The Digital Health Revolution | Get with the digital health programme

I’m hooked on searching for new ways of working. Too long have I seen the need for new ideas from both the health service provider and customer. Digital health has helped me to think differently about my clinical practice and also my own health management. I believe that digital health can empower us to better monitor, manage, and improve wellness. I believe it is a crucial element to bring greater efficiency and cost savings to the NHS. I believe it will help to achieve a better quality of life for all of society.

In this blog series, I wanted to provide operational managers and clinicians with useful information on how to be more aware and involved in shaping the future of healthcare from a digital perspective. The first instalment defined the meaning of digital health and shared some leading examples. Part two explored the complex problems facing the NHS, which are demanding a timely digital saviour. The blog then shared the governance and objectives set to make digital changes. In this final instalment, I will revisit the question;

How do we do a better job at ensuring all of our clinical colleagues are a part of the digital health journey?

I believe that the essential ingredients to this challenge are:

Awareness + Leadership + Engagement

Part three – Get with the digital health programme

Clinicians need to be at the heart of digital developments. To be more actively involvement, frontline staff need to not just be aware of digital health progress, but knowledgeable of the solutions and benefits. Digital leadership can be nurtured if clinicians have role models and help to foster new skills. Collaborative engagement is important to ensure frontline staff have the ‘best fit tech’ to do their jobs. This will ensure greater adoption.

Digital Health Awareness

Here are some of my favourite organisations and links to their websites that I use to keep up to date. To keep your finger on the pulse of digital health sign up for their e-newsletters and follow on twitter.


Twitter handle: @DHealthLDN

Twitter handle: @digitalhealth2

Salus Digital

Twitter handle: @SalusDigital

The King’s Fund

Twitter handle: @TheKingsFund

Health Foundry

Twitter handle: @health_foundry

Health Tech Women UK

Twitter handle: @htw_uk

Health Innovation Network

Twitter handle: @HINSouthLondon

NHS Hack Day (Geeks who love the NHS – Making NHS IT less bad)

Twitter handle: @NHSHackDay


Twitter handle: @INTEROPenAPI

Digital Health and Care Alliance (DHACA)

Twitter handle: @DHACA_org

Digital Health Leadership

Twitter is great source of international and national digital health leaders. On this platform people share their views, news and inspiring stories. Here are a few of my favourite digital health advocates:

}  Maxine Mackintosh @Maxi_Macki (Chair of Health Tech Women UK)

}  Dr Amir Mehrkar @DrAmirMehrkar (GP, CCIO, Co-founder of INTEROPen)

}  John Nosta @JohnNosta (Digital Health expert NostaLab and Google Health Advisory Board)

}  Eric Topol @EricTopol (Cardiologist and author of The Patient Will See You Now)

}  Tara Donnelly @Tara_donnelly1 (Chief Executive at Health Innovation Network, London)

}  Dave deBronkart @ePatientDave (International patient engagement advocate)

}  Gerry Bolger @DigitalGerry (CCIO, Nursing informatics champion)

}  Charles Lowe @LoweCM (Telehealth expert, Managing Director Digital Health and Care Alliance)

}  Shafi Ahmed @ShafiAhmed5 (Leading virtual surgeon using GoogleGlass, AR and VR)

}  Anne Cooper @anniecoops (Chief Nurse NHS Digital)

}  Mike Clark @clarkmike (Collator and sharer of health tech news from around the globe)

}  Helen Cherry @Cherrysouth (DN, QNi, digital and accessible tech advocate)

In all of these admirable leaders, I see a common set of skills that they seem to resonate. It is these that I feel we must all not only embrace, but utilise to be able to be a part of the digital revolution.

  1. Keep an open mind and willingness to think differently
  2. Be curious and eager to learn about digital solutions
  3. Be willing to take measured risks in practice and service management
  4. Foster an enabling not controlling approach to help your clinical colleagues
  5. Champion the clinical change agent role in health information and technology
  6. Provide authentic leadership from the ground up
  7. Demonstrate strategic thinking in solving our clinical, service and organisational obstacles
  8. Adopt a business driven mentality – think about efficiency, productivity, cost savings and return on investment
  9. Strive to be data savvy and ask for analytics – engage your business intelligence
  10. Be future focused by looking at the digital trends within and externally to the health industry
  11. Above all, when thinking digital maintain human compassion and empathy

Digital Health Engagement

Clinical engagement is fundamental to achieving usability of digital solutions, driving change management and enhancing the digital skills of the healthcare work force. It is time clinicians stop accepting poorly designed systems and take a more active role in shaping what we want for our working environments and how we can utilise digital platforms. The usability of digital tools is the most crucial aspect of uptake. It is more than just the ease of use. When we refer to usability, we need to consider how effective, efficient, engaging, error tolerant and easy to learn a digital platform is. We need clinical leadership at all stages of digital transformations; design, testing, training, implementation and evaluation.

The difference between embracing change and resisting it is how involved and prepared clinicians are. We need to acknowledge that changing work behaviours takes time and support. Some clinicians are going to need protected time to adopt new digital skills. I have found that it is costly to assume digital adoption and skills in ones’ personal life is transferable to clinical practice. We must identify and address the fears of using technology in healthcare. We must prepared clinicians to be able to talk to their patients about why they are using new digital tools and how they are going to be using them.

What you can do for your health service and clinical staff?

Here are my favourite strategies to ensure we bring all of our clinical colleagues on the digital health revolution journey:

  1. Put digital health on the agenda. Make it a topic at team meetings, annual professional development goals, job descriptions, job interviews and offer clinicians rotations across information and technology departments.
  2. Be interested and involved.  Have a voice and get your ideas on the table. Approach your CIO, CCIO, Medical Director and/or quality improvements leads at your trust.
  3. Look at the problems you face. Research potential digital solutions, try to design something yourself, seek permission to trial and test something new.
  4. Source a hybrid of talent. Create more opportunities for clinicians to work alongside business and data analysts and software developers.
  5. Employ a clinical lead for every digital transformation programme. They will naturally lead on clinical governance and safety, staff training needs, meaningful communication strategies, setting useful outcome measures and evaluating the benefits for the service and the population it serves.
  6. New partnerships. Approach universities to offer computer science, software engineering and health informatics students placements at your trust to work alongside clinical staff.
  7. New learning. Use a variety of tools to help develop new working practices such as case studies, digital tip emails, cite examples of good practice, offer peer to peer supported learning and set up a digital special interest group. Source and share digital health professional development opportunities such as events and courses.

To cut to the chase, the NHS has to think radically about lowering its cost, reducing the inefficiencies and improving the quality of care by making healthcare more personalised. I strongly believe that digital health will contribute to achieving this three tiered goal. I believe we are about to embark on one of the most exciting eras of healthcare. It’s a digital health revolution and let’s not leave one clinician behind! As clinicians, we can play a vital role in reforming the NHS from within. We cannot sit back and wait for the external pushes from government, technology suppliers and citizens to drive change. We can pull and drive the changes from within. For me, it’s not about the technology alone; it’s about the desire to work smarter by utilising digital solutions to improve clinical outcomes and the experience for our patients whilst making the role of the clinician easier. I will finish up this series with one of my all-time favourite quotes:

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”

Steve Jobs


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