Digital transformation is not an ‘option’: supporting healthcare leaders to champion the potential

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“The digital transformation agenda in healthcare is moving at a rapid pace. We are embarking on a new age for nursing and midwifery: assisted and enabled by technology and data. We must ensure that the medium of technology and the power of data is best utilised – that takes the potential of science to enhance the art of practice.” FNF Deputy CEO Gemma Stacey

These points, made in Gemma’s recent blog for Rewired, were really underlined at the Rewired 2023 conference earlier this month. With standing room only for most of the Digital Nursing Summit sessions, there was so much experience, energy and passion for driving forward digital improvements to improve person-centred care. The event also provided an unplanned reunion for a large number of FNF digital alumni – including a number of our nurse and midwife digital scholars sharing their experiences on the stage. Our alumni, in fact most of the conference speakers,  highlighted the importance of supporting and developing the digital literacy of our workforce – something that Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) is very focused on doing.

FNF, in partnership with Health Education England and CHIME, has already been developing nursing and midwifery leaders to be champions of digitally enabled care through Digital Leadership Scholarships.

“I’m a real ‘people’ person and didn’t initially feel I had a good enough understanding or background in digital health to do a digital scholarship. I have learnt through the scholarship that being a digital nurse is ALL about connecting with people (patients, professionals, carers, all stakeholders) to enable digital resources, such as my Carer Education Programme, to work for the people who use it. By the end of the CHIME Digital Leadership Academy, I realised that digital transformation isn’t an ‘option’, it is essential to the continued existence of the NHS. Through thinking we can improve services without understanding our data, we are effectively working in the dark!

The scholarship has really supported the progress of the Carer Education Programme for Wales. The project has become known across mental health services in the UK and the wider NHS in Wales. We have developed an initial draft of a ‘What is Psychosis’ module which is being co-produced with carers and services users through a series of improvement cycles.

We are now working towards a way to use business intelligence software to cross reference service level data points with ethnicity data, to find ways to make the service more accessible. As half of our service users are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, this work is so important! We have high numbers of service users who are seeking asylum, many who are homeless. Until we find ways to understand or service data, we can’t even begin to ask the right questions to enable us to identify and overcome systemic discrimination. This work will not only improve the experience of service users and carers, but will improve prognosis and the likelihood of recovery; reduce the likelihood of relapse and hospital admissions; and result in fewer people needing long-term mental health services.”

Matt Brayford, current FNF Digital Scholar

FNF is also now providing short programmes, both self-funded and sponsored by System C, for early career digital leaders and those embarking on a new roles which involve the implementation and roll-out of digital solutions. We envisage a time when every nurse understands the potential of technology and data and every nurse considers, and is confident in using, digital as integral to their practice.

“Digital is everywhere in nursing. I’m a cancer nurse specialist and now a digital champion in my hospital. I’m the manager for patient initiated follow-up of cancer patients – we have over 5000 people on this pathway. We can see real benefits to the patients of this digital protocolised cancer surveillance. It is a privilege to be involved in project management around this and to improve the patient journey. This 3-day FNF programme for Aspiring Digital Leaders was a real inspiration and I really want to stay focused on digital in my work. I built strong relationships with others on the course and we have already been supporting each other since through our whatsapp group.”

Claire Marsh, recent Aspiring Digital Leadership Programme participant

At FNF we also play a part in influencing workforce related policy development. By harnessing the intelligence and expertise of our alumni and membership network to generate evidence and commentary we ensure that the nursing perspective is reflected in the policy making arena. This was the case in the recent Phillips Ives Review we were involved in, on preparing the nursing & midwifery workforce to deliver the digital future.

The initial findings of which were shared at the Rewired conference by Natasha Phillips – CNIO at NHS England: “Positive change starts with empowering people… to do that we have to reduce the fear. We have a responsibility to educate and prepare the future workforce and to get out of the way for the next generation. We are at a tipping point. Nurses and midwives need digital skills but they also need leadership skills to be able to adapt to the ever changing landscape.”

Look out for the full Phillips Ives review findings at the main launch event we’re co-hosting in May.

And, last but not least, we are ensuring that ‘digital’ supports our own ways of working at FNF. From further developing and expanding our online courses, to being on the verge of launching a new ‘FNF Connect’ online space for FNF members and mentors, to working towards alleviating digital poverty by offering our programme participants loans of laptops where needed, the theme is running through all our work.

What really came out strongly from Rewired was the importance of leadership – and also that the drive to best use the potential of digital in improving the care we provide can’t be done by one person. At FNF we are playing our part in ensuring that all clinicians are digital clinicians – and that the pathway to digital transformation is one that allows everyone to take part.

If you would like to know more about our new Aspiring Digital Healthcare Leadership Programme in Partnership with System C please click here.