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AHPs and pharmacists: The untapped potential in digital health

by tytie
AHPS and Pharmacists Rewired


In a joint piece for Digital Health, Melissa Andison (occupational therapist and associate chief clinical information officer, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust), Euan McComiskie (health informatics lead, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy) and Ramandeep Kaur (lead electronic prescribing and medicines administration pharmacist, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust) reflect on a session from Digital Health Rewired 2022 which looked at the untapped potential of allied health professionals (AHPS) and pharmacists. 

Did you know AHPs, make up the third largest clinical workforce group in health and care – we are 14 professions that are an untapped resource to drive digital transformation and innovation.

Did you know pharmacists with a passion for digital usually commence their careers within informatics implementing electronic prescribing and medicines administration (EPMA) systems.

So what’s unique about AHPs and pharmacy staff?  We think about health and wellness differently. The common traits that bind us as a group are often seen in our holistic thinking, collaborative problem solving, health promotion expertise and naturally are adopters of futuristic ways of working.

AHP and pharmacy colleagues are thriving in digital health design, innovation and the cold face of implementation and we feel like it is time to showcase this.

Therefore we joined forces to create events for the Digital Health Rewired programme which captured the fantastic work of AHP and Pharmacy colleagues in digital health. They are the very first pharmacist and AHPs to sit on the chief clinical information officer (CCIO) and chief nursing information officer (CNIO) advisory panels.

With a passion for their professions and digital health, they wanted to give their AHP and pharmacy peers a real opportunity to showcase their work as digital leaders, something which had never been done before at Rewired.

Better representation

One of these sessions was chaired by Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s AHP information officer, Ali Toft. The session included talks from Sarah Thompson (CCIO, Stockport NHS Foundation Trust), Christopher Tack (AHP information officer, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust), Rafiah Patel (chief data ethics and privacy officer, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) Anna Awoliyi (chief AHO information officer, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust) and Professor Suzanne Martin (chief AHP officer, Department of Health Northern Ireland).

The multidisciplinary panellists gave a short presentation on their digital journey on the second day of Digital Health Rewired which was then followed by a Q&A.

How better to represent AHPs and Pharmacy than having an operating department practitioner, speech and language therapist physiotherapist, pharmacist and occupational therapist to share their stories and inspire others to follow careers in digital health.

After chairing the session, Toft said: “Our first ever AHP & Pharmacy rewired session was a privilege to chair and be part of.

“It was packed with inspiring stories regarding the diversity of digital career journeys and the importance of putting yourself forward and grasping any opportunities along the way, whilst the array of amazing and collaborative digitally enabled transformation projects we contribute to in our professions was clear to be seen.”

Workshop reflections 

After the panel session, Kaur and McComiskie chaired a workshop which looked at three specific questions; how do we raise the voices of the profession? (Identity), how do we raise the voices of the profession? (Leadership) and how do we bring digital into the portfolio of AHPs and Pharmacy colleagues into undergraduate level? (Learning).

A summary of our findings are as follows:

Identity

  • Need to better market digital within our professions and outside our professions
  • Put ourselves out there more in social media, trust intranet pages, leads meetings etc on a regular basis to keep up momentum
  • Showcase good practice in our trust and to our community and don’t be afraid to ask for advice too
  • Challenge AfC barriers of current roles
  • Build career pathways/routes for digital
  • Myth busting about what it involves
  • Allyship with other less heard professions
  • Collaboration with those mature digital professions
  • Burst existing echo chambers

Leadership

  • Upskill
  • Be enthusiastic and approachable
  • Take initiative and embrace opportunities
  • Networking with staff who have established careers in digital
  • Role modelling with staff newer to the digital career journey
  • Be fearless and confident
  • Be comfortable in challenging and breaking barriers
  • Own our personal development
  • Gain respect from other professions

Learning

  • Early introduction to undergraduate curriculum
  • Easy access to resources
  • Placements, rotations or shadowing with digital organisations and parts of NHS trusts
  • Career talks/ presentations as part of roadshows incorporated in lectures
  • Embed digital as part of practical and theoretical parts of courses
  • Don’t separate digital from rest of education but make it explicit
  • Digital as a pillar of practice
  • Never assume digital competency

AHP and pharmacy troopers, a poem by Ramandeep Kaur

stand back listen, watch and learn

Never sure whether to speak or just wait in the hope of your turn

Time for change, we hear you say

AHPs and pharmacy teams, let start today

Proudly showcase your work in the digital sphere

Promote yourselves and each other to break down barriers and a perceived hierarchy tier

Empower, excel and educate, to drive great patient care

Digital world needs you, so go forth, seize the moment and share!

Join our journey

So join us on this journey to seek out your AHP and pharmacy colleagues invested in digital at local, ICS and national level. Perhaps digital leaders in each organisation can plan a coffee morning to kickstart a conversation to raise the profile of your colleagues.

At Summer Schools, take the opportunity to meet one AHP or pharmacy colleague you haven’t spoken with before. Inclusivity, diversity and celebrating the success of each other will allow us to all maximise the benefits of digital health for our staff and patients.

#Peoplebeforetechnology

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