George Crooks, Director of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare

Written by Alan Robertson on 4 November 2015 in Feature

For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland

George Crooks (@CrooksGeorge)

Job Title/Organisation: Medical Director NHS 24 / Director Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare

What does your role involve?

As a Medical Director in the NHS in Scotland, I have a responsibility to provide clinical leadership and to ensure that all the clinical services delivered by my organisation are safe, effective and person-centred. However, as a leader in digital health and care I am constantly looking for opportunities where technology can help address the challenges facing today's health and care system.

Through the promotion of innovative service redesign underpinned by technology it can prove possible to not only improve the experience for patients and their families but also produce benefits for those tasked with delivering health and care services and their organisations.

I also have the privilege of promoting Scotland as a leader in technology-enabled care across the UK and Europe, creating opportunities for knowledge transfer and exchange to aid the scaling up of technology-supported services. At the same time, creating opportunities for Scottish SMEs to benefit from access to European partners who are receptive to adopting these type of solutions.

What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?

The health and care system in Scotland is under significant pressure, with an ageing population, the increase in long-term conditions and the ever present challenge of health inequalities requiring to be addressed.

It is clear that continuing to deliver services in the way they are currently designed is not sustainable into the medium and long term. This is where innovation, particularly in redesigning how health and care services are delivered, can play a significant part. By the appropriate use of technology, it is possible not only to empower and inform our citizens but to enable them to take a greater part in the delivery of their health and care and support their families and carer networks to support them at home.

We know this is what the people of Scotland want to happen for themselves and technologies, well designed and appropriately deployed can be a major enabler for change.

What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?

My team in the Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare were responsible with colleagues across the wider NHS in the development and delivery of a national service for the management of acute stroke supported by video conferencing. This service allows patients to be assessed along with their CT scan carried out locally by a specialist physician based in another part of Scotland and a decision being made whether to administer a clot busting drug to clear the blood vessel blockage in the brain.

This has meant wherever you are in Scotland, be it the Western Isles, Orkney or in the centre of Glasgow, patients can expect the same level of care and access to potentially life-saving treatment. We have many examples of patients taken into peripheral units unable to speak or use an arm and leg who make a full recovery due to speedy assessment and treatment where in the past they would have been confined to a life of dependency.

How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?

Education, training and support in the use of digital technologies needs to be given more priority across all sectors of society. No individual is too old to learn how to use a mobile device.

When we asked the people of Scotland what they expected from technology they wanted it to be simple to use and to be supported in learning how to get the most out of their device.

That is why, as we plan and develop new services for our citizens, online tutorials and self-help tools need to become an integral part of any solution. We also need to ensure for our health and care professionals that technology enabled clinical services become part of the core curriculum, be you a doctor, nurse, social worker or care assistant.  

Which new technology excites you the most?

If we simply use the technologies which are available today I would be a very happy person! The future, I believe, is in mobile technologies. We live our lives at home, within communities and move around as part of day-to-day living. Devices that move with you and can support you in your day-to-day life, while at the same time providing health and care solutions, is the way forward. A strategy of "mobile first" would appear to me the way we should be thinking for Scotland.

What's your favourite app and why?

Any app that is well designed, reliable and easy to use is welcome. Those that are designed to help me in my day-to-day life make life easier and hassle free are good. Mobile banking, paying for parking and various travel apps play a prominent part in my day.

What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?

I would see 2016 as a year of scaling up. We need to stop more and more small scale pilots and need to take tried, tested and evaluated solutions and deploy them at scale. Scotland is in a better position than most countries in Europe to do this and to secure sustainable health and care services for the future we need to start on that journey now.



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