Ameet has Coffee with Ken Mackness, new CEO of the Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) on organisational alignments to Impact Research
This the first of UKRD’s digital profile series, where Ameet will have coffee with guests from various organisations to shed light on digital topics that will benefit NHS R&D Leaders. A warm thank you to Ken for sharing his wisdom below. Look out for the next one soon.
Digital transformation is fundamental to progress in the NHS and research departments are identifying new and exciting ways to use digital solutions to improve R&D. Ameet Bakhai, Research Director & Cardiologist, Royal Free London NHS Trust and Head of the UKRD Digital Working Group, recently met with Ken Mackness to learn more about the FCI to share joint learnings to the R&D community.
- Clinical informatics FCI definition: Clinical Informatics is the application of data and information technology to improve patient and population health, care and wellbeing outcomes and to advance treatment and the delivery of personalised, coordinated support from health and social care.
- Clinical informatician FCI definition: A clinical informatician uses their clinical knowledge and experience of informatics concepts, methods and tools to promote patient and population care that is person-centred, ethical, safe, effective, efficient, timely, and equitable.
Question and Answer Section
1. The FCI has rapidly gained notoriety and traction with all the digital sharing it does, the amazing conferences it puts on and the great discourses it promotes. Can you tell us briefly about your organisation’s history and your role?
The FCI has been trying to get off the ground since the early 2000s when a group of progressive-thinking healthcare practitioners understood the integral value of clinical data as part of their day-to-day work and floated the idea of a faculty of medical informatics. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that the steering group was formed within the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). In September 2019 the FCI became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and in May this year I was appointed as the FCI’s inaugural CEO alongside our first ever trustees.
2. The FCI is an organisation trying to join up seemingly differing disciplines – data and health and social care. What are the main goals or missions of the FCI that you’re supporting?
Clinical Informatics cuts across many different disciplines and professions within health and social care. Our aim is to cultivate a membership to ensure that all those voices are heard.
Ultimately, we exist to make the life of patients within the NHS and social care easier and improve quality of life; whether that be by developing the best way to use data to reduce waiting times, to diagnose earlier or improve sharing of information.
These are there are four pillars to our work:
- helping people recognise that they’re clinical informaticians (many people have just been asked to do something with data as an add-on to their existing job).
- working with organisations, such as the GMC, to provide a way of credentialing clinical informatics, helping employers understand what a clinical informatics team looks like and what value it can provide.
- increasing public understanding of how health data is used and that their data can be used in varying and better ways, depending on which trust they’re in – we aim to make that less disparate.
- making things happen. It’s no good getting people who don’t practice on the front line to test theories or come up with ideas – we have over 1000 members (and growing) who are frontline experts in clinical informatics, and they need to be heard and to champion change.
3. The goals are a good foundation for people who see patterns in data related to care or see variances in care that need data. During the pandemic, clinical informatic experts created data on the vulnerable to shield or vaccinate first; we understand the importance of members of the FCI. But how does NHS clinical research feature in those goals?
We’re here to support the NHS to undertake research on digital interventions to improve the health of our population. That’s where we can really make a difference. We can take our members’ ideas and make them real, because they’re frontline clinical implementation practitioners.
I believe the FCI has the largest group of Chief Information Officers and digital leaders in the UK who are working to improve the systems and data handling. And everybody is beginning to understand the importance of this within research particularly, for example, in helping clinicians to find patients who are eligible for clinical research in electronic health record systems.
4. OK, so clearly electronic health data about people is becoming vital and research will involve more and more coded data with large repositories such as the UK Biobank. Given that both UKRD and FCI have many curious and caring members, what are the areas FCI members and UK research leaders in the NHS need to overlap on?
I think where we really add value is increasing understanding, for example, understanding the standards that are required, especially within digital intervention. the FCI frontline members can really add value to developing standards of research and writing the guidance. Our members bridge the gap between systems architects and clinicians. There’s a role for our members to be interpreters, so that when you’re building systems that are going to be used for frontline services, you’re doing it in such a way that you’re not putting in fields that are meaningless. Meanwhile UKRD can lean on clinicians who understand how the data will be used when designing, approving, or enabling research.
Clinical informatics is all about getting the basics right. We are here to develop sound foundations and building blocks for the implementations of the future, whilst NHS research leaders oversee the safe conduct of evaluating interventions to build that future care system.
5. Seems a natural progression that we should overlap as organisations. If so, and there were a collaborative taskforce to bring the two organisations of digital and research leaders together, what should they aim to tackle?
I think it’s about developing standards and guidelines of how research needs to be undertaken and how can we increase the place of data and digital tools in positively impacting healthcare. For example, finding out whether wearables do save lives, if social media platforms help health promotion, or if mobiles can be used to help you live longer.
This research needs to have standards and ethics attached that are drawn up by people who really understand how that data is used on the front line, how they can interpret it and how the data gets to the people who need to use it.
I believe one of the most important lines that needs to be crossed is between health and social care. Social care uses a slightly different language to healthcare, but the data is the same data and it’s important to get a well-rounded picture of what’s going on with a person in hospital as well as the care home so that you know how to treat them and tweak their care plan to offer the best possible service and care.
Clinical informatics can drive the efficiency of health and social care reducing the amount of money, that’s spent on both.
6. There are many new stakeholders in care provision including digital technology giants like Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft collecting and collating data. What benefits could there be for such non-NHS commercial partners to work alongside such a combined task force?
Tech partners have very powerful resources at their disposal and can develop that architecture and those systems, but to harness the power of everything they’re creating, most effectively, they need guidance from frontline workers.
We know that the NHS has finite amounts of funding and there are things we’d like to research and develop which are beyond us, in terms of financial and analytics resources. We don’t want commercial partners to develop solutions to problems that they think we need; we want them to be developing solutions to problems which actually do exist and the FCI and UKRD taskforce could give them access to a membership of professionals who can advise on this. The FCI already has a number of members who work in commercial settings, and we look forward to welcoming more. Portfolio careers are part of our flourishing sector.
7. Thank you so much Ken for this conversation over coffee. Any final thoughts to share with the UKRD membership regarding the FCI?
Ameet Bakhai comments: “The FCI can provide helpful insights to make research organisations better functioning and improve patient health. I encourage you to get in touch and consider membership or encourage the clinical informaticians in your team (did you even know you had one?) to become members. Data saves lives!”