This month we talk to DHIN member and Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Monique Hines.
Can you please tell us about a day in your life?
A typical day starts for me with a coffee in hand as I catch up on my emails and make a plan for what I need to accomplish that day. My role as Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Faculty of Health Sciences is really diverse, so every day is different. I aim to build eHealth research capacity across the university, especially focusing on new models of technology-enabled care. This means I get to work with various health organisations, policy makers, researchers, and students to explore how digital health can be applied to improve care across a range of settings and health conditions.
My main passion is for the potential of digital health to revolutionise allied health services, such as speech pathology, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy, for people with disabilities living in rural and remote Australia. Some days, this means I am chatting with allied health professionals, talking with them about the challenges they face in delivering quality services, and exploring with them how digital health could help to bridge that gap. Later in the morning, I might meet with a technology platform developer to brainstorm ways in which a rehabilitation program typically delivered in-person could be transformed to an online platform, ensuring that people who need support are able to access best-practice care, no matter where they live. I also conduct mixed methods research to study the implementation of telehealth programs, so the afternoon might see me conducting research interviews with patients to understand their experiences of digital health. I love hearing directly from the people who receive services enabled by technology—this way, I get to find out whether what we set out to do is actually making a real difference in people’s lives. The exciting thing that I have learned is that for the most part, people are enthusiastic about the potential of digital health, and this keeps me motivated to keep learning how we can improve health services through digital health.
Monique recently produced this video on telepractice: https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/18362
How do you define digital health?
Googling “what is digital health” indicates that digital health refers the application of technologies to improve the access to, and quality, safety, and efficiency of health care. Rather than seeing digital health as its own discrete, defined field within health, I see digital health simply as a vehicle used to deliver health care, just one aspect of a health professional’s clinical toolkit that they can draw on to meet the needs of patients and clients. I am convinced that at the heart of every successful digital health intervention, whether telehealth, clinical analytics, wearable devices, or mobiles applications, are skilled health professionals with strong professional skills who know how to successful utilise technology for specific clinical purposes.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed?
As an allied health professional, I believe that digital health innovations succeed when we flexibility design and deliver tailored interventions so that they best fit the people we work with. Health care, whether digitally-enabled or not, should never be one-size-fits-all. Instead, by listening to health consumers and keeping them at the centre of decision-making about the digital health services they receive, we can be in the best position to understand their needs, preferences, and goals, and ensure that digital health projects actually achieve their aims.
Have you come across any surprises or challenges along the way?
I have been pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastic health consumers are about the potential for digital health. Much of my research has focused on the application of telehealth in rural and remote Australia, where in many places internet connectivity is less than ideal. Yet, over and over again, we have heard how much people value the access to services enabled by digital health, even when technology is not perfect. Occasional glitches with technology are not dealbreakers to most people, in fact they expect to work with health professionals to troubleshoot solutions.
What advice would you have for someone with an interest in digital health? Any useful resources or networks they should know about?
My advice is to dip your toe in the water give it a go! Rather than trying to completely overhaul your clinical practice, set yourself up for success by starting slowly and identifying just one aspect of your work that could be done more efficiently or more effectively using technology. Talk with your clients and patients about their needs and preferences when it comes to their health services. This way, you will identify where the gaps are and will find more opportunities for digital health. Your most valuable resources will come from talking with other health professionals who use digital health. They won’t necessarily have all the answers, but will help you to think through how to do what you would normally do in-person via digital health. Once you get started and you get some experience with digital health, you will begin to see its potential and how it can be used flexibility to make a real difference to our patients and clients.
Connect with Monqiue:
Thank you to Monique for her time.