On the second day of the Welcome Event back in September, we spent some time with current trainees in our specific specialisms. One of these mentioned a sort of ‘definition’ they had been given in answer to the question of what health informatics actually is – which is a deceptively tricky question to answer! This definition described it as being a sort of bridge between the ‘techies’ and clinicians – understanding enough of the worlds of both to be able to almost translate between what are two very different perspectives and languages surrounding the same problem. I’d add a bit more to this; there are additional groups we bridge between including NHS Digital, NHS England and other non-clinical teams.
I’m seeing and experiencing this more and more within my current role. Pieces of work I am currently involved with have required communication with clinicians, private providers, members of my own team and others such as the Registration Authority and senior managers within the Trust. An experience that has really stuck in my mind happened a couple of weeks ago, linked to a piece of work that has taken up most of my time over the past month or so. I’m currently in the process of coordinating downtime on the electronic patient record (EPR) system for a large number of services across the Trust to allow the provider of our EPR to carry out maintenance work mandated by NHS Digital. On the face of it, this seems very simple and straightforward – but, as I have discovered, there are additional complicating factors which need to be considered.
The downtime has the potential to cause a headache for service leads – it’s a disruption to their usual way of working, and a potential risk if staff cannot access the patient information they need. As the ‘bridge’ in all of this, I have had to be constantly mindful of the fact that although this work is required, it is a nuisance in the face of the day-to-day running of services and as there is no visible, immediate benefit to staff, it could seem like a pointless exercise. It was a valuable experience, sitting in a Senior Management Team meeting, explaining why the work had to be carried out and that it was mandated by NHS Digital. I was lucky enough to be shadowing a senior management accountant at the same meeting, so got to stay for it all – listening to the pressures the staff are currently facing only to turn around and add to it was an uncomfortable feeling! I’ve been very fortunate with the support I’ve received from staff in helping to schedule the downtime where needed, but it’s definitely given me reason to really stop and appreciate the intertwined nature of work within a large organisation and the importance of appreciating how work will impact on others.
As with so much, informatics isn’t just about systems and data, it’s also about people!