Digital is ‘part of the answer to every question’ being asked of our health services. Which is why allied health professionals must not be left behind, writes physiotherapist and Digital Health Advisory Panel member Euan McComiskie

Eleven years working in digital and informatics have made me realise that transforming healthcare using digital is much more to do with people and culture than hardware and software. That’s why, when I stood for re-election to Digital Health’s CNIO AP , I emphasised the need to promote a ‘digital for all’ mantra for clinical professionals. We need to improve digital competence for all, provide opportunities for aspiring leaders and continue to invest in our current leaders.

While digital isn’t likely to be the complete answer to any question in health and social care, it will be part of the answer to just about every question being asked of our services. Therefore, it is imperative that our entire workforce have at least some awareness of digital to optimise the way they work and help them to achieve more positive health outcomes for their patients.

Interactive online education

As part of this agenda, I’m leading work with NHS England to deliver an interactive, engaging, online education course as an introduction to digital for AHPs. This follows the publication of the UK AHP Digital Competence Framework, a 2022 survey of UK AHP digital competence and an international literature review of the current strategic landscape for digital in UK physiotherapy. From these sources, we’ve developed a module-based course made of short learning bytes (a maximum of 15 mins each) covering the foundations of digital for AHPs.

We’ve used language, case studies and examples from the wide range of AHP services to ensure that the resources are accessible for all and inclusive of the breadth of AHP work. The course will be available online to AHPs across the UK regardless of professional background, geographical location, employment sector and career stage.

We also expect that it will be useful to other professions working in health and social care. The content is pitched at a foundation level to raise the lower bar of digital competence in AHPs. It may help us identify some who are unaware of the opportunities available to them and who might end up as digital leaders in the future, but that is not the primary intention.

Euan McComiskie with Ramandeep Kaur, left, and Melissa Andison, right.

A proud digital physio

I’m a very proud digital physio and digital allied health professional. I worked in a clinical role before starting my journey with digital in 2012, working in Scotland and Northern Ireland before my current roles with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and ORCHA took me across the UK and further afield. It is a privilege to work alongside physios and other AHPs at a local, regional, national, and international level.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to have the guidance and support of a number of mentors, and I am a passionate advocate for mentorship as part of personal and professional progression. I was lucky to be a mentor in the first cohort of the CNIO Mentorship Program in the early part of 2023. In the mentorship group we had four nurses at different stages of their digital nursing careers. Together we discussed learning opportunities, professional and personal resilience, organisational challenges, systems challenges, and lots more. As the mentor, I learned as much as the mentees, and I loved the process.

Mentorship opportunities

I’m looking forward to being part of the process for cohort 2 soon. We should be able to offer mentorship opportunities to even more than the 40-plus who got the opportunity first time round.

It’s great to see the mentorship program also being taken on by the CCIO and CIO networks too.

I also volunteer my time as an ally and mentor through the Hexi timebank process for members of the Shuri Network. I’m yet to have anyone pick me up on this offer, but if you’re a Shuri Network member and think I could help support you, I’d love you to get in touch.

Identifying and supporting aspiring and established AHP leaders in digital health is another passion. With my colleagues Ramandeep Kaur and Melissa Andison (before she returned to Australia) I have been lobbying for more opportunities to bring together digital AHPs and digital pharmacists at Digital Health events.

We’ve had sessions at the last few Digital Health events, and all have been well attended. Just as with the #DigitalNurse and #DigitalMidwife social movements, it is important that we continue to grow in numbers but also provide opportunities for those already involved in the group, to make sure we retain them. The mentorship programs will help that, as will the CNIO handbooks, upcoming DH events, webinars, and social media presence.

As a member of the CNIO AP, I would love to hear from any digital nurse, midwife or AHP on the opportunities they would like to see to support their digital leadership journey. Please do get in touch and join us in our goal to strengthen the network of digital nurses, midwives and AHPs.

Euan McComiskieEuan McComiskie is health Informatics lead at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and clinical lead for physiotherapy at ORCHA. He has also been recently re-elected for another two years on the CNIO Advisory Panel.

Twitter: @EMAHPInfo