The Smart Health Summit, held on 12th September at Croke Park, Dublin, brought together healthcare leaders from across Ireland and further afield to discuss challenges, learn best practices, and shape the future of Ireland’s healthcare collectively.

Sinéad McCarthy, Healthcare Client Service Manager at Aurion Learning took part in the panel discussion ‘How digital is enabling integrated care’, which focused on digital upskilling across the sector and what was needed to ensure healthcare would flourish in the future.

Joining Sinéad on the panel were:

  • Andy Bleaden, Community Director - ECHAlliance
  • Breanndán Casey, Connected Health and Wellbeing Cluster - Education and Outreach Manager - Dundalk Institute of Technology
  • Susan Treacy, Chief Executive Officer - HealthTech Ireland.
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Each of the distinguished panellists brought unique perspectives from their respective backgrounds in education, technology, and innovation, aiming to address the following challenges:

  • What are the skills gaps and what does good look like?
  • Technologies for care: The imperative for upskilling carers
  • How much are we committed to investing in the workforce? 
  • How do we retain staff once we’ve invested in digital upskilling and career development?
  • How do we make a career in health and care more compelling and competitive – how do we attract digital talent?

In this blog, we summarise the 5 key takeaways from the session.

1. Collaboration is key to success:

The consensus among the panellists was that successful digital upskilling involves a collaborative effort, encompassing a wide range of skills and knowledge areas. This includes not only clinical expertise but also technical proficiency and innovation clusters that foster an environment of creativity and modernism. By all working together, healthcare professionals and technologists can bridge the skills gap that currently exists.

Healthcare institutions and technology companies must establish partnerships that allow for the cross-pollination of ideas. This collaboration can lead to the development of tailored digital solutions that address specific healthcare challenges. Furthermore, fostering an interdisciplinary approach where clinicians work closely with technology experts can help in creating user-friendly digital tools that are intuitive and effective in a healthcare context.

2. Improving digital health literacy is essential:

In an era of increasing digitalisation, proficiency in using digital tools and systems has become essential for effective and efficient patient care. The panel emphasised the need for healthcare professionals to continuously update their digital skills to adapt to today's technology-driven healthcare environment. This adaptability ensures that patients receive the best possible care, leveraging the benefits of digital health technologies.

Furthermore, healthcare organisations should invest in comprehensive training programs and platforms to ensure that their staff can harness the full potential of digital tools. This includes training in electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine platforms, and data analytics tools. Digital health literacy must be ingrained in the culture of healthcare institutions, with ongoing training and certification programmes for all staff members.

3. Encouraging the best minds into healthcare:

The discussion shed light on the importance of encouraging impactful work, fostering a culture of innovation, and providing professional development opportunities for all. By creating an environment that supports both healthcare and technology professionals, we can entice digital experts to contribute their skills and expertise to the sector. This fusion of talent holds immense potential for driving positive change and innovation in healthcare across Ireland.

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4. Promoting accessibility and inclusivity:

Ensuring equal and easy access to learning materials and resources emerged as a critical aspect of digital upskilling. Sinéad McCarthy emphasised that accessibility and inclusivity promote a level playing field for all healthcare professionals and patients, allowing everyone to enhance their digital literacy skills. This inclusivity not only benefits individuals but also strengthens the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.

Sinéad explained how this was evident in the recent rollout of Epilepsy Ireland’s new self-service patient education app, EpiLearn, developed in collaboration with Aurion Learning. The app is free to download and allows for a mobile approach to learning, that incorporates a customised approach for different user bases, featuring learning pathways, videos, and information resources. This helps to enhance digital literacy skills for people suffering from epilepsy, carers and the general public.

Another example of this in action across Ireland is Aurion Learning’s collaborative work with Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT), in developing custom scenario-based online learning programmes to support people with mental health and wellbeing issues. The ‘Mental Health Recovery College Network’ is Ireland’s first-ever virtual recovery college. You can read more on this project here.

Initiatives aimed at promoting digital health literacy should consider the diverse needs of healthcare professionals and patients. Materials should be available in multiple languages and formats and training should be tailored to different skill levels.

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5. Commitment to workforce development and investment in education:

The panel emphasised the need for organisations to be committed towards professional development for their workforce. This commitment will lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and engagement among healthcare providers. Ultimately, a well-informed healthcare workforce translates to better outcomes for both patients and staff. The dedication to ongoing learning and development is the cornerstone of a thriving healthcare system.

To adopt a culture of continued learning, healthcare organisations should invest in continuous education programmes and provide opportunities for staff to attend workshops, conferences, and training sessions. Additionally, mentorship programs can pair experienced healthcare professionals with those who are newer to the digital landscape, facilitating knowledge transfer and skill development.

Conclusion

This panel discussion at The Smart Health Summit emphasised the critical importance of collaboration, adaptability, innovation, accessibility and continued learning within the healthcare sector.

By embracing these key takeaways and implementing them at all levels of healthcare, from individual practitioners to large institutions, we can pave the way for a more digitally empowered and integrated healthcare ecosystem in Ireland. This transformation will ultimately result in improved patient care and better outcomes for all.

Aurion Learning is a company at the forefront of healthcare learning innovation, collaborating with a range of global healthcare organisations to transform their learning and development initiatives.

If you are interested in learning more about how our digital learning solutions are transforming the healthcare sector, get in touch today to book a demo.

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