Medical Director Blog: Keeping an eye on the techies

Published: 11 October 2019

Over the last 25 years I have made professional career choices which have often bemused my family, friends and former colleagues. First up I joined the British army as a medic, not particularly startling except for the fact it was 1995, I was from Dublin and the Good Friday Agreement was some way off. My army mates were somewhat surprised when after a few good years I thought it was time to be a civilian again. Later on there were mutterings about have defected to the dark side when I took on a management role in a local Trust and left my GP practice and its patients after a happy and fulfilled decade. I subsequently got a fair bit of abuse when for some reason I felt joining the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was a jolly good idea. The Christmas cards dried up in the Byrne household. Not to worry, normality and popularity - these things being relative - returned when I became the Medical Director at Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust.

However, you probably sense a trend and after a couple of years I thought it was time to build my portfolio career and have a go at being a SRO for a tech programme. This time, even my normally supportive and loving family were giving me odd looks. Supposedly my ambivalence towards smart phones and my desire to retain a landline - I am a sucker for the nostalgia of dial up internet - meant I was 20 years behind the curve.

At this stage techies are probably sending ‘thinking of you’ notes to the fantastic folk in our delivery team in Yorkshire and Humber, and the metaphorical alarm bells and sirens are blaring at NHSX. However, I remain resolute and undeterred. So, on a serious note why did I get involved and more importantly what can I bring to the job. The stock answers of enthusiasm, commitment to delivery and strategic thinking might roll off the tongue in an interview setting if not in real life. However, for me it’s because I don’t think this is a tech program. For me, it’s a change program, albeit a complex one with lots of moving parts.

I believe - and only time will tell if I am right- that the brilliant techies will solve the challenge of multiple systems communicating with each other in order to create a data set which will us to really embrace the concept of population health. Similarly, creating and designing a platform where patients, citizens and staff in the health and care system can look at, interpret and amend information to suit their own needs is possible. The banks cracked it years ago. The reason I know that is I bought a smart phone and downloaded an app. The fact that I was rather late to this game tells us all we need to know about a LHCR programme. If somebody like me can change my behaviour, seize the opportunity to access my own data to control my financial affairs then surely even I could be able to do the same thing with regard to my health and care.

I think the challenge for this programme is about reaching out to the technophobes like me so that we can be encouraged and supported to embrace the possibilities. The techies I work with are passionate about making sure their efforts result in making a difference and perhaps the experience of working an SRO like me will possibly help them understand the nature of the challenge, which, is based not just on coding, but the reprogramming of attitudes which may ultimately support behaviour change.

Find out more about the work of the Yorkshire and Humber Care Record here.

  • Summary: