As the Faculty has become an independent body and set up a Trustee board, we spoke to one of our Lay Trustees Yinka Makinde about her career in digital health and her experience of the Faculty so far. Yinka is an experienced healthcare and technology leader and entrepreneur, who previously practised as a front-line pharmacist for 12 years across England, Singapore and Australia. She is currently the Programme Director at DigitalHealth.London (DH.L).
Hi Yinka! As one of the Faculty’s Lay Trustees, please could you introduce yourself and explain what your current role is?
Currently, I am serving as Programme Director at DigitalHealth.London, and have been, since its inception in 2016. DigitalHealth.London successfully connects validated digital health innovations with NHS need and equity investment, whilst facilitating the NHS to access and implement new digital innovations that can drive efficiencies in care delivery and improved patient experience and/ or outcomes.
Having worked in the health care sector now for 27 years, initially as a Pharmacist, and subsequently in technology- led healthcare innovation (since 2004), which included a short time as an Entrepreneur and Founder of my own technology company, the last 4 years have been a privilege in terms of being able to work directly with ‘the system’ to embrace, and fully exploit the benefits of technology.
As the Programme Director for DigitalHealth.London, how did you first get involved in digital health and healthcare innovation?
I got involved in healthcare innovation initially purely by chance. After completing my MBA in 2001, and having spent at that point 8 years as a front-line Pharmacist, I was seeking new opportunities to expand the perspective and scope of my role in healthcare delivery, and to develop new skills. I had many ideas at the time for how the Community Pharmacy model could be vastly transformed, and had made attempts to table my ideas with various ministers. To no avail. Eventually the opportunity came up for me to join a high performing team as a Pharmacy Subject Matter Expert at the consulting firm Accenture, which had just been awarded a major contract with the government to deliver part of the National Programme for IT. Not having had any proactive interest in IT before, I was immediately thrown into a completely new field of Health IT, and this is where my opportunity to be part of healthcare innovation was born.
What were your expectations of the Faculty when you became a Trustee, and has anything surprised you?
I am still very early in my posting as a Trustee with the Faculty. I have to say, it is a privilege to have been invited to join. I was aware that the Faculty was very newly formed, with the remit of supporting clinicians with an interest in developing their informatics careers. My expectations were that it was a priority of the Faculty to broaden the reach of the support offer to a diverse population of clinicians, and potentially non-clinicians. Diverse in every sense of the word. One of the reasons why I felt I could offer value to the Faculty was that diversity has been central for me in running the NHS Digital Pioneer Fellowship Programme which has succeeded in reaching both clinicians and non-clinicians at all grades, across multiple clinical disciplines, and care settings.
What would you like to see from the Faculty as it develops?
It is vastly critical that we tackle the workforce issues around technology-led transformation as broadly as possible. Transformation is everyone’s business within an organisation, not just board level executives or people in the IT department. Everyone has a part to play in the process – both clinicians and non-clinicians. It would be a positive move for the Faculty to work closely with the other bodies with a vested interest in the ‘professionalism’ agenda, to ensure that career paths and associated support are mapped out and made available to both clinicians and non-clinicians with an interest in health informatics. And that the career and development path is clear. Further, clearly articulating the value proposition of the Faculty, and how it will grow and sustain itself are also key. I am looking forward to being able to contribute to this planning.
What improvements would you like to see in the near future in digital health and informatics?
The sector has made several advances in the time I have been leading DigitalHealth.London in the last 4 years, in terms of market awareness, funding to drive technology uptake, policy to focus effort, guidance to facilitate better product evaluation, programmes to support NHS staff leading digital transformation, and direct support for digital health innovators trying to access the NHS. Procurement still remains a challenge as does interoperability – a contentious issue. There is further work to be done around defining standards, and balancing data privacy with appropriate use of data for the good of the population. Continued investment in gearing up the workforce to be able to embrace the change and deliver the change, cannot be underestimated. Funding for this needs to be continuous and long-sighted not short-sighted. We need to move beyond 2-year funded programmes of work, firmly embedding this into every aspect of strategic planning when it comes to digital health and informatics. Sustainable change doesn’t happen without this.
Finally, what advice would you give to yourself back when you were just starting out in your career?
Step outside of your silo as early as possible in your career, to develop a better understanding of how your service impacts on all of the other parts of the health and care system and visa versa. Broaden your network to gain as diverse a perspective as possible, as transformation is complex involving multiple players. The more you understand about the complexity, the greater the chance you have of influencing and delivering change.