Healthcare Meets the Software Revolution

Healthcare meets the Software Revolution by Debbie Provan

During the past year I have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of healthcare professionals using technology in a professional capacity. Personally I think this is great, but I can’t help thinking we could still be doing more. In my opinion we need to start recognising how technology can improve our practice, promote efficiency and extend our reach; and we need to be encouraged to embrace it, not blocked at every other turn.

Podcasts were very popular

A year or so ago I was tasked with developing an education programme with a national reach.

Recognising people learn in different ways, and in response to feedback from potential participants, I decided to produce an e-learning programme and a series of virtual lectures presented through an online classroom.

The lectures were recorded and made available as podcasts to those who couldn’t “attend”, and to those who wanted to listen again.

Listeners were also provided with a facility to post questions about the topic presented on an associated discussion board and participants were encouraged answer queries as a method of embracing peer assisted learning.

Whilst the e-learning programme was fairly popular with almost 1500 people enrolling in the first year, the virtual classroom sessions were poorly attended.

Many potential participants reported problems when trying to access the site due to NHS IT controls, and some had limited access to PCs or a quiet space due to hotdesking arrangements and open-plan offices.

Others admitted to being technophobic.

The podcasts were also very popular with viewing figures ranging from approximately 800-1500 and although scarce, evaluation feedback was positive.  Despite this, no-one took the opportunity to post a question or comment which makes me question how engaged participants were in the learning process and how comfortable people feel about online education.  All of this leads me to question how serious we are about embracing technology and maximising its potential impact.

Social Media

Social media is another thing I have watched professionals embrace over the past year with more and more of my colleagues signing up to tweet in a professional capacity, and more and more conferences developing hashtags and encouraging online participation from delegates and the wider community.  Only last week I read (via a Twitter link) about the way in which GPs are embracing social media.

It seems many GPs, NHS Trusts, Healthboards, Allied Health Professionals, Nurses and Charities are now using Twitter and Facebook to direct people to services and provide good health information.But an article which highlighted the positive response to the ‘You and Social Media’ debate at the recent RCGP annual conference echoed my concern about the many trusts who block social networking sites on internal networks and the lack of guidance which is available to those who want to participate.

Which begs the questions…..Should IT restrictions be lifted to encourage the use of technology? Should social media and applications of software and technology in healthcare become part of the curriculum for trainees? And should it also form part of an organisations mandatory training programme?

Maintaining function and participation

Whilst many may feel I am jumping the gun a little, I will leave you with a few more pieces of technology and equipment which deliver key health messages and make our practice more effective, efficient and fun.The Nintendo Wii and Kinect for Xbox which are being used to help people in palliative care maintain function and participate in physical activity.  I have also read about the Kinect being used to help surgeons’ review medical imaging whilst performing surgery.

Apps (of which there are too many to mention by name and include the MSK app) which enable people to:

  • review their food and fluid intake in relation to recommendations;
  • review their mood to enable them to help manage their mental health;
  • monitor how physically active they are and set goals to increase their activity levels;
  • monitor their weight and set goals; and
  • manage musculoskeletal problems
  • Online Video and Blog Hosting Sites such as Vimeo, YouTube and Storify which enable professionals to share examples of good practice, learn from each other, improve networking and participate in conferences from the comfort of their office and without the need for extensive travel.

And let’s not forget the humble phone and camera which have been combined and linked to the internet so that images of suspect moles and other skin conditions can be taken by members of the public living in rural areas and sent to consultants for review.

Leaner, fitter, healthier

With the above in mind I hope you’ll agree that the possibilities of software applications in healthcare are endless and through their utilisation we can all help to achieve a leaner, fitter, healthier organisation and move from good to great.

Further information is available at:

Guidance for Scottish Allied Health Professionals about their use of Social Media

Scottish Allied Health Professionals and Social Media


Debbie Provan

NB: I first published this blog in November 2012 on ayrshirehealth.

Click here to visit their excellent blog



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