People centred participation – thinking forward to #kfdigital16

What are the conversations we need to be having about digital in health and care? Who needs to be part of those conversations? And what do we hope to achieve by having them?  These are questions I was left with after two days at the King’s Fund 2015 Digital Health and Care Congress which took the form of plenary sessions and breakout workshops alongside a public meeting of the National Information Board (NIB).

Never mind the apps, what about the fundamentals?

Many digital health events seems to orientate around a mix of policy issues and showcasing of apps and digital services. Whilst these are interesting and useful I believe there are more fundamental conversations we need to have about the role of digital in health.

There are knotty problems and challenges that everyone is grappling with but which are not easily surfaced without a dedicated focus and a more deliberative participatory approach. These sorts of conversations did surface on Twitter during the Congress but the event itself did not facilitate their discussion in depth. Here are a few examples of fascinating conundrums we all should be thinking about in the sphere of digital innovation:

Wondering how much #kfdigital15 debated will be about potential of digital to challenge, rather than accept, existing NHS power structures @jamesfm55

My concern is that focus on ‘apps’ will distract from what could really be done to improve population health #kfdigital15 @amcunningham

I’m troubled a little by the idea of ‘taking responsibility for your own health’ filtering into #kfdigital15. Hope someone unpacks that idea @markoneinfour

I’d like to attend #kfdigital16 where these sorts of thematic issues are discussed and debated and learning shared.

People centred or platitudes?

We heard repeatedly during the Congress that patients and people accessing services need to be at the heart of digital innovation. This is fundamental point which most people would not argue against. However, it is a point that can dismissed as a platitude when speakers on the podium are bringing a predominantly professional or policy perspective. An honourable and impressive exception was Dr Sara Hamilton, a consultant paediatrician, who co-presented with two young women participants from the excellent TalkLab project. If we are serious about people centred digital innovation then we need to insist that both the podium and the audience is evenly distributed – only in this way can we move from platitudes to meaningful people centred conversations.  The final speaker on the second day was ePatient Dave and he had some fantastically challenging points to make but most attendees had already left the building. I’d like to attend #kfdigital16 where ePatient Dave launches the congress and sets a people centred tone for the event and ensuing conversations.

Passivity or participation?

Lastly, I was struck by the fact that there was huge expertise shared by the 400 or so participants at the congress. The limitation of a podium and presentation transmissive plenary and workshop event is that most of that expertise is locked away and only released in networking during the break. Structuring in the ability for this knowledge and expertise to be shared equitably and openly can be powerful. An unconference or open space methodology is one effective way to structure in participant led conversation and can be hugely gratifying and energising for participants. I’d like to attend a #kfdigital16 that structures in participation.

It was really interesting to sit in on the NIB public meeting and I valued hearing the good work of many interesting people innovating in the area of digital and health. I think it is now time to move the debate forward and deepen the conversation with a more participatory and deliberative approach. Looking forward to #kfdigital16.

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