A Whole New Digital World in Medicine…….. Part 2
By Dr Osman Bhatti
If there is one thing that clinicians are now talking about as a silver lining from coronavirus, it is that of technological advancement within the NHS.
From a primary care perspective and as a local IT lead in North East London, I’ve been at the forefront of experiencing the challenges we have faced over the last few years in getting technology implemented as a enabler to support our work, to a situation now where we have achieved so much in a matter of months, that previously would have taken at least another 2-3 years.
In the last blog we discussed how primary care was affected and how they changed the way they were meeting the demands of patients in the community. This month we will look at how changes have affected the wide healthcare system and its impact on education and training.
What about in secondary care? Hospitals up and down the country have had similar transformational change with outpatient clinics being cancelled and appointments now being converted to a digital form – whether that be through the good old fashioned telephone to video consultations to provide an alternative to face to face. The worry, which is also felt in primary care, is that of delays to diagnosis and treatment of other conditions such as cancers and strokes. This is a valid concern, that the pressures of COVID have brought to us, the standstill of other diagnostic and treatment services which may take a considerable time to catch up on. Therefore, there are pathways being developed and improved to keep patients moving through the healthcare system by improving communication channels through secure methods to discuss patients and identify those that need to be seen face to face or those that could go straight for a test to be reviewed.
Educating the masses
As an educator for a local GP VTS (Vocational Training Scheme) I have also been at the forefront of seeing the impact on local education for our future workforce. Not only are our trainees now having to learn new ways of working and consulting, but their educational requirements have been dramatically changed from a vocational training scheme with regular face to face educational sessions to one where we are remotely meeting for not only educational elements but for peer and pastoral support. We will see how the path to CCT will pan out with face to face exams and clinical skills examinations being replaced with alternative assessments.
One of the key changes to education delivery has been through webinars which are increasing in number and becoming increasingly attended. There is now the worry of information overload more than ever with webinars available left, right and centre on anything and everything, live or recorded which on one hand provides a rich range of education but on the other has the potential to cause confusion, especially if it is not localised. In our locality we have looked closely at establishing this early on as locally focused webinars provided and supported by local staff so that there is some consistency in our delivery. We have also rolled out webinars for our GP trainees in the form of educational sessions provided through Red Whale as an offer to VTS schemes.
As we move towards a world where we are going to need to collaborate more widely with different members of the healthcare team, collaborative working has become a buzz word that is also being realised through acceleration of the integration of Microsoft Teams to NHSMail allowing not only meetings to occur securely, but also chats between individuals and teams to be organised – fondly referred to locally as the professional WhatsApp! There are also developments for collaborative working and discussion with Teams using it’s full potential as a professional portal for discussion which in the not too distant future will replace email!
What we will need to consider going forward at such a fast pace digitally are those less advantaged. There is a growing concern about digital exclusion and how this will create a whole new sector for health care inequalities in the Muslim community. Perhaps this has already been highlighted as an issue where you work or a member of your family we would love to hear your stories and ideas about how this can be tackled. Please do email you thoughts and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org we would love to hear you views.
Dr Osman Bhatti is a GP in East London with a specialist interest in IT and is the CCIO (Chief Clinical Information Officer) for the East London Health And Care Partnership that is the STP that covers 7 CCGs across North East London. He also works for HEE as a Programme Director for a London GP VTS and is a presenter for the Red Whale GP Update team. www.DrBhatti.com, @OsmanBhatti