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Changing role for allied health professionals in digital future

Wednesday, 20 November 2019  
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Picture: Rural hospitalist Ruth Large speaking at eAllied Health 2019.


Hayley McLarin


Why Ruth Large is future focused


Emergency department physician Ruth Large was driven to embrace every digital health development possible when a toddler the same age as her own child died in a remote Australian town where she was working.


She is now emergency physician and rural hospitalist working for Waikato, a district health board covering one of the largest areas of New Zealand.


She is an ardent supporter of allied health workers embracing technology for the betterment of their work and for the patient.


“The amount of information you can get now from a patient is incredible. But we have only pockets of early developers.”


She revealed that three quarters of DHBs have a regional telehealth strategy but can foresee in the new future that “the doctor will see you now” being better expressed as “the allied health worker will see you now”.


Breaking down the barriers to working together


Harkness Fellowship recipient and Ministry of Health chief allied health professions officer Martin Chadwick demonstrated how teleconferencing can aid remote communications, beaming in live from Toronto for his presentation on the challenges for allied health through the lens of transdisciplinary working.


Chadwick warned delegates not to be so territorial over their role when other providers were also working with a patient. Instead, he said, there was a need to communicate better and build trust to provide a multidisciplinary level of care.


“What is preventing you from working in a transdisciplinary way? Is there any ethical concern if we all abide by our ethics?” he asked.


“It is the transdisciplinary riddle: What is it that you do and you need to do and only you can do, as opposed to what is it that you do that needs to get done but you do not necessarily need to do?


“It is not taking away from another profession; it is doing the right thing for the patient.”


Leading from behind on clinical engagement


HiNZ board member and National Allied Health Informatics Group chair Rebecca George loves adventure racing – a sense of the unexpected and having to adapt. She acknowledges that is because she has an element of ownership and that it aligns with what she wants to do.


But her workplace at the Canterbury DHB is saturated with coping with the unexpected, having to adapt and embrace something new. And staff feel it is happening to them, rather than with them.


“We need to nurture this group and ensure we are meeting their needs. I tend to do this by leading from behind,” she says.


This sees her working with those more reluctant to engage, while the enthusiasts are creating momentum as early adopters.


“The power swell of the community will gain a voice. We need change to be subtle, diplomatic and creative for it to gather momentum and become collaborative.”


She says managers focus on tasks, minimise risks and expect control, whereas a leader focuses on goals, takes risks and fosters ideas.


“Old power was telling people what to do, new power is creating a swell of a community with a voice. We can get that momentum, with trust and understanding. Trust is very undervalued in the health system.”


Read more about Digital Health Week NZ 2019


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


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