On Wednesday, 30 March 2022, DISH – Digital & Innovation Skills Helix in Health project held its Final Conference under the theme ‘Bridging the digital gap: how the healthcare workforce can obtain innovative and digital skills’.
The conference was hosted by the European Health Management Association (EHMA), a member of the DISH consortium, and moderated by its Executive Director, Mr George Valiotis. The Final Conference brought together project partners, academia, NGOs, policymakers and the public at large to discuss the work carried out by the project over the past three years.
With over 120 attendees, the Final Conference was the perfect chance to reflect on the achievements of the project, lessons learnt, share case studies and policy recommendations to facilitate the uptake of the DISH methodology for the upskilling of the health workforce.
Session 1 – Digital skills for the health workforce of the future
The conference opened with a keynote address by Ms Maya Matthews, Head of Unit ‘Performance of Health Systems’, DG SANTE, European Commission, Belgium, who presented the following key takeaways from the EU report on the State of Health in the EU.
- The key effects of COVID-19 on health systems are yet to be understood.
- A huge acceleration in digitalisation and telemedicine may lead to new ways of operating.
- The health workforce needs to be boosted to cater to the needs of an ageing population and ageing workforce.
Ms Matthews underlined that digital skills should facilitate the work of the healthcare workforce, emphasising the need for a proper digital skills assessment.
Session 2 – The DISH approach to digital innovation implementation processes
Ms Henriette Hansen, European Project Manager at the South Denmark European Office, opened the second session by providing an overview of the DISH tools: a preparation tool, an on-the-job training and an assessment tool.
This session featured a presentation by Mr Thomas Karopka, Senior Project Manager at BioCon Valley GmbH, who elaborated in particular on the preparation tool and provided an overview of practical preparation tools, such as the checklists, templates and a free open-source project management system, ‘Taiga’. Ms Lone Boysen Lauritzen, Head of the Department of Heart Medicine at Hospital Sønderjylland, University Hospital of Southern Denmark, presented the on-the-job training tool underlying the importance of training skills in a cross-sectoral way. Lastly, Ms Gertrudis Fornés Romero, Senior Research Technician at Polybienestar Research Institute of the University of Valencia, presented a process tool for assessment and recognition, reflecting in particular on how the Spanish Triple Helix used the assessment tool for online training on Diabetes Mellitus Type 2.
Session 3 – The DISH tools in action: case studies from partner countries
The third session featured case studies from partner countries showcasing the practical implementation of the DISH methodology.
The session opened with a presentation by Ms Sabine Paasch Olsen, Learning and Research Center, Sygehus Sønderjylland, Denmark, who presented a case study on implementing a video solution for families in ‘early home-stay’ with premature babies. Ms Susanne Krotsetis, RN (Registered Nurse), CCRN, MSc. from the Nursing Development University Medical Centre Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, presented the case study on a quality improvement project to implement a digitally supported sepsis screening tool. Ms Susanne Eriksen, a PhD student at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, presented a case study on implementing electronic door locks through co-creative planning in municipal home-based care in the Vaksdal Municipality in Norway.
Ms Sara Fasoli, Project and Membership Officer at HOSPEEM and advisor to the DISH project, discussed the healthcare employers’ perspectives on adopting the DISH approach. In her speech, Ms Fasoli spoke about the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact these changes have had on the use of digital technology in the hospital setting, emphasising that investing in new technologies and digital tools is a major challenge. She suggested that the DISH project shows the great potential of what happens when all key health stakeholders are included in the digitalisation of the healthcare system.
Session 4 – Recommendations to enhance the digital skills of the health workforce
The fourth session opened with a speech by Prof Christine Øye, Professor at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway, who presented an overview of the policy recommendations identified by the DISH project.
For the preparation tool, she recommended context-specific preparation of training and early identification of relevant stakeholders and their learning needs. Learnings from past experiences have shown that it is important to and identify methods to maintain sustainable development while using the on-the-job training tool. For the process tool for assessment and recognition, she emphasised the importance of follow-ups, adjusting assessment, and providing feedback and certification to the target group.
Ms Øye underlined that for technological advancement, more than the development of hardware, important dimensions that need to be considered are organisational readiness and that the relevant stakeholders have the skills to use the new technologies daily.
Next, Mr George Valiotis moderated an esteemed panel discussion with Prof Christine Øye, Mr Ber Oomen, Interim Executive Director at European Specialist Nurses Organisation (ESNO) and Member of the DISH European Reference Group, Netherlands, Dr Eszter Kovacs, Assistant Professor at Health Workforce Planning Knowledge Centre, Semmelweis University Health Services Management Training Centre, Hungary and Mr Kazimierz Murzyn, Managing Director at Klaster LifeScience in Poland.
Mr Ber Oomen discussed the importance of the helix format for future identification and development of the digital skill needs of healthcare professionals. He emphasised that the DISH project has provided a wonderful start but that there are still many steps to attain equivalent growth with national and EU-wide policy. Dr Eszter Kovacs offered reflections on the DISH project from a health management perspective. She highlighted the need for readiness towards change and willingness to take on new skill sets and care models, suggesting that teamwork and interprofessionalism are essential for the digital transformation of healthcare. Mr Kazimierz Murzyn, who coordinated three clusters across Krakow, shared some of the lessons learnt from six groups of interest, including hospitals and business support organisations. He underlined the key role that dialogue plays in identifying needs,challenges and providing a holistic approach to development.
Ms Henriette Hansen delivered the concluding statements on behalf of the project management team. She noted that, despite the challenges, crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can be turned into opportunities, putting the DISH project even more in focus because it became so important to implement digital solutions and the training to use them. Ms Hansen underlined that the DISH tools should be used together to implement real changes because they include many factors. She concluded by sharing a final recommendation from the DISH project, which is instead of reinventing the wheel each time, find ways to better coordinate activities by building on existing needs analyses and tools.