The Audacity to Own Your Digital Transformation
Digital technologies, transformation and innovation are the golden threads that join business, operations and clinical intelligence together, to transform patient care and outcomes.
In the past, IT initiatives primarily focused on hardware and software implementation, as well on specific job responsibilities to deliver and embed digital transformation. However, in the current climate, this is no longer sufficient.
We need to move away from the nanny mindset of ‘winning hearts and minds’ because that’s about digital being done to us. Instead, we must move towards an ethos of digital ownership where diverse clinical healthcare professions work collaboratively towards a shared goal.
As leaders in digital, we have a unique opportunity to foster a culture of inclusivity and ongoing learning to increase our capacity for digital readiness both now, and in the future.
Measuring past successes
In 2002, the NHS launched its national programme for IT (NPfiT) deployment of Electronic Patient Records (EPR). Today EPRs are a crucial component of the healthcare environment, with several case studies having now described what a good EPR implementation looks like.
A critical factor for success is having not only the buy-in, but also the active involvement of EPR users, as well as the commitment of leadership and other stakeholders (Fatma Arikan et al, 2022).
Engaging stakeholders early is key as well as having sufficient resources to meet the unpredictability of an EPR implementation (Acharya and Werts, 2019).This allows the benefits of EPR use, and the legitimacy of the change, to saturate into the organisational culture (Fatma Arikan et al, 2022).
Moving beyond EPR
With the successful implementation and benefits of EPR now well documented, we need to move towards a culture where people feel they can be creative and innovative. And where they can leverage advancing technology to continuously transform their healthcare organisation.
With the digital landscape and assisted technologies moving at a rapid pace, we need to focus on how to grow and support a diverse, digitally-literate workforce in adapting to change with agility.
There’s now a renewed opportunity to, for example, use Integrated Care Systems (ICS) as a vehicle to advance the digital transformation agenda by connecting computer systems together across organisations.
We need to tap into the talent of geniuses across NHS systems’, such as Topol Digital and Digital Academy digital fellows, within the NHS and ICS. Together, we need to collectively explore powerful emerging digital-assisted technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the remote monitoring of patients.
We need healthcare professionals working hand in hand with patients, the population and diverse communities to support them in their own care, e.g. through online appointment booking, wearables and digital education.
Our role as system leaders is therefore to build and nurture an organisational culture that supports the workforce in embracing change. This requires us to scale and sustain this culture, through truly visionary and innovative leadership.
Gone are the days where it’s enough to simply digitalise current processes. It’s time for healthcare professionals, patients, and other staff to confidently own an equal voice and get involved in the future of digital healthcare,
To sustainably deliver seamless digitally-enabled care, everyone needs to work together in partnership. This means, for example, clinicians having the influence and power to inform and influence the scope of requirements of clinical information systems.
Broadening the conversation
We also need to overcome historical misconceptions and false notions about digital, which feed the narrative that clinicians find the language around digital too complex, need a special digital course, or don’t think digital technology is for them.
Our roles as leaders in digital is to level the playing field to make people understand that digital job titles are not necessary to do digital. Digital is for everyone, and it’s just part of how we will work now and in future. As the speed of change picks up, we all need to be agile to adapt to evolving digital capabilities.
As a leader, you need to bring the power for change back to clinicians. Instead of someone telling them what to do, they need to be thinking about the patients they serve, the problems they face, and how a digital solution might make things easier.
It’s important to challenge old ways of thinking, for example, whether you’re collecting data for a purpose – or just because it exists – and whether a solution meets the needs of its users, or is just what everyone else is doing.
In any organisation, there will always be a mix of users. Some people will be digital champions or super-users who are always positively engaged with new technologies. Other users will be neutral, and just use a solution because it exists, while others will display active resistance.
It’s essential to ensure there’s a culture of continuous positive learning and innovation, to keep the digital champions and super-users engaged in digital transformation and move the neutral and negative users into the positively engaged box, so no one is left behind.
Some clinicians show nervousness towards advancing technologies, such as artificial intelligence tools, taking over their roles. While this may be the case for repetitive functions, it’s important to focus on the opportunities, and on creating a culture that dispels and demystifies these myths. For example, there will always be a role for face-to-face human interaction.
The future is here
Today the EPR is day-to-day operational technology used by professionals across most healthcare settings.
With rapid digital advancement moving in some cases faster than human intervention, it is essential that NHS organisations grow an agile and innovative culture to ensure the workorce is well equipped to adapt to change.
In short, it’s about giving people the audacity to own their organisations’ digital change and transformation.
Only by doing so, can we leverage the full potential of safe digital technologies to enhance clinical decision making and improve the quality and equity of care we deliver.
About the author: Ronke Adejolu is the National Associate Chief Nursing Information Officer at NHS England, an experienced, senior healthcare and digital systems leader who specialises in systems leadership, strategy, Innovation, and partnership working. Ronke can be contacted on Twitter @ronkeadejolu or https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronke-adejolu-212b2110/
About the author: Anna Awoliyi is the Chief Nursing Information Officer at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals, where she focuses on improving staff digital literacy and development. Anna was a finalist for the CNIO of the year 2021 and won the “digital champion” section of the BAME Health and Care Awards 2021. She has a passion for advocating for patient and staff voices and addressing digital inequalities in healthcare. Anna can be contacted on Twitter @annatransform18 or https://uk.linkedin.com/in/anna-awoliyi-abb4682
Arikan, F., Kara, H., Erdogan, E. and Ulker, F. (2022). Barriers to Adoption of Electronic Health Record Systems from the Perspective of Nurses. Continuing Professional Development, 40(4), pp.236–243.
Acharya, S. and Werts, N. (2019). Toward the Design of an Engagement Tool for Effective Electronic Health Record Adoption. Perspectives in Health Information Management, pp.1–14.