What does digital health mean to me?

Written by Katie O'Donnell, Managing Director at Storm Health

The June Digital Leaders Salon in Scotland took place in Inverness for the first time. Representatives from both the digital and health sector met at the new Highlands and Islands Enterprise offices to discuss the topic of ‘Digital Health – What does it mean to me?’

The event was sponsored by Sopra Steria and hosted by #hellodigital. April Conway, Project Manager at #hellodigital welcomed attendees to #hellodigital’s new premises and explained the organisation’s role is to encourage every business to make the most of digital technology in promoting and operating their business. The event was chaired by Sharon Moore of IBM. Barry Collard from NHS Highland and myself were invited to the session as the lead discussants and we kicked off by outlining what digital health means to us.

I focused on my experience as Managing Director of Storm Health, a digital health social enterprise based in Edinburgh, by outlining the opportunities which digital health presents, as well as some of the prerequisites required to realise benefits.

An overview of the value of digital health in disrupting the current model healthcare delivery was provided. I outlined its role to support prevention and the wellness of the general population, as well as enhancing self-management and empowering users and health professionals to manage long term conditions.

The importance of technology being an enabler rather than a solution in itself was a point I was keen to emphasise. It is vital to change the way we do things and service re-design is a crucial element to providing more effective and efficient digital health services. It is also essential to remember that people are at the centre of digital health – whether it is those receiving services or those delivering it – and engagement from citizens and health professionals is vital when designing and implementing digital health services.

Barry Collard, a Health Improvement Specialist from NHS Highland, spoke about his role within the Public Health Directorate. The role was established in March this year and Barry highlighted how the use of social media along with web and graphic design is helping to promote campaigns. For example, recently it is being used to help tackle loneliness and social isolation in the Highlands and the Argyll and Bute area.

When the topic was opened for discussion to the group, salon contributors highlighted that digital technologies would help empower people to manage their health and wellbeing and access their health information.

The governance of digital technologies was raised and the group discussed how health information needs to be held securely. The group agreed that citizens should be in control of their data and how people were more likely to participate in digital services and provide their personal information if they obtain value from it. Therefore, in order to engage the population, it is key that digital health services are relevant, flexible and easy to use.

“My information, my life, my health – I want to have control over it.”

Comparisons were made between Digital Health and online banking. It was noted that there was skepticism with online banking when it was first introduced, however, many people are now reliant on this service because of the value it affords. It was thought that digital health services such as Patient Health Records will follow a similar trajectory and ultimately empower citizens.

The salon discussants also considered the role of prevention in improving health outcomes. It was felt that we need to take prevention more seriously to help reduce health inequalities. To support the prevention agenda, behavioural change through digital health service was identified as an enabler and, crucially, educating citizens on important lifestyle factors needs to be undertaken so citizens can be proactive in managing their health and wellbeing.

From the discussion it was clear that our health is important to us all and digital health has a role to play in empowering users to help manage and improve this. In addition, it was evident that digital technologies need to provide value to end users and health professionals in order to promote adoption and encourage people to enhance their personal health records.



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