Ayesha Rahim, Perinatal Psychiatrist and Deputy Medical Director/Chief Clinical Information Officer at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust reflects on her role as CCIO and talks about how the NHS Digital Academy has helped her to do her job more effectively.
I have always had an interest in digital health. Like many colleagues, I have been frustrated by a lack of accessible information to support the care of individuals or the redesign of services. I want clinicians to lead the way in changing this, so, naturally I was excited to apply for the role CCIO when it came up in August 2017!
We have far fewer female CCIOs than male CCIOs. Reflecting on how we advertise posts in digital health, we should consider framing them as “quality improvement posts” that use technology as a vehicle, rather than being “technology posts”. Advertising jobs in a way that implies an informatics background is essential can put off a lot of clinicians, and women in particular.
As a CCIO you need to be able to communicate and operate with the board, but you also need to work with front line staff and the middle management to get them on board with empowering staff to engage in digital transformation. Although it can be beneficial to have technical knowledge and skills, it absolutely isn’t mandatory. What you really need is enough knowledge to understand the enablers and limits of technology, and be able to provide appropriate challenge with both technical and clinical colleagues. Ultimately, a big part of my role is being a conduit of information, and transcending the barriers that have historically prevented interactions between informaticians and clinical staff to work with them to explore the art of the possible.
At Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which is a mental health and community trust, we are trying to grow our clinical informatics leadership and recently appointed a CNIO. The organisation really gets that digital must be embedded in everything we do, and it forms part of our strategic objectives for the whole trust. Being able to see opportunities outside the boundaries of your organisation – across primary care, social care and beyond – is also key. Our Integrated Care System (ICS) includes four acute trusts and ourselves who contribute to the regional digital health board. We have all helped form our joint digital strategy. As part of this, our Shared Care Record (LPRES) is currently being rolled out across the ICS. Since 2014 a small team has been working to ensure that relevant patient information is available to authorised members of clinical and social care teams, to support timely patient care. This has been a huge step forward in making information accessible to improve the quality and timeliness of clinical decisions.
The other major project at our trust has been the roll-out of our new Electronic Patient Record. This isn’t just about a new IT system – it’s a major transformation project, which requires significant clinical input to ensure user needs are met. To do this we have had to consider how best to engage busy clinicians to get the most out of their time and ensure we strike a balance between local customisation whilst working within the constraints of an off-the-shelf solution. Providing a structure to that engagement has been informed by my involvement in the Digital Academy. It has taught me how to keep on track and maintain focus, support good decision-making, and how best to build up clinical informatics leadership within the organisation to support this.
The Digital Academy has afforded me many opportunities to be better at my job. As it is so work-place focused, I can bring real problems to the table and work through them with a network of colleagues. Forging links with 100 other colleagues on the course and sharing best practice is invaluable. Being split into peer groups of eight to 10 people who are geographically close gives us a local network we can speak to almost every day.
The course content is brilliant. I’ve learned so much about project management, procurement processes, and I am more confident about the technical elements of my job. Moreover, I understand how to better work with informatics staff to offer my clinical expertise to improve the design of clinical systems. I believe this is key to clinical involvement in technology and informatics. We are the best placed to provide insights into how to improve the quality of a service or how you might improve patient experience.
So if you have a passion for Quality Improvement and are interested in how technology can assist the delivery of healthcare, don’t hold back in applying to a CCIO role based on not having an informatics background. And once in post, if you apply to the Digital Academy, you will gain an enormous amount of knowledge, resources, skills and language that will help you feel more confident in the value you bring to your role (as well as 100 fantastic new colleagues to share your experiences with and learn from beyond the length of the program!).