Meet this month’s featured member… Joe Dent

Joe Dent is an Advanced Clinical Practitioner at Salford Royal Foundation Trust and Lead for Stroke at the College of Paramedics. Joe was kind enough to take the time to discuss his career and interest in informatics with us.

Please can you introduce yourself and explain what your current role is?

My name is Joe Dent, I am an Advanced Clinical Practitioner at Salford Royal Foundation Trust. I work with the stroke team in the comprehensive stroke centre. My main role is to see patients as they arrive in the ED department and work out if patients are suitable for acute stroke treatments, including thrombolysis and thrombectomy.

Previous to this, I was an Advanced Paramedic in the ambulance service. I was involved in developing a number of headings to assist with the development of electronic patient documents, and for patient handovers between professionals within community.

As a recent Associate of the Faculty, could you let us know how you found out about the Faculty, what your expectations were when you joined, and how you think the Faculty can influence the informatics landscape?

I found out about the Faculty on its inception. I was initially asked to join by the College of Paramedics, but unfortunately I was not successful at that time. This did not stop me wanting to join the Faculty as I knew just how important this would be.

How did you first become interested in clinical informatics and how has your interest developed throughout your career?

I came into informatics by accident – I had always been interested in how we could use information to develop new treatments and patient pathways, but had never had the opportunity to formalise this in any way.

It began when I was invited to NHS England to shadow an Allied Health professional lead. The morning of the visit, I received a message to say that the person I was going to see was ill, and if I would like to go to a meeting with the then AHP lead, Karen Middleton. I had no idea what the meeting was about, but I thought I may as well take the opportunity. The meeting turned out to be for what was then then the National Allied Health Professionals Informatics Strategic Taskforce, a group of professionals from a non-medical background whose purpose was to promote informatics within their professions. I felt as if I had come home.

I contacted the College of Paramedics and asked if they would like me to represent them on this group, as it had been noticed that the COP had found it difficult to attend, and so from here the informatics journey began. Due to this I was able to bring some of that learning back to the ambulance service that I was working in at the time and then joined a national group looking at IT solutions for patient records within the service.

Some time later I became involved with a record standards project for the ambulance service with the RCP, and spent time with the Informatics team there. Due to the success of the project I was again asked to join the Informatics team for further, ambulance based projects.

How has informatics aided your role as a paramedic and an Advanced Practitioner of Stroke?

This is a difficult question to answer. My old role didn’t collect enough clinical data that could be used reliably, and in part this was due to systems being paper heavy, meaning that not a vast amount of the data that I would have seen as being important was collated. Things are changing, with IT coming more to the fore, but this still means that there is a reliance on the correct data being captured and only time will tell if this is the case.

As for my new role, the systems that are used allow for this data to be collected automatically, meaning it allows the clinical director to have up to date information regarding the processes used and outcomes of patients, and then for this information to be shared with other trusts. The system is evolving all the time enabling more appropriate data capture.

In what ways related to your work would you like to see informatics change and improve?

In my current workplace, I feel quite fortunate that the trust is an early implementer site for IT and as such they are quite forward thinking, but I would like to see more people who are brave enough to promote the subject. Informatics is a tool that shouldn’t be cumbersome, shouldn’t be hung up in terminology, which then makes the subject more assessable to others where informatics is not their first subject. In health , informatics is about making things better for patients, irrespective of what data is being collated, this should be its central goal and should be the first thing that is written down when a new system or data base is created.

As digitising health continues to be a key focus in the UK and, how do you see clinical informatics developing as a profession?

What would be really great to see, especially pre-hospital, is to really understand what has happened to a patient once they leave their care, having joined up systems that allow for interested parties to interrogate data to see if what happens to the patient prior to them getting into hospital has any real benefit and if it does what could be changed to improve this care. Having systems that can look at the full patient journey, instead of isolated snippets, can only help in understanding what works and what doesn’t.

Within the ambulance service to my knowledge there are very few paramedics that are involved in the subject and this lack of involvement does not develop the treatments available to patients. It also means that even where available, there is a lack of  knowledge of the patients who hold electronic patient records that could be interrogated.

What advice would you give to yourself back when you were just beginning your career in informatics?

To get involved, we are told that data is the new gold and this is probably true, but we need people who are clinicians to get involved with non clinicians to ensure that we get the best out of the data that is collected. We need more CCIO’s in role. We need this type of position to be made available to more ambulance trusts in particular, to people with a real  appetite for the subject and not just someone who takes on the subject as part of their role. We need to start using data in the same way as the private/commercial sector have done for years. Most importantly we need to start using data to improve patient outcomes and offer the best patient care possible.