‘A digital future for health and care’: Professor Maureen Baker on the importance of clinical informatics

Former Chair of the Faculty Shadow Board and the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Maureen Baker CBE is now Chair of the Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB) and has long-time been a champion of the importance of better data and information-sharing to improve patient care. We are pleased to introduce Maureen’s thoughts on the Faculty and the importance of clinical informaticians.

Once clinical informatics was viewed as a space for those with specialist tech interests, but information-driven healthcare is now the mainstream of good clinical practice. As a GP, I’ve had first-hand experience of the ways informatics and information sharing can influence professional practice, and I’ve been a long-time advocate of patient safety, working closely with organisations such as NHS Connecting for Health and the National Patient Safety Agency. Through my work I have seen what happens when things go wrong and the opportunity to improve care by using the right technology to support clinical decision making is one we should all embrace.

I’m currently the chair of the Professional Record Standards Body, who are working to develop standards for the content of digital care records across all of health and care, something which is necessary for integrated services and safe, effective care. We work very closely with professionals and patients to ensure their voices are reflected in the standards we produce, so that clinically meaningful information is being shared at all times, in a timely way.

I helped to establish the Faculty of Clinical Informatics because I am passionate about the way we use and share data in care, but also because I know we need organisations to bring people together in order to drive this important agenda. For many clinicians and other professionals, informatics and data sharing are often seen as a compliance issue, to be managed by tech specialists. In reality it applies to everything we do and is the backbone of good care. Clinical informaticians need to be using their unique knowledge and experience to combine person-centred care and informatics concepts, methods and tools, to ensure that we are able to continue providing the very best care for patients.

This collaborative, patient-focused approach is something that’s encouraged by both the Faculty of Clinical Informatics and PRSB, and together we recognise the importance of promoting safe and effective care through the widespread use of standardised information that is concise, unambiguous and actionable, supported by technology.

Moving forward, our organisations need to work together to support a digital future for health and care, which includes supporting national plans to build a digital ready workforce and the NHS paperless 2020 initiative. Informatics needs to become a key part of professional training, so that all those involved in care have the skills they need to deliver in a digital world. If we can manage our bank accounts online, we should be able to support digital healthcare and wellbeing in a safe and secure way that puts patients at the forefront.

Standards are an essential part of making this a reality – not just creating them, but also implementing them into day-to-day use. It’s our job to educate and encourage training and development across both the NHS and social care, to bridge the gap between informatics and frontline care. In addition to producing support materials and online tools, we need to be raising awareness of the difference that it can make, through case studies and examples. Ultimately, we need to support a fundamental cultural shift if we are to see the real impact of clinical informatics, and see those benefits manifested in improved patient experience and outcomes.