PIF Member of the Month – November 2018: Ben Colman, Information Services Manager, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

BenColman

What is your current role and what do you enjoy about it?

I’m Information Service Manager for adult social care within Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. I manage a small team that provides residents with information about meeting their social care needs. We receive copies of social work assessments and create personalised shortlists of advice and guidance, groups, organisations and commissioned services based on the needs identified. We send out about 50 packs a week. The team is also responsible for gathering and moderating the information.

We manage web content and print, explaining the assessment process and choices people have…and how much they will have to pay for services.

I’m getting more involved in strategic planning and am trying to influence some of the thinking to take into account behaviour change models and the importance of relationships in people’s ability to make use of information.

Occasionally, I still help an individual member of the public and I get a buzz from helping them understand the system and take control of their own care situation. When you can see someone’s confidence grow as you take a bit of time to explain things properly, it makes all the frustrations worthwhile.

What is the key area you are working on at the moment?

The council has recently invested in a new online service directory that we are using. We had already done lots of user testing so we are pretty confident about our categorisations and the data we already held. I’m now trying to get the directory embedded into strategic objectives and integration projects across a number of organisations – the council and CCG as commissioners and SRFT, the GP consortium and the VCSE sector as providers.

It’s exciting work with potential to link up all sorts of services and support, so that we can really help residents to help themselves, whether they can self-serve or need a mediated service.

What’s your biggest health information challenge?

Organisational integration is hard and it’s not a panacea in itself. The directory is a case in point – because it can be an enabling tool for many projects and service areas, lots of service areas think it’s a useful tool…that someone else should fund.

The ownership, governance and funding is tricky – but if we don’t get it right, the directory risks being poorly used and those same service areas will create their own information resource. Services always tell us they recognise the importance of information but it can still feel slightly like a Cinderella service.

What’s the best bit about working in health information?

There are two topics that interest me the most, which initially may seem opposites: the power of relationships and the impact of technology. In our increasingly digital world, I believe there are lots of people are unable to make full use of our information because they don’t have the ‘wellbeing’ (skills, confidence, capability) to make choices and act on them. If we can build better relationships with people and help them to feel valued, I think they’ll be far more likely to be able to use information to self-manage and improve their own wellbeing.

Clearly, technology has a really important role to play in providing information. Like many of us, I wear a fitness tracker and I check my symptoms with Dr Google. So far, it feels as if we’ve mainly used technology to cut costs and reduce face to face contact.

I think the real benefits will come when we merge the use of technology with relationships – it feels as if we’re still scratching the surface. For example, I’d love to see real or virtual walking competitions between care homes or sheltered housing schemes, leading to residents meeting up with each other and building their social networks, sharing information through peer support.

What do you find useful about being a PIF member?

I’m new to the health information world and wanted to learn and share. I’ve been around for years so I’ve built up quite a lot of experience, some of which I hope may be useful to others. Equally, I worry about getting stuck in my ways, so finding out what others are doing is very helpful. We put a lot of emphasis on peer support and I think using the PIF forums is a way to practice what we preach.

What top tip do you have to share on health information? /

Ask yourself ‘would it work for my mum/dad/grandparent…?’

What was your light bulb moment in health information?

Three older women on tablets while their husbands were on laptops at an engagement event. When I asked them about their preference for the tablet, they explained that their husbands had set a password on the home laptop. They weren’t going to ask their husbands for the password. Nothing to do with the technology, everything to do with relationships.