|27 Aug 2021|
The other day a girlfriend sent me a link to Dr Kerry Chant merchandise, specifically, a t-shirt with a bold graphic of Dr Chant’s face set against a lightning bolt. The t-shirts made me chuckle in that ‘What will they think of next?’ way but they also gave me pause. My friend and I are both mothers of daughters. I’m sure that when Dr Chant assumed the role of Chief Health Officer at NSW Health in 2008 she never imagined she’d be making daily broadcasts or that her likeness would wind up on a stylish tote bag. So while my heart tightens a little every time I hear my daughter sigh, “yes, Mum, because of COVID...” I’m also glad that the excellent leadership of Dr Chant fills our living room at 11:00am everyday.
For older generations, what we are living through now is an experience; our children on the other hand are being shaped by it. I certainly hope that as our children grow, female leadership becomes such a norm it no longer needs its own tote bag. Another area of interest to me as a parent and an educator is the agility with which people and organisations have pivoted in order to respond to the pandemic. There is a huge amount of organisational complexity and impressive logistics in quickly establishing testing centres and mass vaccination hubs. Telehealth has been around for a long time but the pandemic has had a significant impact on it’s uptake. Technology, of course, is not a perfect solution on it’s own. What we need is people plus technology. It’s about harnessing the power of technology to free up people to focus on what they do best - solve complex problems with empathy and compassion.
Year 9 Integrated Learning at Loreto Normanhurst is delighted to be able to offer your daughters the opportunity to commence work on exactly that: solving complex problems by harnessing what’s possible in the digital space but also by putting humans at the centre. Next week will see the kick off of an exciting new pilot programme between eHealth NSW and Loreto. The Year 9 Integrated Learning team will guide the cohort through the Human Centred Design process in order to respond to a series of challenges the school has devised in partnership with eHealth.
The Association of Independent Schools NSW has brokered a two year partnership between Loreto Normanhurst and eHealth NSW. eHealth NSW aims to work in partnership to build a digitally enabled and integrated health system delivering patient-centred health experiences and quality health outcomes. The Year 9 Integrated Learning programme is the first iteration of what a partnership between eHealth and schools more broadly might look like. We will seek feedback from staff, students and parents along the way in order to continually improve the programme and consider other possibilities. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of change in the education sector.
We have chosen Integrated Learning as a pilot space as it has a focus on cross-disciplinary learning and project based skill development. The cohort will be split into teams and given a ‘challenge’ to work on. They will utilise Human Centred Design methodology (HCD), which is a creative approach to problem solving. eHealth NSW has a HCD team who make use of the methodology when redesigning digital systems. Google, Microsoft, Atlassian, Facebook, IKEA, Spotify and Netflix are just a handful of other organisations that use HCD as part of their daily operations. Importantly, HCD puts people at the forefront of problem solving by including them in the solution process. If we look at the telehealth example, the ‘solution’ of utilising the telephone as a means of connecting health care professionals and patients only works if people have access to a phone. In it’s more recent iteration telehealth is relying on people now being set up with cameras and high speed internet though this remains a choice, not a reliance. Applications that allow you to book appointments online such as HotDoc have now included the option to book video consults, in the current climate where doctors are often working from home, utilising video helps bring some empathy back into the space. Being able to physically see the patient, read their facial expressions, experience higher quality audio and have the patient point to examples or show ailments is helping replicate the typical doctor/ patient experience amidst the pandemic.
The challenges are diverse and allow for a multitude of possible solutions. They range from questions around how to best engage communities with diverse linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds to attracting and retaining women in the digital health space. Students will be helped along the way with some research and they will have the opportunity to present their ideas to eHealth NSW in Term 4 when the programme concludes.
As part of the process students will engage in ‘user interviews’ where they have the opportunity to hear from subject matter experts within eHealth NSW or speak with people who are representative of one of the groups they have been tasked with solving the problem for. COVID-19 has stretched the health system, so we are extremely mindful not to pull health professionals away from their critical roles. Students will not be interviewing anyone whose focus is the pandemic. We will not be asking health care professionals broadly to participate in interviews at this time either. Given the pressure the health system is under it is important that their time away from work is devoted to rest. In addition to eHealth NSW digital subject matter experts, teams will have an opportunity to consider who they might interview as research. We are anticipating that for some of the problems, around digital disconnectedness for instance, grandparents could be a good port of call. Ironically, they will be connecting over Zoom of course! Teachers will share details of the interview arrangements in due course.
We can all point to significant changes in the way we live and work over the last 18 months. Some of the changes should and will be rectified. For instance, we know we need to get our students back into schools when it is safe to do so. On the other hand, there are changes that are worth holding on to. Interestingly, a report put out by McCrindle points to the fact that seven in 10 students describe their ideal learning environment as a hybrid one, where there is a combination of time spent learning from home and in the classroom. My own family welcomed a child last year and we benefited enormously from the fact that my partner was able to work from home.
Organisations are also figuring out how to work in such a changed landscape. Some have legacy systems straining under the weight of the pandemic and some needed to quickly figure out how to digitise physical processes that ground to a halt when the pandemic hit. Neighbourhood restaurants have been particularly impressive in rapidly creating websites or utilising Facebook and Instagram to post their menus and create channels for ordering online. The solutions might be low-fi but they work. Many have also optimised their processes since 2020 with much more streamline digital offerings. eHealth NSW has been collaborating with the wider NSW Health system and industry partners to deliver vaccination management systems that manage the entire vaccination process from booking appointments, to tracking vaccination doses, recording clinical information and interfacing with the Australian Immunisation Register.
Even before late 2019, the path to digital transformation was already paved. The pandemic exposed the fact that organisations need to be ready to pivot when society or technology changes. In order to be ‘future-ready’ there’s a need to double down on digital processes and operations. Our students will enter a much more digitally mature workforce. We’re already beyond thinking of digital as a subset of the organisation, it’s part of the infrastructure and crucially that infrastructure is being improved at a rapid pace.
One of the activities in the Year 9 programme asks students to ‘map’ a health incident they or someone they know has experienced. It might be the time they broke their arm falling off a trampoline and ended up in the ER. They will then go back over the diagram and consider all the places where digital technology is underpinning the care they received. How does the x-ray machine ‘talk’ to the files on their doctor's computer? What might happen if the software got updated on one system but failed to integrate with the other? Having a systems approach to problem solving helps students see the interconnectedness of what they are doing in one space and its potential to have flow on effects elsewhere.
The next generation of workers will certainly need to be skilled across various digital tools but more importantly, they’ll need the ability to see the larger patterns at play from the highly context specific scenario of the end user to the insights garnered from big data. They’ll need to be lifelong learners who are not afraid to adapt to the landscape by exploring a multitude of different possibilities so that the best answer can reveal itself.
It’s likely that education will see more of these types of partnerships in creating authentic learning experiences where students can work on real world problems, build transferable skills and begin to get a taste of the myriad of career opportunities out there. Loreto Normanhurst is excited to be at the forefront of what these partnerships could look like and to be able to offer a diverse range of opportunities to our students. For our ‘values driven’ students, the importance of the health system has never been more acutely on display. Let’s hope the inspirational leadership of Dr Kerry Chant paves a way forward for the next generation of women to optimistically embrace the challenges of our time.
Ms Elizabeth Green
Knowledge and Learning Strategist