On 10th October 2018, I took part in a Twitter chat hosted by We HC Scientists about the future of our healthcare science workforce. They posed a series of questions – this is a summary of my responses and the conversation that took place.

How will technology affect the way that scientific and diagnostic services will need to be delivered in the future?

My thoughts: I think that everyone will need to be more familiar with the groundwork of technology. Some services we perform will be carried out by AI and we need to reshape our roles, increasing the level of optimisation and service improvement as our routine work lowers. 

To do this well, I feel that as a medical physicist I will increasingly require/benefit from being able to write code for these purposes. I want to be a driving force behind new technologies, embracing and writing computer programs which help make healthcare scientists’ work, and patients’ experiences, more efficient. It’s important to me that I equip myself to harness the powers of a more technology-based service, rather than just using existing things and risking getting left behind in the future.

Other points raised: Technology will improve the speed and efficiency of diagnostic decisions. Clinical science roles will need to converge with IT roles, and different specialists will increasingly have to work together as a network.

What are the different ways that we can help health and care services to recognise and adopt cutting edge technologies as fast as possible?

My thoughts: Discussion and working relationships are key. We need to work with front-line staff to establish their true needs, so that they can be met through the development of technology products at a feasible cost. Involving everyone may also reduce resistance to change and encourage early adoption of new technologies. 

From a management perspective, quick adoption is going to rely on demonstrable cost savings and patient benefits. We need well-evidenced technologies with ample data to show that a) they help patients significantly and b) they save trusts money.

It’s also important to work together with people across the country,  publishing any work undertaken, to help minimise people repeating the same efforts. If everyone who’s thinking about a new technology collaborates, there will be more discussion, more ideas and larger datasets to more quickly prove the merits (or lack thereof) of new technology. Publishing work will allow people who aren’t involved to see what was found, too, and prevent repeat work, enabling quicker development as people advance further instead of starting from square one again.

Other points raised: Worldwide collaboration, communication via social media, having a voice to NHS Trust boards. Nexus Leeds was highlighted as an example of collaboration between healthcare and other industries.

As a profession, how should we keep abreast of new technologies and use this information to inform developments in workforce planning and service redesign?

My thoughts: Again, collaboration is key. Healthcare scientists are especially well-placed to drive this forward, as we have such diverse careers and roles yet we all share the common title of HCS. We are scientists, so by nature inquisitive and keen to learn and understand new things. Cooperation with others is the best way to hear about small advances in other areas, and discuss ways in which it might translate into our own areas.

Other points raised: More organised horizon scanning with a network of dissemination. The role of professional bodies in doing this.

Overall, this was a good discussion and there appeared to be lots of agreement about crucial elements of a future HCS workforce. What really stood out to me was how we will need to interact, communicate and collaborate more than ever before if we want to get the most out of technological innovations. Technology facilitates communication in many new ways; however, it also depends on human connection if it is to really flourish in a healthcare setting.

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