Creating a digital citizen blueprint

Creating a digital citizen blueprint

One of the many challenges of using digital technology in health and care services is a lack of interoperability – we’re all using a slightly different lego set and the pieces don’t quite connect together. Every time we want to do a particular task we have to swap over to another lego set and start again. This is a well rehearsed and entrenched challenge in the NHS and my home city of Leeds and the wider region has a new initiative to help connect those lego pieces together through common standards and open source technologies. But what about citizens? In a way we have the opposite challenge. We are not standardised lego pieces and never will be. Each of us has differences in our use of digital technologies – these may be influenced by our attitudes, our aptitude, our access and particular barriers that we may experience. There are some commonalities but there are also particular factors that can be easily overlooked. If we don’t understand and pay attention to those differences then we risk designing and deploying digital technologies that entrench the inverse care law – that is, those who already have the most get more and those who have the least lose out further (you can read an excellent BMJ article from Margaret McCartney on this topic here). In Leeds we have a commitment in the Health and Wellbeing Strategy that people who are the poorest improve their health the fastest. This is easy to say but hard to do. This is where the blueprint comes in. At mHabitat we are helping the NHS and council in...
Digital and making the invisible visible

Digital and making the invisible visible

This week I was invited to speak at a Ministerial event in Leeds which showcased the growing community of data, digital and health in our city. The opportunity to share the mHealthHabitat programme with an audience was great, but that’s not what I want to talk about here. Instead, I want to reflect on who gets to be in the conversation and who doesn’t. My post is offered in a spirit of enquiry and in making visible what can easily be rendered invisible. It was visible to me that I was the only woman on the invite list (as it turned out there were two other women present in the audience). All the speakers, apart from me, were men. Once I had noticed gender it was only a small leap to notice that everyone was white, almost everyone was wearing a suit, and everyone was of a certain age. There was no one there bringing patient perspectives to the conversation. There are two things I am not doing in this post –  firstly, I am not taking the moral high ground, if it had been an event full of white women I may well have not noticed if there were no black women there. I noticed because I was in a minority myself.  Secondly, I am not criticising this particular event – it’s an example of what seems to be business as usual most places you go when it comes to digital. The event was successful in rendering visible to myself, and no doubt other participants, that there really is a growing community of people in the digital and...
A game of two halves – from digital expert to digital exclusion

A game of two halves – from digital expert to digital exclusion

This week I experienced the extremes of digital expertise and digital exclusion, and it crystallised in my mind the enormous gap between them. From conversations with informatics experts about big data, through to conversations with clinicians about the challenges of mobile phone access for people with chaotic lives, I was struck by how far apart these two groups are and wondered what conversations could bring them closer together – because if digital is going to make a really positive difference to people accessing health services, it has to be solidly grounded in their experiences as well as what they need and what they want. Digital experts To begin with the experts – the launch of the Leeds Health Innovation Lab brought together mobile app developers and big data analysts as well as IT specialists and many others. The lab offers a new open platform with a variety of different data sets against which people can develop and test out digital solutions. I furiously scribbled down words such as openEHR, skunkworks, archetypes and APIs with a note to self to go home and make sense of it all later. We had a small group discussion about how to keep the patient or citizen at the heart of the lab and I was struck by the challenge of bridging such specific expert knowledge to people not already immersed in the technology and vice versa. Digitally excluded In stark contrast, I also spent time with our Assertive Outreach Team which supports the most vulnerable people, who often do not want to have any contact with services at all. People who use the...
Would you like to get involved in #DigiHealthLab?

Would you like to get involved in #DigiHealthLab?

Recently I attended the launch of MindTech – a Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) based in Nottingham which will develop and test digital technologies in mental health care.  There is clearly tons of energy and a momentum building for digital in mental health but the range of apps and other digital tools can be bewildering. Where do you even start? In Leeds we hope to make sense of it all through #DigiHealthLab – a new locally funded initiative that aims make a positive difference to people experiencing mental health difficulties in my home city. I’ve introduced #DigiHealthLab in a previous post which you can find here. Over the next year (and possibly more) #DigiHealthLab will explore the use of digital tools in mental health services.  Our lab will bring people together to test out how digital can play a role in improving experience and outcomes. It might be about procuring existing digital products that are already out there or it might be about developing something from scratch – who knows! Working together collaboratively We do know that co-design will be at the heart of our approach – I’m really excited about the opportunity to collaborate with people accessing services and practitioners from the outset – a proper team effort from start to finish and one which I believe will be critical to how successful we are. Who we’ll be working with We plan to begin by collaborating with small teams made up of people using and working in the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders, Chronic Fatigue Service and a Community Mental Health Team. But we are keen to know who...
How do we create the tipping point for digital collaboration?

How do we create the tipping point for digital collaboration?

So how do we create the tipping point for digital collaboration – in Leeds, or anywhere else for that matter? Participating in the recent digital festival, conference and then follow up discussions about the potential for a digital body in Leeds, I’m struck by how far we’ve come and where we might go next… More than just a hobby – social media is quickly shifting from hobby status to an essential part of the communications mix in many public sector organisations. However, it is by no means universal Finding the point – the conversation is moving on rapidly from ‘let’s get on Twitter ‘cos they are’ to ‘what’s the purpose and what are we trying to achieve?’ So what? – identifying a purpose inevitably lends itself to asking questions about how we measure whether we’ve achieved what we set out to do. We’re not even being properly held to account for the time and energy we are putting in to our digital presence; or fully understanding for ourselves if the time we’re investing is worthwhile. We need to work out which tools help us to assess our impact both quantitatively and qualitatively Dispersing the social – it’s not just about the corporate account any more. More individual services are developing their own social media presence. This raises all sorts of fascinating questions about central control versus local autonomy; consistency versus variety –there is a balance to be struck and we’ll work it out collectively as we go Digital identity – professional guidelines and other social media rules seem to appear on an almost daily basis and we’re thinking more...