One year in… (And why informatics is quite so great)

Posted by: Zoe Bradley - Posted on:

I’m writing this having just come back from a ‘meet the team’ morning for my final 10 month placement, and I am beyond excited.  You may have heard it said that health informatics is a massively varied field and, well, that is true! As I have mentioned before, my role this year has been largely focussed on ‘information development’, which within my Trust has meant overseeing the setup of a pilot of new, quick sign-on processes for staff on the MIUs, developing a Benefits Realisation reporting template for use in the Informatics team’s project rollouts, configuring systems to match national coding/ reporting needs and undertaking essential maintenance work and decommissioning services. I’ve learnt a lot about project management, appreciating the front-end user experience of systems, and how information systems actually work in a health care setting. I’m also not entirely sure it’s what I’d like to do in the long term – which brings me on nicely to my plans for my flexi – and final placements.

I’ll be delving into some other aspects of informatics. My flexi-placement has echoes of the benefits realisation work I have done this year, only instead of producing a template for others to fill in (which was weirdly satisfying!) I’ll be undertaking an analysis of the Return on Investment for a project that has been funded and supported by the regional Academic Health Science Network. My final placement will be based within an activity and insight team and is going to enable me to really put my statistical and analytical skills to the test. I’m particularly excited because alongside routine reporting which is necessary to allow services to monitor their own performance and report on targets, there is the scope to get involved in work modelling and forecasting patient flow, both through the hospital and through various aspects of the system – the kind of problem solving and critical thinking that I find deeply rewarding.

By the end of my time on the scheme, I will have literally worked through what I love about informatics – the information development and project teams are vital for ensuring that staff have technology which helps them to improve the patient experience, work efficiently and deliver the care they came into the profession to provide; clinicians themselves are vital in the way in which they input data, and the systems aim to help in the safe and timely transfer of patient data from one clinician to another; clinical coders play a vital role in ensuring that all the data that is needed is where it needs to be in the system and with the right label attached; data quality teams are essential for monitoring the quality of the data used to inform the decisions made off the back of it – after all rubbish in = rubbish out; analyst teams are needed to make sense of the vast amounts of data, running reports and (increasingly) manipulating the data in ways that will help inform future service design; and patients themselves are becoming more and more involved, whether that is through telehealth, online booking systems, or technology-enabled involvement in their own care. Add to that information governance to oversee, monitor and control the handling of data; registration authorities to grant staff the appropriate access to systems; system support to help staff with system-specific issues faced, in-house audit teams – then tie all of this back in to the wider clinical and corporate functions of a Trust, and I’ve still only scratched the surface of what informatics is and what it can do.

It’s a multi-faceted beast that requires all its limbs to function as it needs to, and is fascinatingly complex and intertwined in every aspect of the life of a Trust. My initial interest in informatics stems from a placement shadowing a Medical Physicist whilst at Uni, and being fascinated by the idea of scans being sent here, there and everywhere through information systems to help inform decisions. I was bowled over then by how powerful informatics seemed to have the potential to be, and have been struck by this even more so this year; and I’m now really looking forward to learning and developing new skills over the coming year, and, hopefully, finding my niche!

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