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Blog: are we finally ready for clinical leadership in 2017?

/Dr Saif Abed/Dr_Saif_AbedBy Dr Saif Abed, NHS doctor and founding partner at Abed Graham

In 2016, clinical engagement emerged as the breakthrough topic of interest in health IT. Journalists, IT suppliers and healthcare organisations were increasingly taking an interest in what clinicians had to say and, as a clinician, I believe it’s about time too.

Now, this doesn’t mean that this movement hasn’t been building for a while; on the contrary, for the past decade there has been an increasingly steady stream of clinicians dedicating their time, at their own expense, to the world of health IT. The role of the Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO) is now a recognised title and government backed CCIO networking groups have sprung up in the UK and Ireland.

However, with all this in mind, there’s still so much more we could do. It’s time we not only focused on clinical engagement, but actually also fostered the growth of clinical leadership in health IT.

The birth of formal clinical leaderships

The appointment of Keith McNeill as the first national CCIO for England and the increasing influence of Yvonne Goff as the national CCIO for Ireland in 2016 were two examples of the birth of formal clinical leadership movements for health IT. Their work coincided with, and was amplified of course, by the findings and recommendations of the clinically led Wachter Review.

We now need to do even more in 2017. We have to take the momentum of 2016 and use it to promote clinical leadership to the levels we need to support the digital transformation agendas of the NHS and Health Service Executive in Ireland.

What does this mean?

It means that central governments and healthcare organisations need to formally fund the professionalisation of the CCIO role. Clinicians must have dedicated time and resource to lead health IT projects and to focus on their own professional development in the field. It’s essential to develop local clinical IT steering groups and the concept of ‘The Office of the CCIO’ needs to take root.

Suppliers also need to realise that clinical engagement is not just about having a solitary clinician on your team sharing a marketing message. Instead, teams of clinicians need to be involved on both sides to optimise the deployment of IT solutions so that they create a positive user experience and tangible benefits and more fully represent the diverse characteristics of the clinical end-user community. These are just a few of the key themes I hope to discuss at UK e-Health Week this May. So back to my original question. Are we ready for clinical leadership in 2017? Yes, we are.

Biography - Dr Saif Abed

Dr Abed is an NHS doctor by background and currently a health IT strategist and Founding Partner at AbedGraham. His advisory expertise is used by large IT suppliers, healthcare providers and governments throughout Europe to optimise clinical engagement, technology adoption and benefits realisation processes.