My Blog in Review: Hello 2013

Happy New Year!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog:

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report & don’t forget to leave suggestions for future posts in the comments!

Happy New Year!


The Digital Revolution & Healthcare

My Journey Youth Mental Health App

Technology can be a beautiful thing. A few technologies are so embedded in our everyday lives that we can’t imagine ever living without them. I look at mobile phones and the internet to be prime examples of such innovations. They have become ubiquitous to most people with 79% of people connected to the internet in the UK. But there is something else about them that makes them even more fascinating: they offer a gateway to more innovations, a platform for a variety of industries to disrupt and improve how we work and the services/products we deliver.

Take for instance your Sky+ box: a great way to watch your favourite shows without becoming a hermit. Add mobile and internet technology to this great service and its even better because now you can be out and about, click a button on your mobile phone and your Sky+ box will record your show. So what can developments in mobile and internet technology offer the healthcare sector? According to the PWC video below, a lot:

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a mobile application that I had been developing with a group of really innovative people. At that point, we had just started testing the app with a sample of people who represent the intended user group i.e. young people aged 14-35.  The app hopes to help people navigate the health system and improve collaboration between a person and their health workers as the below video shows:

To see the app in people’s hands and hear their thoughts on the numerous possibilities that this app can offer is a truly humbling experience.  It is also somewhat scary, because we are nearing the precipice of any such project. The official launch. This signals the hardest element of any innovation project: encouraging adoption.  I believe the development of the app has been the easy part. Getting wider adoption is the hardest bit. Whilst people who use services have generally embraced the app with enthusiasm and ideas on how to make it even better, the project group anticipates that clinicians and managers will prove harder to convince.

As stated above, numerous industries have managed to improve how they deliver their services and products by embracing the power of digital. Healthcare seems to be the last frontier in the digital revolution. Typically, we in healthcare are slower to adopt technologies – in the innovation terminology, healthcare as an ‘industry’ would be described as a ‘laggard’ or late adopter. Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, released a commentary on this yesterday and called for healthcare to embrace the digital revolution. In her video below, she argues that adoption of digital in health care is a win-win for patients, economists, clinicians and management alike:

How we convince our colleagues to take this message home and act accordingly is the real challenge. Luckily, other people have faced this very challenge when they have developed new ideas and processes for better health outcomes.  So how do we help our colleagues to join and benefit from the digital revolution? Well, I think Helen says it best in her tweet below:


In other words, win their hearts and the rest will follow.

Seeking Simplicity

In a recent article by TechCrunch, it was revealed that we currently generate centuries worth of data in just 2 days. That is a hell of a lot of data.  I am adding to this mass by writing this very blog.

We are living in a world where we generate and receive more information than at any other period in history. Our daily lives revolve around data, whether it be inputting a pin into a banking system or a password for an operating system or recording an account of an interaction with a patient to form part of an Electronic Health Record. You only have to look at what happened in New York during and post hurricane Sandy  to see how reliant we have become on information and technology. This reliance and increase in need of information technology is not going to go away, if anything it is likely to increase with more initiatives such as Telehealth. Over the past year, I have become increasingly convinced that simplifying the information output from this big data is not only desirable, but is also a future necessity for health care, business and generally – life.

Courtesy of Scott Carpenter

So with so much data being created and consumed, how can health and social care make sense of it and use it for best effect? I think the trick is to make it simple. I particularly would like to see more intuitive smart algorithms and dashboards replacing the heap of disconnected pieces of information we currently laboriously have to rely on when making decisions. I would also like to be able to see health and social care data integrated for geographic areas, populations and client groups. I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and muttering ‘impossible!’ at this audacious request. But I do believe that people who use services, clinicians and non-clinicians alike demand no less and should therefore strive to influence this direction of travel.  Our data will be more useful and meaningful by connecting and simplifying its output. We are already seeing this in areas like Derbyshire where health, social services, education and police are joining up their data for better knowledge with products such as ChildView.

Other industries like banking have long known this obvious fact. You only have to look at how Google is able to troll through masses of information to find a piece of information that you ask for at a click of a button to see that it is possible. Similarly small screens and the age of apps is forcing developers to create simple interfaces with stunning displays of interactive data.  These are examples outside of the health and social realm. In healthcare, we have trail blazers like PatientsLikeMe who have not only aggregated disparate  individual masses of clinical data for easier access and understanding of a range of illnesses and treatments, but involved the end user (patients) in their venture.

At the heart of every single technology and information development  are the people who deliver frontline services. The information and technology agenda like everything else, needs great leadership to connect to these hard working people to motivate, inspire and move them towards better use of technology and data. There is an emerging acknowledgement of a need to develop clinicians who can act as conduits between IT, management and the clinical workforce in order to develop and implement effective strategies for excellent quality care. A report released by the PWC in March this year  illustrates this growing area of  need. The CCIO role is well researched in their comprehensive ‘Needles in a Haystack‘ report. The Department of Health has also recently announced £140 million to develop the nursing workforce to meet this growing need.

Big data is like oil – a fuel to drive safety, efficiency, service improvement and innovation; but it needs mining, refining and channeling with due regard to confidentiality and safety issues. The human factor can not be understated.  Any organisation that is serious about harnessing the power of technology and data will have to invest in the right talent and skills for it’s workforce to deliver the vision of better healthcare through technology. I am hopeful that the growing need to improve and simplify health and social care data will lead to more intuitive, innovative and successful joined up solutions with CCIOs at the helm.

Mary Seacole Award 2012



On 16th October, 6 dedicated nurses, midwives & health visitors were awarded the Mary Seacole Award.

After getting over my nerves of presenting the learning and results from my Mary Seacole Award project from 2011, I joined in with fellow Tweeps who made sure Twitter joined the celebration in Mary Seacole’s honour. You can see the summary and stats from the #seacole Twitter activity below:


Involved …

@S_Amani @VivJBennett @serrantgreen @unisonnurses @NHSE_Dean @carol_baxter @JonesAko @unisontweets @seacolestatue @mojo11273 @NHSE_Andrew @goodtochat @maxinejames @UNISONOurNHS @nhsemployers @DrHNaqvi @SDHCCEO @yvonnecoghill1 @nhsconfed @ManuelaRCM @StuartBerry1 @DavidFosterDH @e1ucidate @LeggeAngie @BongweSays @NHS_EDC @sutcliffe74 @NHSE_Paul @MandyHollis3 @nhse_Liz @jagtarbasi @SianRabi @JaneMCummings @RudiLickwood @NHSE_Bill @ProfSteveField @KateAlvanley @laings28 @Amartasan @MarieCuriePA @DrNaeemAhmed

Related tags …
#speakingupcharter #nhscb #flufighter #revalidation #bmeleadershipforum

See Twitter for more tweets, people, videos and photos for #seacole

@goodtochat Community Health Workers: A New Healthcare Workforce for the Era of Health Reform <seacole


The Trials, Tribulations & Joys of Developing A Mobile Health App

Most of you would have heard the buzz about health apps. Its become so mainstream that it was featured on the Corbett Report‘ last week.

Mobile health goes by several names. Some call it the ‘Quantified Self Movement’, others have shortened it to simply ‘mhealth’ whilst others refer some of its elements as ‘Telehealth’. Whatever you are calling it or used to it being called, mobile health and health social media is growing at an exponential speed that even regulators are struggling to keep up with.

Why is it growing so quick? Well, there are several reasons:

  1. Because people who use services are increasingly telling us they want to be partners in their care and not just recipients;
  2. A realization that the vast ownership and continued increase of adoption of mobile phones opens up doors to use these devices to help populations keep healthy;
  3. Because the health sector has a vast number of ingenius Information Technology experts who have so far been in the background of health service delivery and are very ready to show off their key skills in improving health
  4. Because – as smartphones become more available and saturate the population, they become cheaper and force us to consider their potential in reducing the burden of ill health

I am sure there are many other different reasons why others are dipping their toes into the mobile health sector, but the above covers the main reasons why I and 8 others embarked on this journey almost a year ago:


Lets go back to the beginning of this particular journey.  I am a mental health nurse who manages an Early Intervention Team focused on intervening early for a better chance of recovery and improved long term prognosis i.e. prevent long term mental illness if possible. A year ago, I worked with a group that included young people experiencing mental health issues and we came up with an idea for a youth mental health mobile app. We, as a group, were very humbled to be voted 7th out of 500 ideas submitted to the ‘Maps and Apps’ competition. We really can’t thank everyone who voted enough (thank you!).

Today, following many grapples with research policy, guidance and submitting several applications for funding; I am happy to announce that we have started to test the prototype of the youth mental health mobile app. Its been an interesting and sometimes frustrating journey. Thankfully, I have been very lucky to go through it with a group of very able and wonderful people who are equally (if not more so) passionate about the ultimate aim of improving the mental health of young people and therefore, we have not let any set backs knock us down for too long.

Over the coming two months, the youth mental health mobile app will be going through rigorous tests and vetting by mutliple stakeholders to ensure it is fit for purpose.  Thank you to everyone who has got us this far. Stay tuned!

Towards Equality: Mary Seacole Award ‘Reach Out’ Project

It seems like yesterday when I and 5 other nurses were awarded the Mary Seacole Award. I can’t believe that its actually been a year. I started off this journey with a mixture of excitement and trepidation and found that everyone else who has embarked on this journey has felt the same.

The ‘Reach Out’ project used co-production to mobilise and arm a ‘hard to reach’ community with resources to promote health and wellbeing. This community is now sharing its learning via or @goodtochat on Twitter.

I have just completed the report on the ‘Reach Out’ project highlighting key findings and the benefits of engaging communities in health promotion:

I hope the report provides you with some food for thought and possible solutions should you wish to engage groups that don’t typically engage with you, in promoting health.

Be Awesome. Become a Mental Health Nurse.

So here is the thing that never ceases to amaze me: the people who ask me what I do always have a different reaction when I tell them I am a mental health nurse. After 8 years of being a mental health nurse, I thought I had seen all the reactions – but a couple of weeks ago whilst shopping in a local supermarket, small talk with a fellow shopper turned to the question about professions. I was surprised when the fellow shopper insisted on shaking my hand and proceeded to thank me. He explained that his daughter had been very ill for a period (now better) and praised the mental health nurses who helped her overcome the difficult period. I encouraged him to write to the service to tell them about what he valued of the nurses’ input as I couldn’t very well take the praise of these clearly hard working mental health nurses. I do remember walking out of that store with an extra spring in my step and thinking about the low profile of mental health nursing in comparison to other professions.

Incidentally, when I was asked to give a talk about mental health nursing at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) jobs fair a week later, I immediately said ‘Yes!’. But ofcourse I then realised I had to think and plan what it is I am going to say about mental health nursing. I decided on a theme of why and what makes mental health nursing awesome. I took my own experiences of being a mental health nursing manager and put it down in a visual presentation below:

So, there you have it: my 2 pence on why I think its awesome to be a mental health nurse.

These are Interesting Times: My Reflections On Visiting Downing Street

These are indeed interesting times. Not least of all because we are all expected to achieve more with less. I am one of many thousands of people who signed up to work for the health of this nation. It is a rewarding job. Often it is also a very challenging job. This evening some of us were invited to Downing Street where our efforts were honoured by the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Today was about acknowledging these challenges but also celebrating the shared ambition to focus on 3 things:

  1. Quality
  2. Diversity & Equality
  3. Leadership

I am by no means an expert on any of the above. But I feel I am in the thick of it when it comes to being part of the drive to promote each and every one of the above points. I am passionate and committed enough to know that to achieve more from less, we need to:

  1. Capitalize on difference (Diversity)
  2. Ensure fairness in all our endeavours (Equality)
  3. Strive for excellence (Quality).

The essential vehicle needed to achieve the above is leadership. The speakers at this evening’s event made a good point when they said that disciplines such as the Military and indeed the Police are very comfortable with the notion of a leader: someone at the helm of the group’s efforts and inspiring through vision and example. In nursing, this is still somewhat a new and novel idea that needs nurturing through developing new nursing leaders who will not shy away from taking their rightful place alongside others striving to improve this nation.

Are you ready to take on this challenge and take up your rightful place?

How I Use Social Media To Compliment My Work

One of the biggest criticisms of social media is its potential to diminish performance by wasting time & encouraging procrastination. Whilst this is a potential risk, I am going to talk about my personal experience of using social media to compliment my work. I believe that smart use of social media can promote learning, collaboration and improve performance. This recent BBC article on the pitfalls of ignoring social media in any business strategy further affirms my beliefs. I am going to predominantly look at Twitter which I use more so than any other social network.

I signed up for  a personal account on Twitter (see @S_Amani) in 2009 but didn’t actually start to use it until November 2010. The reason being, I just didn’t get what it was about – why were people posting these short sentences – and links? And I couldn’t like their posts like on Facebook. And the whole followers thing. How can a person have 70, 000 followers – why were these people following this person? What are they gaining?? I was baffled.

That changed in 2010 after I signed up for a MSc in Health Care Management. I remember speaking to the professor who was leading the programme at the time and expressing my concern about the lack of time to read & analyse research papers due to my full time job. He had an amused look when I described my typical way of finding, reading & analysing papers. This used to typically involve a mix of library, google and Athens searches then printing papers out, highlighting sections with different colour highlighter markers…you get the gist.

He casually picked up his iPad and showed me his primary source of information: Twitter. This surprised me. At the time, I also remember thinking – this totally blows the whole argument of social media only being for certain generations. By following the right people and quickly scanning the timeline, I was soon able to find papers relevant to my studies. But that wasn’t what really sealed the deal for me – it was the ability to talk to the authors, the researchers and the very people affected by various policies, in real-time.

Another factor that drew me on to Twitter was a new part-time job as a Youth Mental Health Network Lead for the South East of England. I started this job in December 2011 and was tasked with mobilising people who are passionate about the mental health of adolescents and young adults across Surrey, Sussex & Kent. An exciting but challenging task. One of the more effective means of communicating across such a large geographical area has been via the Youth Mental Health Network Online Network (a social network for members) and via the Youth Mental Health Network Twitter account which has grown to 1100 followers in just 5 months (see @Time4Recovery).

My previous posts regards my Emerging Leader Award 2010, Mary Seacole Award 2011, TEDMED 2012 Scholarship etc are further testaments of the potential positive uses of social media – if used wisely & productively. I can honestly say that I would not have been fortunate enough to win these awards had it not been for me being able to access interactive information shared via Twitter.

Social media is not for everyone, but it is an option for those who enjoy working collaboratively and using less conventional means to communicate. For those still sitting on the fence, I say give it a try and lurk around a site or 2 – you might be pleasantly surprised.  Claire over at ClaireOT’s blog has a real handy quick start guide  for using Twitter.  Lastly, the most convincing element of social media for me have been the connections that I have made with a range of people from all sorts of backgrounds – some of whom I have been fortunate to meet in real life. This ability to network with thinkers and doers who pride themselves in making a difference by innovating has been the final selling point for me. I hope you find using social media as enlightening as I have.

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing For Improvement


I was at a Youth Mental Health Network Summit recently where we reviewed the quality and cost efficiency of services currently being provided for young people.

I soaked in a lot of the presentations delivered from the day, which ranged from practical tips on involving young people in service design and delivery, reviewing the mental health pathway for young people experiencing mental health problems, setting up an evidence base and pilot study and disseminating the findings.

Above all, what struck me most were 3 things:

  1. The bravery of a young person standing in front of ‘health professionals’ to tell their story of the journey through mental health services and beyond; freed the professionals to look at what they can do differently;
  2. The willingness for the system to look at it self and change as evidenced by the attendee list to this event.
  3. Change is difficult. The tale of the penguins on a melting island of ice best describes the current system with some acknowledging a need for change

People who attended the event hope that this is the beginning of a momentum towards a system that is proactively responsive to people’s mental health needs, ready to take on the challenges of reduced resources but capitalising on the clear human interest and community commitment to help those affected by mental health issues.