I spent a couple of days last week in Leeds, attending the Digital Health Conference and Hack. I wanted to fill in some initial reflections today and write more about some of the sessions I attended over the coming week.
The first day – the ‘conference’ part – was put together with thought and care towards the participants with an excellent balance of speakers, workshops and opportunities to talk to one another (or ‘network’). Having been to many conferences which have overdone the ‘being spoken to’ elements – particularly in a day – I was genuinely delighted by the opportunity to feedback.
For me, the most interesting aspect of the day was the other participants and attendees. There were people from across the health and social care sector, including users of services provided (although as was pointed out, we are all users to a degree), voluntary sector organisations, technology based companies, commercial organisations and people from national and local government.
One of the themes that jumped out at me most spectacularly was how much was gained by putting us all in a room together where otherwise we might have no opportunities to meet, to create a positive energy (tinged with scepticism of reality to a degree) about what is actually possible to ‘make things better’.
Whether it was a discussion about the Department of Health Information Strategy for Health and Social Care (which will be the subject of it’s own post later in the week!) or a closer look at the Department of Health ‘Maps and Apps’ project or a discussion with clinicians about the way they use social media or a look at the ‘Patient Opinion’ model for providing useful communication and feedback between users and services.
Both ‘Maps and Apps’ and ‘Patient Opinion’ will be moving into the Social Care space directly and for me, it was a useful chance to discuss and think more deeply about the ‘social care’ angle on these processes and how they might directly relate to the work I do clinically on a day to day basis.
The second part of the day revolved around planning, discussions and moving forward but it’s hard for me to get away from the realisation that the most important thing that I took away from the day was inspiration and connections.
I met some truly inspirational people (primarily Claire Jones, the organiser of this event) and had some intensely interesting conversations. I connected with people across the traditional hierarchical structures that we are sometimes constrained by as well as some of the traditional ‘silos’ of interest groups that can be seen to exist within health and social care more broadly.
The Hack Day on Saturday was a chance to discuss in more detail some practical ideas and uses for technology at work. The group I worked in provided me with an enjoyable, engaging and thought-provoking discussions. We came from very different angles to look at the problems we faced in working/using/dealing with NHS and Social Care systems and how not only technology but better communication and relationships could solve them.
The projects that were presented at the end of the Hack Day were genuinely useful and provided a chance to see change in action. It isn’t just talk although it’s impossible to underestimate the possibilities of talk.
My main lessons from the event:-
1) Moving away from top/down and bottom/up models of communication as the sole way of transmitting information and ideas. The real change comes from horizontal as well as vertical chains of discussion. Look at other sectors as well as those at all levels of our own. How is agriculture managing this? What is education doing? We can get lost in our own world and of course, we need to look across health and social care. It’s a VERY big place. Many people who use and need our services to operate well can tell us best where we need to improve. Skills and knowledge is not a top down transfer.
2) Social Care is in genuine danger of being squeezed out in the ‘Health and Social Care’ debate and discussion. I was gently reminding some of the health people that we existed but I’d love to see more input from the sector and perhaps input more myself.
3) Social Media opens opportunities. I would never have come across this event without it. But sometimes, face to face meetings can reinforce ideas and relationships too.
4) Sometimes just sitting a few people together and talking about ‘making things better’ from completely different ‘starting points’ can be both inspirational and revolutionary. Let’s do more.
5)Leeds is an exciting and beautiful place. I want to move
I hope to write more specifically over the week about the ‘Maps and Apps’ project and the Information Strategy for Health and Social Care but all in all, I can’t think of a more satisfying and reinvigorating weekend I’ve spent in a long, long time so can only thank Claire for doing rather than talking about doing.
These are the people who will change the world. Rather than talk about changing the world. Thank you, Claire. Thank you, Leeds. I’ll be back and in the meantime, I’ll be plotting, planning but most importantly, talking.
photo by Leah Makin Photography at Flickr