Vicky Chaplin is Assistant Director for Medicines Optimisation at NHS London Procurement Partnership, and Medicines and Prescribing Associate at NICE. She is also a Member or the Faculty and one of the founders of our Early Careers Special Interest Group. Vicky will be manning the ECG Twitter account (@EarlycareersFCI) over the next few weeks and wrote this blog to introduce herself, discuss her roles in pharmacy and informatics, and give an idea of what the ECG Twitter account will be posting over the coming weeks.
My involvement with digital in healthcare is an integral part of my role, as with virtually all health and social care professionals in their work. Arguably, most people these days cannot do their job without using some form of technology or data.
The degree of formalisation of that relationship, however – to think of oneself as a clinical informatician – is something that sets apart some roles and is something that was not as clear cut until recent years.
I began to seriously consider how I aligned with that definition last year, when I undertook a national clinical leadership fellowship at NHS Digital. Within that role, I worked on projects that I had experience and expertise in, including data driven care and digital health apps. So did I automatically become a clinical informatician because I was working for a digital health focused organisation? Is that how it happens? Absolutely not – but the opportunity to work within a bigger network of clinicians with this focus really helped me to develop that part of my skillset.
Within that year, I also became one of the founders for the Early Careers Special Interest Group (ECG) at UKFCI. We did not create this group for those working in specific digital organisations or even necessarily doing digital-only roles. We did this to create a network for those starting out in this space, so they could have a like-minded group of people to link with and learn from as they started to formalise the digital aspect of their roles. UKFCI is helping map out that pathway, but in lots of individual organisations that pathway may not have many other travellers. Being able to connect with others working in this space – across specialities, sectors and professions – is something that we in the ECG hope will benefit both the individuals developing the expertise and the products and services they are helping provide. Clinical informatics is a diverse and dynamic space – moving at a speed many of us in health and social care are not accustomed to – so it is incredibly important that we can keep each other updated and supported.
Part of the way we want to keep everyone updated is through our Twitter account. Social media has well known pros and cons, but its pace and far reaching network is undoubtedly beneficial for those wanting to keep abreast of developments in digital health and social care. With our Twitter account, we aim to promote events, roles and updates that are useful to those who are early career across the whole of clinical informatics. The founding members take turns at hosting it, and we will in turn focus on our own areas of interest, as well as the broader space.
Vicky Chaplin – Founding Member of UKFCI Early Careers Group
So to begin my Twitter slot, I will briefly explain my role and the areas of clinical informatics that I am involved with. A pharmacist by profession, I am a member of many of my profession’s digital focused groups. Pharmacy has many exciting digital aspects that are helping to transform the delivery of healthcare, from the use of technology via electronic prescribing and medicines administration systems, to the use of data to drive improved care for patients. Medicines data is something that has been a big part of my role for many years now, but as the quality and quantity of data increases, so is the opportunity to take that data and put it into a bigger picture; the linking of datasets across the NHS is still developing, but one part of my role is exploring this and considering how we show and explain the wider benefits that healthcare provides, beyond the historical cost and usage data. Getting the very best out of our multiple data sources and turning it into useful information – and subsequently knowledge for the system – is fundamental to improving the care we deliver.
As any pharmacist will tell you, healthcare interventions are not only delivered by professionals in hospitals, community pharmacies and GP practices. Just as medicines are taken by patients within their day to day lives, patient facing healthcare apps cross boundaries and cannot be contained within a controlled healthcare environment. Saying that, we still rigorously test our medications and evaluate them before using at scale, as well as monitor them throughout their lifetime and measure their benefits in individuals and populations. How we do this with patient facing health apps is a developing area and a current key focus of my work is discerning the principles for operational and clinical evaluation. We should be as assured about the use of these as we are with any health intervention, and we should also be able to determine their value and consider how they may alter existing pathways. By being able to predict this, it is likely we will – and should – be able to adopt more of these at scale so patients can have access to additional self-management tools.
So in summary, many of the ECG Twitter posts in the next couple of weeks will focus on data driven care and digital health technologies, as well as some pharmacy related clinical informatics areas. I hope you find these interesting and would love to hear your thoughts on these areas, as well as all other things clinical informatics!