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The National Digital Systems Usability Survey: Make sure your voice is heard

For frontline clinicians, a new usability survey launching later this month will offer a chance to speak up about the design and usability of digital systems across Wales – and just eight minutes of your time could make a big difference, explains Christian Smith, Chief Nursing Information Officer, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.

Like most health professionals, I’ve spent countless hours wrestling with the various clinical IT systems I’ve used in my career. Some have served me well. Others rather less so. But whether for better or worse, these systems always had a significant effect on my working life and ability to do my job.

Now, in my current role, I’m working with colleagues across Wales to look at a more fundamental question: that is, how we make the long-term improvements and investment necessary so that the experience of using a digital system is consistently good wherever you work in Wales.

For me, three things are really important. First, we need good, reliable evidence showing where there are problems or weaknesses; second, we need a mindset shift so we’re constantly viewing the world through the eyes of the clinicians who actually use the technology in practice; and third, we need to continuously measure and benchmark the performance of our systems from a user perspective so we know what’s working and what isn’t.

For all of those reasons, I’m really excited that NHS Wales is about to launch its first ever national Digital Systems Usability Survey later this month. As a practising nurse, I particularly want to urge all my colleagues across Wales to get behind it – it is important we take this chance to have our say on how clinical IT is working, and to use our voice to shape its future.

Among other things, the survey seeks to understand questions such as:

  • Whether the digital system you use helps or hinders you in your day-to-day tasks?
  • Where are your particular pain points and frustrations?
  • Is the system configured to meet your individual needs?
  • Do you feel you’ve got the practical training and support to use it to the full?

Your answers will give individual organisations a rich source of feedback to help them improve systems locally and to benchmark their performance against their peers. At a national level, the results will help us to engage digital providers on wider issues where they might be able to improve.

In theory, everyone knows how important our digital systems should be as a way of enabling safe, effective, joined-up care. In practice, many of us also know they can sometimes be slow and cumbersome, draining the spirit one key-stroke at a time.

This is a chance to change that. By speaking out on what works and what doesn’t, you’ll help us gather the evidence base we need to improve our clinical IT systems for the future. So do please take part in this important research. Spread the word for us. And make sure the clinical community is heard loud and clear in the results.

The national Digital Systems Usability Survey launches across Wales on 27 March 2023. It is open to all clinicians using a digital system in their work and takes around 8 minutes to complete.