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Bridging the gap: Understanding healthcare professionals’ attitudes towards technology

By Dr Penny Trayner, Clinical Director, Academic Director, Clinical Neuropsychologist ; Charlotte Giblin, Assistant Psychologist and Sarah Lake, Research Assistant



The field of medical technology has been slowly progressing over many decades, addressing the development of technological solutions to present issues within the field of healthcare (Tulchinsky & Varavikova, 2014).

Technological innovations have not always best met public need with the National Health Service (NHS) facing challenges arising from non-communicating legacy systems since the 2000s, and clinicians experiencing digital fatigue and frustrations related to slow hardware, login issues, and outdated software (DHSC, 2020).

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for the digital transformation of clinical pathways, due to the increase in remote appointments and virtual clinical intervention (Hammers et al., 2020), particularly within the field of rehabilitation.

The nature of rehabilitation requires clinicians to evaluate individuals holistically and formulate a comprehensive, idiographic pattern of treatment (Cott, 2004).

Historically, rehabilitation has been built on qualitative principles to ensure that patient-centred care remained at the forefront of treatment (Öhman, 2005), there is also a growing demand for quantitative, data-driven analytics in rehabilitation (Boumrah et al., 2022), providing the opportunity for the acquisition of digital infrastructure to support these underlying processes. 

Rehabilitation healthcare is a data-intensive industry (Pike et al., 2009) with a large volume of patient data collected over the course of treatment (Peters et al., 2015).

Whilst other healthcare sectors have embraced software solutions and visual analytics, evidence demonstrates that the field of rehabilitation has fallen behind in adopting similar strategies (Zhuang et al., 2022).

The development of technological solutions aids improvement within the discipline of rehabilitation by allowing healthcare services to maintain the provision of high-quality care with ever increasing constraints on time and resources (Purbey et al., 2007).

Rehabilitation technology is also important in advising policy and targeting inequality in healthcare through increasing understanding of rehabilitation processes and patient journey (Chishtie, 2022; Few, 2006).

Previous evidence has demonstrated that even the seemingly small area of acquired brain injury rehabilitation results in an annual cost of £15 billion, equivalent to 10 per cent of the NHS budget (Menon, 2018), therefore, by effectively addressing the demand, rehabilitation initiatives prove to be a strategic investment.

The team behind the development of one such technological innovation; Goal Manager has conducted a series of studies to explore the disparity between the rise in technological acquisition within healthcare services, and the limited implementation in neurorehabilitation settings.

Goal Manager is a cloud-based application, developed within a paediatric neuropsychology service, to reduce the complexity and time-consuming nature of clinical goal setting.

Trayner and Wilson (2022) deployed the innovative system to professionals within neurorehabilitation to evaluate the effectiveness of the support and training offered to users.

The research concluded that bespoke introductory guidance, unlimited access to informative resources, and continuous email support, reflected an increase in confidence using the Goal Manager healthcare software.

Feedback indicated that healthcare technology training could be improved by offering interactive, workshop-style support sessions, allowing users to test the application with trainers present.

Researchers indicated that findings could be extrapolated to the implementation of various digital solutions to guide staff training and support considerations. 

Funding awarded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) supported the delivery of a trial to deploy Goal Manager within the National Health Service (NHS), to consider user experience and training needs as well as interoperability with NHS Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems (Trayner & Giblin, 2023).

A key takeaway was that preparedness for implementing technology solutions is not only dependent on professional readiness but also personal factors, such as confidence and experience, with many staff members fearing that technology would take away their clinical time with patients, rather than add to it by reducing administrative workload.

The team identified that training prior to implementation, employing motivational interviewing techniques, could be beneficial for staff demonstrating low confidence or competence towards technology, minimising wasted training time, and ensuring the seamless implementation of novel software solutions into clinical practice. 

Subsequent research, funded by Innovate UK, supported the development of a Data Dashboard within the Goal Manager platform, designed to allow institutions to access and analyse their data with ease (Trayner et al., 2023).

Focus group discussions with neurorehabilitation professionals demonstrated the potential use of the Goal Manager Data Dashboard in many clinical contexts.

End users recognised the Dashboard’s crucial role reducing administrative time, particularly in resource-constrained service environments. #

Future research applications were also positively regarded, as participants identified a substantial demand for literature addressing rehabilitation processes and treatments to create common understanding between services.

A key theme identified through thematic analysis of focus group discussions “Attitudes towards technology” presented the viewpoints of clinicians towards digital solutions, which appeared to vary based on their access and use of technology (Trayner et al., 2023).

A sub-theme titled “technology not fit for purpose” involved participants discussion of solutions utilised in their clinical practice that did not best serve their needs due to outdated systems, high costs, complicated or inaccessible features, and non-collaborative technology.

Findings demonstrated that participants, many of whom were employed by the NHS, shared concerns around legacy systems that were raised as far back as the 2000s (DHSC, 2020), therefore it does not appear that significant strides have been made in this area.

A further sub-theme emerged through discussion around the “positive want for technology” where subjects expressed a desire for future technological developments (Trayner et al., 2023).

Participants regarded that technology is most useful when utilised collaboratively within multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs), therefore the implementation of digital infrastructure needs to be adopted in a collaborative nature. 

The disparity between the general rise in technological acquisition within healthcare services, and the limited implementation within neurorehabilitation settings appears to be explained by a multitude of personal, professional, and systemic factors.

The support and training offered to users appears to be key, with participants reflecting that interactive workshop-style support sessions increased their confidence when adopting novel software solutions (Trayner & Wilson, 2022).

Preparedness for implementing digital infrastructure is dependent on the end user’s confidence, competence, and existing beliefs about technology, with a potential use case for prior training employing motivational interviewing techniques to overcome these barriers (Trayner & Giblin, 2023).

Clinician’s existing attitudes towards technology appear to vary based on access and use of software, as well as their experiences with technology deemed not fit for purpose due to outdated systems, high costs, complicated or inaccessible features, and non-collaborative technology (Trayner et al., 2023).

Despite these factors, there is still a positive want for technology within healthcare settings, with professionals demonstrating openness towards digital advancements, and providing clear, actionable suggestions for the implementation of novel software within clinical settings. 

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