, and the top “hit” was directly clinically applicable: Intracranial hemorrhage in patients with brain metastases treated with therapeutic enoxaparin: a matched cohort study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25987658). True “wow” would be to get such a clinically useful point-of-care answer, every time! (hey, why not reach for the stars… !)
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April 2, 2016 at 7:52 am
But shouldn’t that be Trip’s aim – to deliver ‘wow’ every time?
If you don’t aim high and push yourself what hope is there, other than mediocrity. We might deliver ‘wow’ 25% of the time (no idea if that’s an over or under estimate) but every percentage point higher is a victory for both Trip and the user.
I think with an algorithm change we can make really big gains – overnight. But there are other things – if we know a user is the from the USA, place USA guidelines above UK ones (for instance). Broadly, that’s sensible – and it should be easy.
But we need the feedback from the users. I just had an email from a user struggling with a Q about hand washing and hospital acquired infections. This is a great learning opportunity for Trip – so this sort of thing needs to be encouraged. So, in future, if you struggle – drop me a line!
But I like the idea of a ‘wow’|’not wow’ button to allow users to communicate how we’re doing. I think I need to run this idea past a few people. But if we’re aiming for ‘wow’ (or similar term!) lets share our aspirations with our users.
Thanks for the comments – it’s helping me work through some issues!