'If we don’t listen to our healthcare professionals, we will lose them'

The value of involving clinicians in digital tool development and the power of data sharing were major themes of a HIMSS Digital Dialogue webinar, held in collaboration with Philips, where European healthcare leaders shared their pandemic experiences.
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HIMSS chief clinical officer Dr Charles Alessi, who moderated the event 'Supporting the Frontline: Beyond COVID-19 – Leveraging digital health to support, empower and protect your workforces', said that learning from the pandemic even while it was outpacing health services had highlighted the importance of digital tools in maintaining treatment for the COVID and non-COVID population. It had also raised important issues around the need to establish models for secondary data sharing to help services manage a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr Alessi was joined on the panel by Dr Afzal Chaudhry, director of digital & chief clinical information officer at Cambridge University Hospitals (UK), Dr Peter Gocke, chief digital officer at Charité in Berlin (Germany), and Dr Jan Kimpen, chief medical officer at Philips (Netherlands).

WHY IT MATTERS

Jan Kimpen said a key learning from transformation during the pandemic has been the need to integrate digital tools with clinicians’ daily routines so that their workload is not made heavier or more complex. This should happen in four main areas: embedded decision support, usability and design, operational productivity and easier collaboration.

“We have to listen to these healthcare professionals, especially the young ones, because if we do not listen to them we will lose them in the end,” he said. He pointed out that three-quarters of the nurses and doctors interviewed for the company’s 2020 Future Health Index said they regularly experienced work-related stress with around one-third considering leaving their profession altogether as a result of it. “That would be a drama for the industry as a whole,” he added.

The speed of transformation during the pandemic has revealed the importance of focusing on the delivery of easy-to-use, relevant tools that help medical professionals to provide the highest levels of care for both COVID and non-COVID patients at times of unprecedented stress on individuals and resources.

“These tools must help the physician, not the administration,” said Dr Gocke. “It’s a mind-shift I’ve seen in many hospitals. Once physicians are involved as part of the solution not part of the problem, the speed of digital implementation increases. We’re trying to keep this pace and keep those physicians involved.

“The delivery of benefit for the patient only comes when clinicians are engaged in that process,” said Dr Chaudhry. “Don’t do 50 or 60 things at once. Do five or six, get them really understood, deployed, sustained and part of your institution, then move on to the next five or six. You’ll end up with a portfolio of changing workflow that is embedded and meaningful as opposed to a whole series of in-parallel projects that never quite get off the ground.”

The importance of data sharing at both an operational and international level has also emerged as a major learning during the pandemic – and will be central to any efforts to manage a second wave of the virus and beyond.

“This care has to continue one way or the other,” said Dr Chaudhry. “The important thing is we have to use the learning we acquire every day, every week, nationally and internationally, to give us the best understanding of when it’s OK to do something in respect of COVID and when it is better to delay. Data and analytics underpin all of that.”

The impact of the pandemic on healthcare business models and data sharing regulation has also been considerable. Kimpen said that it is important to build on the momentum that these changes have created – and every effort should be made to sustain them. Temporary reimbursements should be made definite, for example, as a way of incentivising hospitals to invest in systems and technologies. And the benefits of temporarily adjusted data sharing regulations should not be reversed.

ON THE RECORD

Dr Chaudhry made a strong case for greater collaboration in an environment that still tends to consist of many well-formulated groups, working in the best possible way but using their own methodologies for data sharing and coding.

“We’ve achieved so much in three months,” he said. “Out of data comes not only operational understandings but also research, and it seems to me that approach not only applies to COVID. Our learning has to be, how do we beat COVID but also how do we apply the same to cardio-vascular disease, cancer, renal disease.”

Dr Gocke said the pandemic has revealed the power of trust and co-operation in healthcare environments. Now we should foster and maintain them.

“COVID does not stop at national frontiers or barriers,” he said. “It’s a worldwide pandemic – so we should also act as one.”

“Don’t let us lose everything we learned during COVID,” said Jan Kimpen. “The creativity, the agility, the transparency, the collaboration spirit. Take very good care of our healthcare professionals, listen to them and talk to them otherwise we’ll lose them in the long run.”

This webinar is part of a Digital Dialogue series on the topic of 'Supporting the Frontline'.

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