Digital technology - what must be considered

Published on Thursday, 19 June 2014 09:42
Written by Jim Barwick

Digital technology offers health and social care services a significant opportunity to work differently for the benefit of patients, their families, carers and citizens.

There are also significant opportunities for clinical and non-clinical colleagues. However we won't be successful using digital technology if we don't consider and have in balance, two other aspects;


Having the right staff, with proper training and the ability to use digital technology is a minimum standard. However there is much more to consider; there is the culture, behaviour and values of the workforce too.

Creating a culture and an environment where people not only feel confident to make changes to how they work, but do so in the knowledge that they are free to challenge and change. The behaviour of people during change and transformation is also important not only in relation to behaviours with fellow colleagues but also in relation to the behaviours exhibited to others within the health and social care system or wider.

Having a set of common core values is also important. We all have our own personal values and each organisation will have their own well-crafted set of values, which often when boiled down, say very similar things to each other. However, values are important as they are the basis to how decisions are made and how change, and change in the workforce can be kept on track.

So back to training. Understanding what people are capable of and what they aren't is important, but what's more important is making sure people are comfortable with saying 'I can't do this, I need help'. Once that is in place then the training for new or different systems can happen. Chances are that people will be using technology in their everyday life much more that they do in their work life so training can come easy.

Clinical models

Digital technology is an enabler for clinical services. Is it? I think it is more of a two way street. Digital technology can be there to enable clinicians to do their work differently and more effectively, but it can also influence how clinical models can be different. For example, we can look at new digital technology and consider its potential in a clinical setting, thinking about the 'art of the possible', what it can do for us, how it stimulates new thinking and different ways of working. From this new clinical models and ways of working can be designed, digital is a proactive force for change not a passive response to a new way of working. This two way street also needs to be in balance.

Overall the clinical model needs to be one based on evidence to achieve improved outcomes both clinical, quality and effectiveness but also value for money. Most of the evidence seems to suggest that models where the patient is in the centre, where self-care is a key component and the wrap around community model is fully integrated incorporating health, mental health, social care and GPs centred on a geographical area seems to work (no doubt there are many other aspects too).

How do we get digital technology, workforce issues and the clinical model in balance in order to make a difference? My presentation will give a practical insight into how we have tried to achieve this in Kirklees and how technology has made a difference.

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