Digital diabetes: remote consultations

At the beginning of my fellowship...

My fellowship began with the ambition to introduce virtual consultation models, using digital photography into the diabetic foot clinic. This ambition was to support a patient population at significant risk of deterioration and for whom regular hospital follow up was both arduous and could be a risk to them.

I wanted to expand my understanding of how to effectively implement and evaluate the use of digital technologies in the NHS context and to do this in a multi-disciplinary environment that enabled me to broaden my network.

During my fellowship...

The Topol Fellowship has exceeded my expectations in almost every way. Working with a fantastic, dynamic multi-disciplinary group through the programme has been inspiring, stimulating and supportive.

I was able to successfully implement the digital diabetes foot app I proposed as my Topol project. However, the breadth of opportunity regarding digital health interventions was readily apparent. I was also able to work collaboratively to implement a digital solution for gestational diabetes, alongside two unique and innovative digital technology implementations to support with the COVID-19 pandemic. These interventions involved working with a broad multi-disciplinary team and external industrial partners. I have also been involved in a further range of digital projects both at my Trust and in collaboration with the University of Warwick. I have a clear pipeline of future digital innovations already under development.

During the period I was a Topol Fellow, I was able to complete my PhD with the Institute of Digital Health at The University of Warwick. Following the Topol programme I will start as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer with Warwick Medical School in February 2021 with a clear digital ambition within my proposed research work. Having identified the importance of leadership and management in achieving effective digital change, I have been fortunate to start an MBA with Coventry University to further develop my skills in these areas. The Topol programme has certainly been a career-defining opportunity and I hope utilise the experience and skills learned to benefit patients and the wider NHS in the years to come. Thank you!

Lessons learned:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the digital healthcare landscape in a way that was utterly unpredictable at the start of this fellowship. Despite this, the key principles of effective implementation and evaluation remain as important as ever and will be essential if we are to sustainably integrate and capture the benefits of digital transformation beyond the pandemic period.
  2. The breadth of opportunity to implement digital change to support both patients and healthcare practitioners is enormous, but to achieve this we need clinicians passionate in digital health who are supported, as I have been honoured to be, by their healthcare employers, mentors and supervisors.
  3. The NHS lacks sufficient, integrated, training opportunities for digital health clinicians. Programmes such as the Topol Fellowship are vital in bringing together multidisciplinary teams to develop skills to benefit patients and their peers.