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News: TEC … Making Things Happen

Being a veteran of public meetings I’ve noted that there’s usually someone in the audience who stands up and shouts …”Enough talk! We need action!” At the Digital Pathfinders event in Edinburgh on 17 June that cry came not from the floor, but from the top table where an array of senior Government and local government officers, and a charity CEO, were fielding questions.

And in fairness, the whole event was about stimulating action on the use of telehealth and telecare throughout the health and social care system. The new Director General for Health and Social Care, Malcolm Wright, was present and spoke supportively of the need for change.

Four health and social care partnerships are launching Pathfinder projects, using TEC to tackle specific issues. Aberdeen is working with third sector partners to tackle abuse. Midlothian is working with the Digital Health Institute to design telecare/telehealth services for people who are frail. Highland is working on improving the use of data to create better respiratory services, collaborating with the Wick Wheezers, the Grumpy Gaspers and the Cheerful Chesters, all three being voluntary groups. East Ayrshire is focusing on older adults and long term conditions, looking for a “Think TEC first” approach.

All four projects are in the design stages and are committed to the Scottish Service Design Principles; in short, you have to know the problem before designing the solution. And you also have to work collaboratively, inclusively and empathetically. There to explain this approach was Catriona Macauley, Chief Design Officer for the Scottish Government, finalist in the UK Digital Leaders Awards along with Margaret Whoriskey, Head of TEC and Digital Healthcare, also a finalist.

Because it’s early days for all four projects, there was little practical action to report, and a fair degree of theory being talked. Four ‘World Café’ sessions discussed concepts like place and community, how best to exchange knowledge and creating the conditions for change. It was clear that the largely health and social care based audience was mostly unaware of the Place Standard Tool which other public sector agencies such as Dundee use for creating Local Development Plans and Community Plans. No disgrace in that … this was a learning session and I think everyone there heard something new.

One barrier to progress – and a challenge to be overcome – is the inability of many of our digital systems to mesh together. Respiratory consultant Lorna Murray from Caithness pointed out the difficulties of interrogating secondary healthcare data.

Bringing digital systems together, agreeing on information governance and doing things, as far as possible, “once for Scotland” is the action which one of the panel was calling for. “We need to stop the nonsense,” he said.

In summary the message was clear and positive … let’s get some good things done. We’ll report on the Pathfinder projects as they develop.