November 27, 2020

Making interoperability work for clinicians

Interoperability will only transform the NHS if clinicians know what it is and how to use it – and that’s what Black Pear’s chief technology officer is on a mission to solve.

Dunmail Hodkinson is a leader in the field having been the first to spot the potential of HL7 FHIR® in the UK, now the global standard for interoperability.

Dunmail Hodkinson

But he knows from real world experience volunteering as a community first responder that smart technology is only useful if frontline staff can cut through IT jargon and make it work for patients.

That’s why he has been selected to teach an introductory module on health information systems interoperability to NHS workers at Newcastle University.

And it’s why he presented our groundbreaking work on the Somerset Integrated Digital e-Record (SIDeR) to the Faculty of Clinical Information’s annual scientific conference.

Dunmail is working to address a “skills gap” which prevents clinicians from being able to harness the true potential of interoperability and modern health tech solutions.

He said:

Traditionally clinicians are not taught about health informatics or how to use computers and analyse information.
But now the information that you can access is as important a clinical tool as your stethoscope. The problem is the gap in teaching with the advance of technology.
We have some very smart clinicians and some very smart IT specialists, but they are talking two different languages.
If we can get clinicians to understand the IT jargon they can think about interoperability and how they can use it as a tool in their work.”

Dunmail is teaching NHS staff at Newcastle University for the second time after the course was founded last year.

Clinicians learn the concepts and terminology around interoperability as well as how to interpret basic computer science language on health information systems.

Dunmail said:

It’s about bridging the gap between clinicians and informaticians.
If we can help clinicians to walk a few steps on our side of the fence it improves understanding and becomes much more productive.
One of the strengths of Black Pear is we have a massive clinical experience with around a fifth of the team having some sort of a medical background.
Our CEO, David, believes he saved more people in the first six months using informatics than he did in 20 years as a GP.
We know how powerful these tools are if they are made accessible to those using them.

Dunmail was also helping bring clinicians into the fold when he presented to a group of them at the Faculty of Clinical Information’s annual scientific conference on October 8.

He gave a talk on our work on SIDeR which has seen health and care teams share and view patients’ health and care information from every part of the service in Somerset.

Dunmail said:

“The talk was on which interoperability standards we should use, but it was another opportunity to bridge that gap as you had a load of clinicians there who were interested in interoperability.
“We could show them how we got different organisations in Somerset to implement the same standard.
“Then in a practical sense we showed this meant that if you go into any hospital in that region you can access the same information as anywhere else.
“So you can explain the jargon and then show what it actually means to clinicians and patients.”

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