NHS Digital clinical informatics fellow calls for a ‘digital revolution’

Ahead of UK e-Health Week 2018, BJ-HC catches up with Joan Pons Laplana, one of the four professionals undertaking a year-long clinical informatics fellowship with NHS Digital.


[London, UK] Earlier this year, NHS Digital selected four professionals to take part in a year-long clinical informatics fellowship to help drive digitisation of systems and processes within health and care from the frontline.

Joan Pons Laplana, a transformation nurse from James Paget University Hospital, is one of the four clinical informatics fellows that joined the programme at the beginning of May.

Speaking to BJ-HC, he says that he’s had ‘a bit of a love-hate relationship with nursing and the system’.

“I’m not afraid of taking risks and the NHS is risk-averse. If there’s a 1% chance that something might go wrong, we won’t do it. We can’t carry on like this. Just because we’ve been doing it for 20 years, it doesn’t mean that we should carry on doing it."

After working with a Clinical Commissioning Group on a project that involved rolling out a telehealth solution, he realised there was 'huge potential’ in introducing digital solutions across the wider system.  

“I saw the impact that people having support via apps and via technology could have to reduce dependency on the NHS and free clinician time to focus on the people that really need the service,” he says.

In his work at James Paget hospital, which involved various projects looking at how they could ‘still deliver the same quality of care with fewer resources and less money’, he says that he spends three weeks every three months carrying out an audit that could be done in  only ten seconds if everything was digitised.

He explains that data can be a ‘powerful ally’ in his work, but that, throughout his career, he hasn’t been taught how to use this asset to improve the care that he delivers for his patients on a day-to-day basis.

“At a time when we are being asked to work more efficiently and effectively, the only way to do that is if we work smarter. We don’t have more doctors, we don’t have more nurses, the only way forward is to use technology to help us to make decisions a lot quicker with the evidence that the digital world is giving us,” he says.

‘We don’t need more superheroes in the NHS’

After last year’s winter, which he describes as the ‘worst’ one in history for the hospital, he started advocating a ‘digital revolution’, but soon realised that professionals did not have the skills necessary to drive this transformation.

“I was looking and I saw this fellowship advertised and I realised, that’s the answer to our questions.

“Because of that, I can learn what to do with the data we have. For a year, they [NHS Digital] will teach me and I’ll go back and hopefully bring my hospital to the 21st century. That’s what I’m planning to do.”

Although he’s only had two weeks of training with NHS Digital in Leeds so far, he describes the experience as ‘incredible’:

“I realised that NHS Digital is a huge organisation doing a lot of things.

“With digital, it’s not as easy as turning on a switch and voila, everything happens. I realised there are a lot of projects that have been going on for a while that hopefully will reach the frontline in the next few months, but it still feels (…) that sometimes we are playing catch-up and I think we need to be a bit more bold.

“We don’t need more superheroes in the NHS, we don’t need more saviours, we just need people to support patients to make healthy choices.”

But will the NHS become a digital-first system in 10 years’ time?

 “I’d love for that to happen and I will work very hard for that to happen, and that’s my mission within the next year and beyond that.

“I want to say yes, with some reservations. But unless we do something radical now, the NHS will not survive," Laplana concludes. 

Laplana will be showcasing his experience at this year’s HIMSS UK e-Health Week, taking place at Olympia in London on 15 – 16 May, and you can register here to secure your place. HIMSS UK is the parent company of BJ-HC.

Related content:

A career in nursing informatics?

Leontina Postelnicu

To share tips, news or announcements, contact the writer on lpostelnicu@himss.org

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