Human of HealthTech of the Month
- Julie Oxley -
How does social care differ from health informatics?
Working in a local authority is very different from health and especially in informatics. Even the terminology of informatics is very alien to the local authority which makes conversations relating to health and care difficult.
I feel very privileged to have worked as a social care informatician for many years in more than one large local authority. There are very few strategic specific social care roles in digital as in the main IT Services, either internal to the local authority or outsourced, work for the whole council and don’t necessarily have a dedicated social care lead. Having worked in social care for so long I would say I am ‘multi-lingual’ – I can understand and translate both the health and care language and also the technical IT jargon into something that colleagues can understand.
But fundamentally we are all delivering the same services. In Leeds we are very focused on place based and working across the region, sharing what we do in an open way and I have always been really keen to share what I’m doing and to learn from others. After all in health and care we all have the same aims. I’m very passionate about working for and with people. They are at the very heart of everything we do.
How is social care changing and how does digital support those changes?
In the past the focus was very much on assessment of needs and ability to pay then providing services to help with basic needs – washing, dressing, shopping. Over the past few years the change has been to focus more on what strengths people have – what’s strong rather than what’s wrong. Focussing on positives and really looking at how we can help people live better lives – to be able to do what they want. Social isolation is the biggest challenge. Asset Based Community Development, ABCD, is working alongside this strengths based approach to develop local opportunities for people in their communities. Helping people to connect within their locality can really make a difference.
My belief is that digital is a real enabler in achieving this. It can truly provide a window into the world which can be hard for people at certain times in their lives. When we are ill, frail, need help. Digital in its many forms can offer information, education, learning, monitoring of conditions, alerts and connect people to others. You don’t have to leave home to be able to feel part of what’s going on. And it’s a real game changer for professionals too. Helping them work remotely, hold virtual meetings reducing travelling, share and access information across health and care. There’s so much out there And we have to remember that we deal with person sensitive information, and we need to protect that at all times. I may work in the world of digital but my passion remains being the advocate for the person we serve and ensuring confidentiality.
What are the key challenges?
Health and care operate as one in many ways but technically they are on different IT networks, have different devices and systems. So much has been achieved over the past few years. The challenges are great but the reward is huge. We have integrated care records and at last social care information is included which mean that all health and care practitioners can see the information for the person they are working with. But the biggest challenge is in digital skills – of both citizens and practitioners, embracing digital as an enabler at those difficult times in people’s lives and the lives of the people they care for. Working in a strengths-based way across the whole health and care system and having ‘better conversations’ with people, and looking at where digital can help. We all use smartphones, access the internet and apps in our lives and we need to be able to replicate that in health and care. I have been working with practitioners understanding the barriers for them, having the right device, leadership, policies and time to learn and take steps towards making that change are crucial.
I can see that we are on the brink of making this leap and I for one can’t wait to see it happen. When digital becomes something that’s second nature, it’s the ‘standard offer’ – its accessible to all, and it actually makes a difference to people and the way they live their lives. And it’s not an age thing – many older people are already there!
Director at Digital Care Consultancy & Portfolio Lead, Leeds City Digital Team