By Charlotte Kay – Physiotherapist
As a newly qualified Physiotherapist, I have noticed the increased use of technology within the health service throughout the course of my placements. However, with this I also witnessed the resistance that often comes with the introduction of technology in a work environment. 88% of people in the UK use the Internet or own a smart phone (Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey) – however, using technology in personal life is a different matter to using it in a professional capacity.
It is frequently assumed that the younger generation and students will be more willing to use technology than older staff. However, there was no data to either prove or disprove these assumptions within the AHP population. This gap in the research gave rise to a study investigating the ‘technology readiness’ of qualified and student AHPs (NHS Lothian and Queen Margaret University).
The ‘Technology Readiness Index’ (TRI), was used to measure the willingness of AHPs to incorporate technology into the workplace. The TRI is split into positive (innovativeness and optimism) and negative (discomfort and insecurity) categories. These category scores are then combined to give an overall technology readiness score. Scores range from 1 to 5 with a higher score indicating greater technology readiness.
What are the results?
487 AHP staff and students were surveyed. Initial targets were for 100 responses but the degree of response in itself suggests that there is sufficient interest in this topic and the information generated.
A summary of results is provided below.
Significant results found:
- Students and newly qualified staff showed greater innovativeness and optimism than staff who had been qualified for longer
- Students showed higher levels of insecurity than all qualified staff
- Insecurity and discomfort had similar levels amongst qualified staff
These results were further analysed and grouped into ‘types’. The table below shows a summary of the typology analysis.
56% were classed as ‘skeptics’ regarding the use of technology in the workplace. This implies that in order to successfully introduce technology, staff need to be educated and convinced about the benefits of technology to overcome these skeptical beliefs.
What can we learn?
This study, being the first of it’s kind to investigate the attitudes of AHPs has first and foremost provided us with an understanding of the attitudes of the current and future AHP workforce. In general, the population surveyed showed ‘neutral’ overall TRI scores. Although this does not show a positive attitude, it is encouraging that there was no overall negative attitude found. Students and newly qualified staff showed greater innovativeness and optimism. This indicates that these groups have good ideas of how technology can be used and positive views towards it.
On the other hand…
A particularly concerning point to consider is that students showed greatest levels of insecurity. These findings are interesting in that the stereotypical belief that students would show greater technology readiness may not necessarily be true. Although we recognise that students and new graduates have optimism and innovativeness, it cannot be assumed that they will confident to apply these skills in the clinical setting.
Based on the significantly lower innovativeness and optimism shown by longer qualified staff, it also cannot be assumed that this group of staff will be open and willing to new ideas that students and newly qualified staff bring to the workforce.
These findings indicate that there is room for improvement in all groups, therefore this is important to consider by both higher education institutes and NHS boards as both play a role in preparing staff for new technology. Support, education and reassurance regarding the benefits of new technology, is required in order to overcome initial resistance. Students and new graduates require support to help them feel reassured about how they can best use their skills in a new setting and to nurture their positive attitudes throughout their career.
Euan McComiskie mentioned in his recent AHP blog the potential to implement a national component of university education that would focus on developing the knowledge and skills required for the successful use of eHealth technologies within the workplace. For qualified staff, could something similar be implemented? AHPs already complete mandatory training in basic life support, manual handling, etc. Is it time that a form of eHealth training is made mandatory?
In conclusion, this study has revealed a number of issues within the student and qualified AHP population. However, the results have only just scratched the surface. Future research would be beneficial to investigate the reasons why students and staff show the attitudes revealed in this study. This information could help in tailoring additional training to the needs of the current and future workforce.
#eNMAHP #ready4tech #technology #eHealth #AHP