As Ireland’s national eHealth programme develops, there is a growing need for clinical leaders to take a step forward to guide digital transformation. Rolling out Ireland’s eHealth programme requires consideration of national and local requirements across integrated platforms. Clinicians within hospitals, primary and community services will know the clinical workflows that are required to provide integrated care to the local population. A clinical service in the heart of Dublin will differ from a remote community based service in Donegal. As we already know, tailoring a digital healthcare system to the local workflows and needs of the patient and service user is key to realising the benefits of health information technology and making best use of digital systems for the benefit of patients.
Clinical leadership and clinical engagement
We have seen the roles of Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) being introduced in the UK and Ireland. Their roles are crucial for the implementation of national and local digital transformation plans. Engaging multidisciplinary staff members in a healthcare ecosystem is key to ensuring all stakeholders have input into the development and implementation of a digitised healthcare service tailored for its population. CCIOs and CIOs are positioned so they leverage their backgrounds in understanding how staff and patients will be utilising healthcare services.
The Council of Clinical Information Officers is a valuable resource of clinicians who can assist and collaborate in design and development of systems built around service need. This cohesion between clinicians, IT departments, management and IT vendors who are supplying solutions to healthcare organisations, ensures technology implementations are designed, developed, and delivered successfully and efficiently.
A challenge for eHealth is fostering a culture for change. Implementing digital health technology can be technically straightforward but may require changes of practice and leaner, revised workflow processes. Once it is ready for implementation in a healthcare setting, ensuring staff are digitally enabled and ready to use the technology effectively is a challenge. Educating a clinical workforce on how to use technology effectively can be driven by clinical leaders. Failure to implement efficiently or to use technology appropriately increases risks such as security of information and alertness for cyber attacks or patient harm if information is not recorded, managed or stored effectively.
Through the Council, it is hoped to enable greater clinician engagement in technology enabled projects. This will be done through building a wider network of Clinical Information Officers on the Council and establishing clear pathways to connect clinicians to appropriate technology enabled initiatives. Building skills and collaboration within the Council will enhance clinical engagement in design and development leading to technology system building which matches service need. Education programmes to enhance skills of clinical staff to lead this digital change are planned for 2018.