The CSP’s upcoming Physiotherapy Health Informatics Strategy (PHIS) aims to improve knowledge and skills
The strategy will offer resources that will enable members to improve services and patient care.
Our vision for the Physiotherapy Health Informatics Strategy (PHIS) is that through it, we will transform the health and well-being of individuals and communities by empowering our members to lead and drive improvement through the application of health informatics.
The PHIS will include an expanded vision of how informatics can be embedded into physiotherapy, education modules that will support learning, and guidance on how members can apply informatics in practice. The strategy’s vision will describe how an informatics empowered profession can be delivered at an individual, organisation and national level. In addition, the vision will cover core elements of leadership, education and inclusion. In this article we provide an initial overview of the PHIS and hear from CSP staff and members about the importance of informatics, and how the strategy will be able to be used to support learning, upskill the physiotherapy workforce and improve services. We also take a look at how the five-year strategy (2022-2027) could benefit members in different roles and stages of their careers, such as physiotherapy students, private practitioners and service managers.
Living the vision
Over the five years of the PHIS, technology will continue to develop and offer opportunities for practice that may not be immediately apparent. These personas show how successful implementation of the PHIS may enhance both physiotherapy skills and career development.
Taylor the student
Taylor in 2022: Taylor is in the third year of their BSc degree in physiotherapy. For their fourth placement they had a combined clinical/leadership setting involving a new simulation suite to support teaching respiratory techniques for staff on ITU and acute respiratory wards. Taylor worked three days a week clinically, and two days producing a report on simulated learning for physiotherapy students. Taylor is now writing their dissertation on the experiences of physiotherapy students of simulated learning.
Taylor in 2027: Taylor is now a band 6 physiotherapist in respiratory care. After graduating they worked through the PHIS education modules which developed their interest in informatics. Using skills and interests gained from their placement, and the education modules, they are working on a service improvement project to evaluate apps used within treatment programmes. They are using Quality Improvement methodology to establish the user satisfaction of the apps, using small focus groups, and feedback data from people who have used the app. Following their project completion, Taylor hopes to present their findings to the department manager. Current results suggest that patients and clinicians find the apps beneficial, and Taylor would like to bid for funding to buy tablets for patients to use the apps alongside in-person physiotherapy.
Mahsa the private physio
Mahsa in 2022: Mahsa runs a private physiotherapy clinic. She is keen to expand the services she offers to patients, to make her clinic more attractive to new clients, and provide best treatment and outcomes. She has trialled a new technological device, which offers real-time biomechanical assessment and video feedback, to support diagnosis and treatment. It has the capability to produce reports which can be emailed to patients to support them to track and monitor progress. She is exploring the potential of virtual reality interventions to optimise exercise compliance.
Mahsa in 2027: Mahsa invested in the new device and has seen her practice grow as people have specifically asked for assessment using real-time biomechanics. With developments in technology, Mahsa is now able to offer this assessment remotely or in person, depending on patient choice. Patients can download their reports onto an app, which has interoperability with a local gym, so they can log their progress with independent or supported exercises. Mahsa has expanded her service to include joint biomechanical assessments with a podiatrist to offer integrated advice and treatment. She has gathered treatment outcome data, and patient satisfaction feedback which has shown better rehabilitation outcomes and experiences for patients. Mahsa has presented her findings to a regional physiotherapy conference and is planning to write an article for her professional network journal.
David the service manager
David in 2022: David manages a large therapy team in a community trust. He has been in the role for seven years, and over this time workforce planning and recruitment have been a challenge. As part of wider service improvements, David has begun a workforce planning project, using data modelling from electronic staff records. He is looking at referral data for community services and reviewing the patient and staff data to look at expanding roles in community services to include assistant practitioners. To support with his own development, David signed up to the CSP’s mentor scheme and joined the Digital Informatics and Physiotherapy Group (DIPG).
David in 2027: Through the DIPG David met a physiotherapist working as a chief clinical information officer, who became David’s mentor and supported him to learn more about career options in informatics. David was supported by his manager to attend courses through the NHS Digital Academy. He also developed his learning by becoming a Caldicott Guardian within the trust and set up a local digital and informatics group to share ideas and information. Six months ago, David successfully applied for the newly created role of chief allied health information officer (CAHIO). He is enjoying the challenge of a new position, and an opportunity to use skills learned in physiotherapy and informatics to support clinicians and teams to deliver more efficient integrated services.
Sam the CAHIO
Sam in 2022: Sam is working as a CAHIO in a large NHS trust. They are leading AHPs in their organisation through the implementation of a new electronic health record, utilising new devices, and using informatics to support multiple quality improvement and research projects. They are building peer networks to support project delivery and to act as a conduit between the clinical workforce, technical workforce, and leadership team. They are also involved in networks with other similar posts across the UK to support their own CPD. They are in the NHS Digital Academy and enjoying exposure to multi-professional informatics-specific learning.
Sam in 2027: Sam is now the informatics lead within the national AHP team using their expert knowledge, skills, and experience to drive system-level change. They are working to deliver national policy and strategy in the use of informatics, embedding informatics in the curriculum for multiple professions, and mentoring others through their informatics career. They collaborate on and publish health informatics research and contribute to multiple conferences, events and government think tanks.
Equipping members with critical informatics skills
CSP fellow, Professor Lesley Holdsworth, is the Scottish Government’s clinical lead for digital health. She says: ‘As a longstanding agitator for the better use of data and digital solutions, I’m delighted to see the plans for development and delivery of this strategy and commend the CSP for its commitment to embedding clinical informatics as a core component of physiotherapy practice. Each one of us regardless of role and experience, has a professional responsibility to continually improve. These resources will equip us with the critical skills and knowledge needed to not only develop our own practice but enable us to be credible influencers, designers of the right services and part of a profession that continually evolves. This strategy is such important work. The vision sets out the way forward, emphasising the importance of informatics, because as it clearly states, if you don’t count, you don’t count.’
The importance of reflecting as we learn
CSP director of practice and development Ash James says: ‘Physiotherapy is a profession where our workforce strives to improve their learning. The PHIS will help members identify the topics and concepts they need to develop further understanding in, and the education modules will provide a launchpad for their learning journey in informatics. Everyone needs a base level of knowledge that will be delivered through the PHIS, plus there will be opportunity to take that learning further. I challenge the whole profession to expand your health informatics knowledge and skills, and use this expertise to drive improvement and care for all.’
The importance of inclusion
CSP England policy lead Natasha Owusu says: ‘Getting better at how we collect and use data is essential if we truly want to tackle health inequity and make physiotherapy services equally accessible and successful. This is because we need to know who is and – crucially – who isn’t accessing services, what their different needs are and what the end outcomes are for them. This relies on systematically collecting data about individuals, which can then be disaggregated to reveal inequalities experienced by different marginalised groups. Physiotherapy data can contribute to wider population health workstreams in reducing health inequities. The PHIS will provide an excellent resource that all CSP members can use to strengthen their confidence to collect and use data to make a difference.’ More information: Rehabilitation, recovery and reducing health inequity– easing the pain.
Using informatics in your studies and your working lives
Chloe Neate is a third-year physiotherapy student at the University of East Anglia. She says: ‘As a current student, technology has played an important part of my university education, made more prevalent by contending with the challenges of a learning environment during the height of Covid-19. Our cohorts had to learn fast and ‘on the job’; something like the PHIS could have given students more confidence in their digital competency. Going forward into the workforce, the PHIS will not only positively impact on individuals’ skills and confidence, but it will act as a stepping stone to help push the profession into the future and contribute to the creation of a more digitally competent workforce.’
John Townsend, who is in the third year of his physiotherapy studies at the University of Worcester, says: ‘As a student, informatics plays an important role in my learning allowing me to learn and develop in a way that suits me. It prevents barriers in my learning such as reduced face-to-face teaching due to restrictions like Covid and extreme weather by being able to work remotely but continue to be involved. In the future, informatics will play a huge role in my development as a clinician and delivery of care. By having better access to patient information and communication to the MDT this will help to give greater patient-centred care improving patient outcomes and efficiency of my time.’
Seti Mohmedi Kartalaee is in the final year of her physiotherapy studies at Northumbria University. She says: ‘Informatics has played a big role during my studies as it provides an effective way of interacting with technology for my learning and development. As a student, learning about health informatics offered me a great insight into how informatics could shape our relationships, my future profession and the healthcare system. Using informatics in the physiotherapy profession will be a necessity in the future as it elevates the efficacy in delivery of care leading to higher patient satisfaction and safety in my future practice.’
Meet the PHIS team
The PHIS team are Matt Liston, CSP head of research and development, CSP professional adviser Jackie Lidgard and Euan McComiskie, CSP health informatics lead. If you have any questions about the PHIS then please contact the team at PHIS@csp.org.uk;
How practising clinicians can use informatics in practice
Emma and Charlie Park are physiotherapists based in Northern Ireland.
Emma Park is a specialist orthopaedic physiotherapist at the Royal Victoria Hospital fracture clinic in Belfast and Charlie Park is a clinical lead physiotherapist at IPRS Health.
‘Digital is a crucial part of our offer for nationwide physiotherapy,’ says Charlie. ‘Where it meets the clinical need and the patient preferences it can prove a vital adjunct to IPRS services.’ Emma, speaking about the role informatics play at the Royal Victoria Hospital, says: ‘We’ve adapted our physio-led fracture clinics to allow the patient and therapist together to choose the most appropriate medium for each appointment whether that’s telephone, video, or in person.
‘This allows patients who are appropriate, to receive healthcare advice following a simple fracture in the comfort of their home without having to worry about the various logistics involved in attending an appointment in a busy acute setting.
‘Digital consultations can reduce stress for the patient, reduce time off work for patients and carers (most fracture patients cannot drive) and reduce pressure on fracture clinic waiting areas and hospital parking.
‘Equally patients who prefer face to face or who need further imaging can access it quickly as we have available capacity on a daily basis. We are always looking for ways to use technology to advance our practice. We are currently working on an interactive skeleton poster using QR codes to link patients to relevant information about their fracture.’
Together, Charlie and Emma also run a growing practice in Helen’s Bay. Commenting on this venture, Charlie explains that:
‘Technology is also a useful part of the services we offer. We use an app to support our patients remotely and have had excellent reviews from patients’.
Emma agrees, adding that they are using technology in different ways to improve the services they provide. ‘We’ve opted to use a booking app on our website to reduce admin time, which allows patients to book an appointment at a time that suits them. We’ve also found that using exercise prescription software via an app with instant messaging helps to engage patients with their recovery.
‘We are looking forward to using PHIS as a launchpad to even better use of informatics in our practice.’
A preview of the PHIS sections
This sets out the levels and domains where members of the profession can lead change, drive improvement and demonstrate impact (available now).
This will offer guidance for members of the profession on identifying opportunities, giving some simple guidance to getting started and showcasing some of those individuals/teams already experiencing success (due in 2023).
This will provide a suite of modules designed by subject matter experts to give members of the profession the knowledge and skills to succeed in informatics (due in 2023).
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