What about the digital skills of health professionals?

02 Jul 2018|Written by Matthew Moxon

The NHS is turning 70 and at Good Things Foundation we have been working hard to improve the digital skills of patients through our Widening Digital Participation Programme, to help ensure 70 more fit and healthy years.

But what about the digital skills of health professionals?

You may have read previously about the work we’ve done with one of the NHS Test Beds in Sheffield. It’s called the Sheffield City Region Perfect Patient Pathway Test Bed.

In short, Test Beds are a way of trialling new technologies and devices with patients. In Sheffield, our role has been to understand the training needs of NHS staff. For patients to adopt new technology, staff need to be advocates. Staff can only be good advocates if they understand the technology themselves. And how to overcome the barriers faced by patients.

Here is how we went about understanding the training needs of staff:

  • Some informal interviews with staff, consulting with the Testbed Advisory Group (TAG) of patients to understand:
    • health professionals’ motivations and barriers when it comes to digital health and how that has an impact on their interactions with patients
    • the training needs and preferences of health professionals
  • Design, test and iterate the delivery of digital training to address this understanding
  • Assess any resulting behaviour change in relation to digital health with both colleagues and patients

This week we have released our evaluation report from this pilot, and I want to highlight one of headline findings from this work, it’s the last on the list but I feel it's the most important:

“It is crucial to acknowledge the concerns of staff that are reluctant to engage with digital and to have those people as an equal part of any training. The invitation to any digital health training should be clear that having a mix of voices and levels of digital confidence are essential to the training’s model and that there’s no right or wrong.”

For me, having worked on this research pilot for a year this puts a spotlight on a two-tier pressure when it comes to Digital and Health. Firstly, It’s difficult to admit you have a lack of digital skills in any professional environment in 2018. Secondly, it's even more difficult to admit this as a health professional speaking to a patient.

One of the biggest positives of these workshops is giving health professionals a safe place to say “I don’t know” and then provide ways to address these gaps in knowledge.

As always it took the no-nonsense common-sense approach of a patient to boil this issue down to a sentence. As Brenda, a member of the TAG, stated in her blog, “You don’t learn to drive in the passenger seat!”.

Tom and Matt from Good Things Foundation and Iain Broome from Very Meta receive a Test Bed Advisory Group Award.

It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Brenda and the other members of the TAG as well as the Test Bed team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals over this last year to pilot this training and create these findings, and to you all I would like to wish you a Happy NHS 70th!