Healthcare IT (HIT) is recognised internationally as a vexing problem: computers ought to help hospitals and healthcare, yet healthcare is complex and computerisation to date has been disappointing, with even large national projects having poor or mixed results. Patient-centred healthcare and patient safety are obvious goals, but these high-level goals are very hard to translate into evidence-based requirements for system specification. The recent Berwick Report (August 2013), which may transform the NHS, does not mention computers or IT at all. At the same time pure technological imperatives like WiFi, the Cloud, tablet computers, mobile apps, social media, and so on drive piece-meal innovation.
The lack of technical integration, the race to keep up (e.g., to computerise existing patient records), the difficulty of applying international standards, the problems of regulation, to say nothing of the tiny scientific literature, all highlight the dire lack of evidence-based, informed thinking, particularly from the computer science perspective.
Harold Thimbleby is a leading researcher starting to cross the boundaries between computer science and healthcare, with a particular interest in human-computer interaction and patient safety. With a strong background in computer science, this Discipline Hopping Award would support his immersion in leading international healthcare environments.
Unlike a simple sabbatical, the EPSRC Discipline Hopping scheme permits a level of resourcing to leverage significant activities, including leading national and international collaborations, as well as running proactive workshops to enhance impact - hence drawing others into the benefits of the planned programme of activities.
The main host institutions are: John Hopkins University Hospital (USA), the Royal College of Physicians (London) - in particular the Future Hospital Commission and Health Information Unit - and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, a large UK NHS organisation with 0.5M patients.*
Additionally, visits to leading international experts at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Kentucky are planned (they are conveniently close to John Hopkins University Hospital). Since healthcare is notoriously complex, care has been taken not to embed into just one example, but to learn across a variety of contexts.
Thimbleby's work has already been recognised by the award of honorary fellowships at the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, but he lacks depth in clinical experience and understanding. The aim, then, of this Discipline Hopping Award is to embed into leading healthcare environments, and to build lasting working relationships with clinicians both worldwide and in the local NHS Health Board.
* Note: The ABMU Health Board is responsible for delivering all healthcare services within the large geographical area around Swansea, with broader responsibilities than in the system familiar in England. It has 4 acute hospitals; community hospitals, health centres, clinics, primary care resource centres, forensic mental health services, learning disability services, and services delivered to patients' homes. It has over 300 GP, 275 dentist, 125 community pharmacy and 60 optometry premises. See http://www.wales.nhs.uk/nhswalesaboutus/structure