Technology adoption in the NHS has been an issue that has been studied by many of the great in health – including Professor Trish Greenhalgh, Alasdair Liddell, and countless others in the years past. The challenges that IT brings is similar to other challenges that NHS organisations face: lack of resources/money, leadership, communication within the organisation, risk aversion, lack of training… and list goes on. (In fact, there is a comprehensive list on p.29 of NHS Institute for Innovation’s report from September 2009.)
These challenges are very much present and difficult to overcome, and (un)fortunately, technology is nascent and is continually being integrated into our daily lives – at work as well as in other aspects of life such as healthcare. There is a broader understanding that technology needs to become better integrated in the NHS, but there is no magic solution at the moment.
As an employee of the Young Foundation, a third sector organisation that is extremely small in comparison to the behemoth size of the NHS, I have felt lucky to have IT and systems in place that enable me to work efficiently and a workplace that equips me with the technological tools (access to the latest web browsers, extremely fast internet connectivity, working remotely without any barriers, up-to-date software, and more) to be able to do my job well without any obstructions. I felt more appreciative of the tech/IT systems within the Young Foundation when I was seconded to the NHS Confederation – the older versions of web browsers and Microsoft Office were slow and cumbersome; the strict firewalls made research and the ability to do my work particularly challenging. I had first-hand experience that technology in the NHS could potentially be a hindrance, with many barriers to accessing information and a lack of trust.
Of course I understand that the NHS has a whole host of challenges with privacy, data protection, complexity of organisational structures, and a myriad of other issues that a small third sector organisation doesn’t have. And yes, I haven’t worked in the NHS for long at all (a mere few months), but I feel the frustrations that I think many others who work in the NHS feel.
The main reason for this blog entry, and a call to action for everyone reading, is to share with you asurvey that I’ve created to find out how people within the NHS really feel when using technology at work. I want to get the insights from the users of the technology within the NHS.
My thinking is if people in the NHS are equipped with the right tools (especially technological tools), and have the time & capacity, I really believe that innovation can truly happen in the context of work (especially in the NHS as there are so many capable and passionate people). I hope that this IT survey (surveying everyone within an NHS organisation – moving beyond just the NHS managers and service leaders) would provide real insight into the challenges that people face day-to-day. I really do think it might become a resource for suppliers of IT in NHS organisations as well as NHS managers and procurement officials because through understanding the needs and challenges of NHS users, it will then be helpful information to start to get the right tools into their hands.