Citizens and practitioners drive digital innovation

Written by Dr Victoria Betton, Founder and Director at mHabitat

On a pleasant early autumn September evening, the Yorkshire and Humber Digital Leaders salon took place at aql, on the theme of citizen and practitioner driven digital innovation in health and care. The session kicked off with a presentation by myself Dr Victoria Betton, founder and director of mHabitat and Anne Cooper, chief nurse for NHS Digital who blogs about being a nurse and living with Type 1 diabetes.

We both made the case that health and care practitioner digital skills are vital to improving citizen experience and outcomes. I shared the Integrated Care Pioneer funded Digital Practitioner programme that I am leading in partnership with Leeds City Council. The report of the first discovery phase can be found here which shows the results of co-design work with practitioners, patients and citizens. A key take home message from the report is that many practitioners see the value of digital technologies and are looking for something simple and practical to build their skills. They experience many barriers to using digital in the workplace, not least out-of-date technology, limited access to public wifi and worries about risks, privacy and security. Digital skills are not only an important enabler in delivering care but also in stimulating innovation and the adoption of new technologies.

The next phase of the programme will entail dedicated support to four integrated teams in Leeds to baseline skills and tailor support to meet their needs. Learning will be curated and shared over the coming year and there was an offer for people get in touch with the mHabitat team if you’d like to find out more.

Anne highlighted the importance of digital technology from a patient and citizen perspective and voiced her frustrations with the lack of infrastructure in health services she receives and the silos between technology systems which means the ability to access and share data with her practitioners is limited. Anne argued that health tech companies must listen, seek to understand and co-design solutions with patients so that they expend their energies solving real world problems, rather than ones they think they understand. She cited the plethora of Type 1 diabetes mobile apps on the market that fail to meet the needs of herself and other patients as evidence that this often does not happen.

I thought we made a compelling case that digital innovation in health and care must be co-designed with patients, citizens and health and care practitioners to ensure both relevance and adoption. To explore the principles and practicalities of how we do this well, they are running a People Drive Digital festival for makers, doers, citizens, leaders and partners in health and care. You can find find out more and book here and follow the hashtag #PDDigital16.

The salon comprised a lively mix of private and public sector participants from a range of backgrounds from education through to IoT and data. Take home messages from a wide ranging discussion for we are:

  • Digital inclusion matters – we must not leave citizens behind
  • Digital skills for the workforce are a fundamental building block for the future
  • Free public wifi is an enabler of digital innovation
  • Digital technologies must be co-designed with people they are intended for in order to ensure relevance and adoption
  • Silos are a blocker for digital innovation – whether they be closed IT systems, data, or lack of connectivity and collaboration within health and social care
  • Procurement regulation and practices can make it hard for health and care organisations to collaborate with SMEs who are innovating in the digital space.

I believe that Digital Leaders is a valuable space for people from different sectors to come together, share learning and problem solve together. We found that the theme of citizen and practitioner driven innovation has wider applications beyond health and social care to other sectors.


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