Late last year, an online workshop gathered experts’ views on the digital readiness of the health and social care workforce in England, with a view to influencing priorities for the National Information Board’s Building a Digital Ready Workforce programme. Shreshtha Trivedi explores some of the most interesting insight to have emerged from the exercise.

How can we improve the digital readiness of England’s three million health and social care professionals? That was the question at the heart of a three-week online workshop which Health Education England ran at the tail end of last year, in collaboration with crowdsourcing agency Clever Together.

The consultation process aimed to reach the widest possible cross-section of people working with data, information, knowledge and technology to ensure their voices are heard by central bodies.

The idea was to harness the power of collective intelligence and encourage lost tribes of health and care informatics professionals – people who don’t describe themselves as informatics professionals yet work with digital tools.

While the detailed findings and recommendations from the consultation exercise will be discussed in a webinar hosted by Digital Health in April, here we highlight some of the interesting insight that emerged from the exercise.

Between 22 November and 13 December, 1,061 people joined the online workshop offering 4,160 ideas, comments and votes on how to build a digital ready workforce.

The largest group of participants comprised project managers (11.69%), followed by doctors (8.01%), data analysts (6.79%), IT managers (6.41%), other technology workers (6.13%), clinical informaticians (5.84%) and nurses, allied health professionals, and healthcare support workers (5.56%).

However, in what was a slightly worrying figure, only 59% of respondents said their organisations had programmes in place to improve the digital readiness of their employees.

The ideas submitted were in response to four key categories given in the box below.

  1. A new vision:

Imagine you woke up tomorrow and data, information, knowledge and technology were used to their fullest extent, how do you envision health and care could be different?

  1. Your role as an informatician/digital expert:

What must digital experts/informaticians start, stop or do differently to better realise the potential of data, information, knowledge and technology. And why?

  1. The role of others and the system:

What must other professionals and the system more broadly start, stop or do differently to better realise the potential of data, information knowledge and technology. Any why?

  1. Great examples:

What tools and methods have you seen directly help improve digital literacy/readiness/maturity of colleagues and organisations? Please share evidence of this impact where you can?

Out of these four, creating a new vision was the most popular topic of conversation among the respondents.

Some of the key themes that emerged from this discussion thread included integration of services, systems and records and the role of informaticians in achieving that aim.

Other ideas included interoperability of existing systems, using technology to empower patients to better manage their own health, and ensuring a more bottom-up management approach.

The next most discussed topic was best practice examples, followed by the role of informaticians.

The key theme there was professionalisation of informatics in healthcare. Discussions centred on the need for “clearer roles, better training and the integration of informatics into the business as usual of health and care delivery”.

Participants were also of the view that informaticians play an important role as educators and advocates of technology, but warned that they should not be too “bogged down in technical detail” so that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

Or as James Freed, chief information officer of Health Education England, said: “Being a good informatician is more than knowing your way around a database.”