The Digital Health Academy has been launched to provide healthcare professionals with confidence and skills to use digital health technologies in practice.
Over the last 18 months, the need and use of digital health technologies (DHTs) has accelerated as the impact of the pandemic meant we needed to find innovative ways to connect with patients. However, it is clear there is a digital skills gap and a real need for the health workforce to gain sound digital capabilities grounded in knowledge and skills, to support and lead on change and innovation.
Recent findings from a UK-wide survey of DHT innovators by Boehringer Ingelheim in partnership with ORCHA, highlighted the key concerns facing health entrepreneurs. Of the innovators surveyed, 37% were also healthcare professionals, providing a dual perspective of the needs of the healthcare system. Of allthose surveyed, 86% didn’t believe healthcare providers have the resources and confidence to access, use and recommend digital health technologies to patients. Additionally, 70% of innovator respondents ranked the reluctance of healthcare providers to recommend digital health technologies as one of the top four factors affecting patients use of and access to DHTs.
In response to this need, ORCHA (Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps), is launching a Digital Health Academy to help build a digital-ready workforce, a need that has been outlined in both the NHS Long Term Plan and What Good Looks Like Framework. This new online training portal, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, is designed to support all health and care professionals with the appropriate knowledge and confidence to effectively and safely use DHTs in practice.
Dr. Neville Young, director of enterprise and Innovation, Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network, explained the need to support healthcare professionals in the use of digital tools: “A digital health academy is a must, because, although it’s great that healthcare providers are continuing to invest in digital health, it’s vital that we also provide our brilliant health and care professional staff with the right knowledge to enable them to use the tools on offer to deliver the best care for patients.”
The Digital Health Academy aims to actively engage with over 50,000 HCPs from the UK in its first year, and aspires to improve the digital skills of all NHS health and care professionals by 2031.
Uday Bose, managing director and head of human pharma at Boehringer Ingelheim UK & Ireland, commented: “Supporting the health and care workforce is a priority at this critical time and the ORCHA Digital Health Academy is a unique and much-needed resource that will enable primary and secondary care professionals to be confident in all things digital, keeping pace with a fast-changing and increasingly technology-focused healthcare environment.
"At Boehringer Ingelheim UK and Ireland, we are committed to helping improve the health of people now and for future generations and believe digital transformation has the power to accelerate positive change in the healthcare system. Through our sponsorship of the Digital Health Academy, we are dedicated to improving patients’ access to digital health technologies and helping to create a more sustainable healthcare system.”
Developed in partnership with NHS clinicians, universities, and digital health experts at ORCHA, the Digital Health Academy will be made up of two foundation modules. Learnings from each module will be delivered in 5-minute videos to best fit around the working schedule of HCPs.
Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of ORCHA, said: “Busy healthcare professionals may recognise the potential of health apps, but their hectic schedules can make it really tough to learn digital skills. Many of us at ORCHA have experienced exactly this whilst working in NHS roles. We believe passionately in the potential of health apps to support the NHS and hope that giving easy access to top-quality training will make a big difference.”
The NHS Long Term Plan outlines the ambition and need to make digitally-enabled care mainstream across the system, to empower patients and support staff. By improving the skills and confidence of HCPs in referring to, prescribing and using DHTs, the Digital Health Academy will actively help facilitate digital transformation in the NHS, increasing the range of digital tools and services available to patients. The training portal will also help accelerate the procurement and utilisation of new technologies across the NHS, a key ambition identified in the UK government’s Life Sciences (LS) Vision document.
Improved training in using DHTs will ensure that digital tools used meet adequate clinical safety, data protection, and accessibility standards. This can help facilitate the creation of digital formularies, with NHS-approved DHTs. In addition to this, the Digital Health Academy will enable, where appropriate, care to be delivered closer to home, significantly reducing travel to healthcare locations and helping support the ambition of a greener and more sustainable NHS.
The Digital Health Academy is CPD accredited and is currently being piloted with existing ORCHA users, accessible through the ORCHA Dashboard. The course will be available for all HCPs in primary and secondary care from March 2022, and interest can be registered via email to [email protected].