Rapping around a hospital enabled Dr. Tapas Mukherjee to reach 209,754 people with his latest project, ‘The Inhaler Song’. Although not the first person to make a music video in medicine, teaching an entire set of guideline was quite a unique undertaking by the ‘Dancing Doctor’ with his first video ‘Breakfast at Glenfield.’
The idea initially occurred to him after an audit on his hospital in 2012 revealed that they were failing to use their asthma guidelines: “That was quite poor as we are a respiratory hospital. Only about 60 per cent of people were aware that we had any hospital guidelines for asthma and only around 40 per cent of people were using them. Dr Mukherjee felt that doctors were being snowed under by guidelines and policy papers and felt that a new approach was warranted.
“There’s a quote I use in my talk that Einstein once said that doing the same thing and expecting a different result was madness and that’s what we were doing; conducting audits and not doing anything differently. Driving home, he began to replace the lyrics of songs with the asthma guidelines, before filming a video on a mobile phone over the course of a week.
“On the surface, we received a lot of support but behind the scenes there were threats if things went wrong there could be public backlash, I could be brought before the GMC or lose my license to practice but that’s just the time we live in, unfortunately. “People from medicine around the country were talking about it; the usage of the guidelines doubled from 40 per cent to 80 per cent. We presented this at the Thoracic Society Summer Meeting and ended up winning an innovation award, which then gave it a level of credibility, enough for me to say that I’d achieved more in a few months at Glenfield Hospital than I had in my whole career up until that point in acute medicine.
“I resigned from my job in acute medicine and became a respiratory doctor at that point. It meant that it was a very awkward start as not many junior registrars have won prizes and were rubbing shoulders and doing interviews. “I lost my identity a little bit when I became a respiratory doctor and, while on the surface a lot of very senior doctors liked what I had done and were singing my praises, in reality the people that I was working face to face with didn’t know what I had done and didn’t necessarily care, feeling that the other stuff I had done was a distraction. “Part of making the next video was admitting to myself what made me happy; being able to reach multiple patients, hundreds of thousands, with your knowledge at the one time. Having already done this for doctors, I thought why not target the patients next?
“There wasn’t much love for my idea when I initially mentioned it to my colleagues as it would cost time and money in the short-term. I spoke to NHS England about how I thought that we could save lives using comedy and music and they awarded me several thousand pounds to make another video because they saw the relevance of it on a national scale. “Each asthma admission was costing us £3,000 and I explained that if we got 250,000 people to see it, 10 per cent of them would have asthma and, even if we could only stop one per cent from coming into hospital, that’s a significant saving.
“We should not be as afraid as we are about how we look to the public. There is an attitude that the public shouldn’t be allowed to see things in case they get offended or do something stupid after watching it. Yet, we give them an inhaler and just say that we’ll see them in six months. “It would be a help for our juniors to be taught to speak like the NHS, to understand how they think in terms of a business, for them audits and business plans are the way of moving forward and I think people often have good ideas and don’t know how to express it. The project won the 2015 NHS England Innovation Award and Dr. Mukherjee was also offered job opportunities on the basis of this positive feedback.
“I ultimately decided to quit being a doctor and to go out by myself, aiming for millions of views instead of hundreds of thousands of views, which is a big risk and was subsequently approached by one of the world’s largest advertisers. I’ll miss the patient interaction and, while I might be doing some commercial stuff, I hope that some will involve making education more accessible.