by Dr Arron Thind, Digital Pioneer Fellow – 17th February, 2021

Arron Thind, Doctor in his third year of clinical training at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, is part of this year’s Digital Pioneer Fellowship programme. In this blog, he shares his passion for digital innovation in the NHS, how he has been developing his own skills in order to develop new solutions for digital training and his goals to help create a more digitally literate NHS workforce.

Digital innovation has radically transformed industry, and healthcare is no exception. In fact, the word ‘digital’ is mentioned over 90 times in the NHS Long Term Plan. From the locum app on your phone, to the patient record on the computer, it is already so common you might barely take notice of it.

Shortly after graduating from Oxford University in 2018, my journey into the digital health world began. Alongside my commitments as a doctor, I learned computer programming to co-develop an intravenous antibiotic dose calculator app. Surprisingly, our first app was demonstrated to reduce antibiotic prescribing errors from over 50% to 0, and was calculated to save the hospital thousands of pounds a year in clinician time and preventing drug waste. It was at this point I realised the tremendous power that digital innovation can provide to enhance clinical services and automate processes.

With a newfound inspiration to tackle everyday healthcare challenges through digital solutions, I joined the Digital Pioneer Fellowship to broaden my knowledge beyond what can be learned from a clinical environment, and further hone the skills necessary to deliver digital change for the benefit of patient care.

Developing skills and developing solutions

My project as a Digital Pioneer Fellow involves using my experience in computer programming to integrate digital training into practical medical teaching. Despite an accelerated roll out of electronic patient records in the NHS, simulation training and practical medical education remain paper-based. Consequently, new doctors graduate with minimal experience using digital systems in patient care.

To address this, I developed SimEPR, an educational electronic patient record that features customisable patient scenarios, which can be integrated into routine simulation training for medical students and doctors. So far the computer application is being piloted at simulation departments in East Surrey Hospital and Croydon University Hospital. Feedback has been very encouraging, and I am currently consolidating the data for publication whilst engaging stakeholders to scale SimEPR across other hospitals. The ultimate goal is to provide a cost-effective approach to equip our future workforce with the skills to safely and confidently use electronic patient records. In turn, this will optimise patient outcomes by reducing the incidence of electronic system-related clinical errors.

The Digital Pioneer Fellowship programme has provided extensive support throughout my project. Lectures and mentoring offered a valuable insight into aspects including (but not limited to): strategic influencing, evaluation, and change management principles. Further, the opportunity to brainstorm and bounce ideas off other fellows during group sessions has offered new approaches and solutions for problems I’ve encountered along the way.

In the longer term, skills I have gained as part of this programme will certainly prove useful throughout my medical training for the successful invention, adoption and dispersion of future digital transformation initiatives. Recently, a group of clinicians (Joseph Hogan, Imran Qureshi, Anja Hutchinson and Keefai Yeong) and I co-founded iALS, a mobile app designed to help clinicians seamlessly manage hospital cardiac arrest and guides users through the Resuscitation Council UK Advanced Life Support algorithm. The app’s prompts ensure the protocol is followed closely, whilst reducing cognitive burdens and the effects of human factors. Better adherence to the advanced life support guidelines is well known to be associated with better chance of patient survival. The app is available free on the iOS app store, with an android version soon to follow.

Helping create a digitally literate workforce

With rising population numbers, an ageing population and increasingly complex patients with chronic disease, digital health innovation certainly holds the key for the NHS to sustainably relieve the demographic and financial pressures it faces. The use of new and emerging technologies will soon play a role in optimising our healthcare system in ways we never thought we could a decade ago. However, in order to successfully achieve this digital transition, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to be equipped with the digital literacy to understand, adopt, create and improve digital services, which is indeed reflected in the NHS Long Term Plan.

There are also benefits on an individual level. For me, combining my clinical experience with digital skills has enabled me to create solutions that address everyday healthcare problems without the need for financial investment or specialist support. Furthermore, it has paved a career-changing path, having recently been appointed the Deputy Lead of Emerging Technology at the Department of Health and Social Care, in addition to securing a place on the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur programme.

To help others achieve the same, two co-founders and I have launched a Java programming course, specifically tailored for healthcare professionals. The 12-week course, commencing 24th Feb, will equip beginners with the skills to build innovative digital-health solutions. Not only will this benefit patient care, but also it will enable delegates to advance their professional experience and career. For further information about the course, visit: https://codemed.co.uk/course/.

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