Aasha Cowey is the next member of the Digital Health Advisory Panel to take part in our profile series. The programme manager at the South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit talks about how she got into health informatics and what she thinks are the biggest barriers to achieving digital transformation.
How did you become involved in health informatics?
I started my career as an emergency medical dispatcher and became really interested in the opportunity that technology had to play. If paramedics had the right information available on scene, then they wouldn’t need to go into hospital unnecessarily ‘just in case’.
If people had better assistive technologies in the home, could they be independent for longer? My curiosity got the better of me and I ended up working in clinical audit and data support roles before completing the NHS graduate scheme in health informatics.
What is your current role?
I work in transformation & consultancy at South, Central & West Commissioning Support Unit. I really enjoy the fact I can work on really different projects. My main area of work is supporting primary care with their digital transformation journey. I have also recently completed a national project as part of the ‘Building a Digital Ready Workforce’ programme on health informatics career pathways.
What’s the largest barrier to achieving digital transformation?
Can I have three? One, we don’t do enough around user experience from the outset – both in terms of citizens and our NHS staff. I think we are sometimes too scared to ask and open up those cans of worms – but they need to be opened!
Two, a pet peeve of mine is also making an existing bad process digital! We don’t achieve transformation if we don’t transform the process behind it.
And three, the majority of us come to work wanting to do the best we can, yet we don’t always work in the best way as a system and organisational barriers can be a hindrance, both individual teams within one organisation, or multiple organisations within a system.
If you were given £30 million to spend on digital transformation, where would that money go?
I would probably spend it on developing and investing in the informatics workforce, so that we can do digital transformation well, alongside sorting out some of the basic IT infrastructure. They sound like two extremes, but both are really important, or we risk wasting money in the middle on vanity projects where we don’t have enough capable staff to deliver it and/or the infrastructure to support it!
What is the most over-hyped digital innovation in health?
I wouldn’t necessary say its over hyped but for me the jury is still out on video consultations. From my personal research when I did my dissertation, it was not favourable. I think it could work wonders for certain patient groups. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds over the next few years, and I hope we evaluate and collect evidence against it to learn from.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why?
I’d joined an organisation expecting to work on digital transformation projects and I ended up spending the majority of my time fixing an access database and doing QIPP reporting – because there was a vacancy and I was the one in the team who knew how to use Access and Excel.
I appreciate someone has to do it, but it absolutely killed me inside – and had I of known I’d be doing that, I wouldn’t have taken the role on. It’s a shame really because I think I’d have been really good at the job I’d applied for but I ended up walking away. I think again this highlights the importance of career pathways and mismatched expecations – something I talk about quite a lot!
What’s the background image on your phone?
My 2 year old daughter.
What’s the last TV series you binge-watched?
I’ve been binge watching quite a lot of the Mighty Boosh and the IT Crowd lately.
If you could travel back in time to meet one person, who would it be?
Probably my grandad (my mums dad) who died when I was a baby, as I don’t have any memories of him
In a film of your life, who would play you?
Me! As the one thing I’ve learnt over the last 12 months is being your authentic true self is so important. So I can’t imagine someone else playing me when I place so much emphasis now on being true to myself. That sounds really cheesy doesn’t it?