‘We have to stop thinking of IT as specialist skills that only “geeky” nurses use - we have a responsibility to foster the right skills to help our patients’ says Anne Cooper, national clinical lead for nursing with the DoH Informatics Directorate
If I say this piece is about “informatics”, I wonder how many of you will stop reading right now?
But the truth of it is that we are all “informaticians”, not only in our work life, but also our social lives. We use technology all the time; we have Smartphones, at home, we programme our digiboxes to record our favourite programmes and search for holiday information online.
In our professional lives, it is much the same. We have to stop thinking of information management or IT as specialist skills that only “geeky” nurses use; we have a responsibility to make sure we have the right skills to help our patients and these include skills relating to information and technology.
I will give you an example. These days most patients rightly expect to be given high quality information during their contact with health services. They expect information about what is happening to them, about the services they have contact with (for example, opening times and car parking). The need for public services to be more transparent has raised overall expectations about people having access to information about how services perform. Patients need information about conditions and treatments that they can rely on and trust, such as a diagnosis, how to manage symptoms and about what treatments they may be offered. There are lots of reasons why this is the case, but better-informed patients often report better experiences. As a result of being better informed, they can help themselves more positively, particularly those with long term conditions.
This shift in patient behaviour is starting to happen, with some GPs reporting that some patients now arrive armed with print-outs reflecting the research they have done before their appointments.
Not all patients, however, have the skills to do this research and some may require the help of professionals they come into contact with. Would you know where to access all the information the patient might need?
The NHS Choices website is a good example of how you can help. The website is already used by around eight and half million people a month and this includes patients and professionals. The site has information about conditions, treatments, services and allows patients to compare these services all in one place. It also allows patients to comment on these services.
If you haven’t already visited the site, you might like to do so and next time a patient asks your advice about, for example, choosing a new GP, you can recommend it to them. Or, if you have access to the internet, you could look at the site with them. The ‘Find and Choose Services’ section is particularly useful, as is the high quality information in the Health A-Z.
And if you want to get fit for summer, don’t miss the hugely popular Couch to 5K!
Anne Cooper is the national clinical lead for nursing with Department of Health Informatics Directorate.