This month’s guest interview is with Gráinne Lynch, MD of HealthEvents Ltd. Gráinne brings a wealth of knowledge from her nursing days and many years of experience as a medical/nursing conference organiser to her new business venture and I was keen to find out about what technology and admin tools she uses in her work.
L: Tell us about yourself and your business.
G: My business HealthEvents Ltd is a company which produces Conferences for the Healthcare Professional.
As a Practice Nurse for over fifteen years, I know that patient education and good teamwork within the practice results in patients becoming more informed and engaged in their care. Within the current climate, despite the best will of those involved. communication between healthcare professionals has become more difficult due to time restraints, geographical location and reduced professional education resources.
Having organised Educational Conferences for two major nursing organisations, recession arrived and I found myself ‘unemployed’. Never one to let life pass me by, I took this downturn as an opportunity to set up my own Company.
HealthEvents Ltd was incorporated in July 2011. It’s mission was to provide a fresh approach to Interprofessional Education in Healthcare by bringing together healthcare professionals of all disciplines ‘to learn with, from and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care’ CAIPE 2002
L: What admin tools do you use in your everyday work?
G: My tools of the trade, so to speak, are my MacBook Pro and my iPhone. After years of claiming technophobia, I now find both indispensable. Having grown used to Office over the last few years, I use Microsoft Office 11 for Macs and all that it brings with it. I am slowly educating myself on the wide range of apps which are available to make my working day more productive. MyWorkTime by the Irish company Tús Nua Designs, is particularly useful as it helps track my hours of work and therefore allows me to put a value on my time. This will be particularly useful when doing work for clients. Evernote is a very useful App for collating information gathered for use at a later date. When organising photos from the Conference or other events, the iPhoto App is very user friendly. In order to work efficiently with my ‘virtual family’ of AslanVA and others, I do find Dropbox very useful as a means of editing shared documents without the need for endless emails back and forth.
L: What new technologies / admin tools are, or will be, particularly helpful in your work?
G: Surprise surprise, the next item on my ‘Really would like’ list is an iPad. With Cloud technology allowing access to files from anywhere and any device, this little gem is the Conference Managers best friend. New technologies and software means that large academic conferences can be completely managed from initial design to post conference report from this one point. There are apps for online bookings, delegate check in, accommodation and menu choices. Ex Ordo another Irish company have produced an amazing package which collates abstracts, speaker presentations and any other element of the Conference, into a perfectly designed programme and agenda which can be edited at any point up until the first speaker takes to the stage. As all information can be synced with the MacBook and iPhone there are no excuses for not being on top of things.
L: Have you encountered any IT challenges that affect your business and what you are trying to achieve?
G: Even the word IT used to produce a feeling of panic, until I made the decision to learn more about the technologies which would enhance my work and the delegate experience of a HealthEvents Conference. The County Enterprise Boards are a fantastic resource for anyone starting out in business as they run frequent day or sessional courses in all aspects of business. As part of their schedule I was introduced to the whole area of online business and how it can be used effectively.
From a physical point of view, I am lucky enough in that living in Dublin I have good mobile and internet provision. However, having hosted conferences in hotels around Ireland, I was surprised at the number of venues which claimed to be Conference Centres, but had no WIFI –free areas. As time goes on I’m sure this will be remedied.
L: In an ideal world and if cost was no issue, what IT or technology would you love to have access to?
G: The more I have learned about technology and its possibilities, I realise that healthcare Conferencing does not have to mean 200 people sitting on rows of hard chairs for hours on end listening to presentations from speakers who also have to have a physical presence in the room. Teleconferencing and live streaming is a way to open Conference learning to the whole world. Twitter feeds onscreen are a great way to involve the outside world in what is happening at the Conference.
L: Do you use social media to connect or spread your message? And if so, what is your experience of using it?
G: Anyone who knows me knows that my initial impression of Social Media was something that teenagers and minor celebrities used to share every aspect of their daily and social lives with their thousands of ‘friends’. Thanks to my growing family in the SME Community and AslanVA, I very quickly realised that if I did not enlighten myself to the ways of Twitter and LinkedIn I would very quickly say goodbye to my business. As a company that promoted professional development and continuing professional education, it was up to me to keep abreast of developments in healthcare and business around the world. Twitter is a fantastic way to share ideas, research the latest academic papers and join in Twitter Chats with like minded groups. Nurses in particular have become very active on Twitter and are gaining a new level of respect among healthcare professionals for their Twitter discussions/chats. Many groups take it a step further and arrange Tweetups where they physically get together to support each other by sharing ideas. Twitter has opened doors to opportunities which I did not even know existed, for example Health2Dublin, the Irish chapter of Health2.0. LinkedIn is an online professional network for people wishing to connect with each other for business. One post on LinkedIn can reach thousands of people around the world, in the past that would have meant a lot of stamp and envelope licking, not to mention looking up addresses in a directory or phonebook!!!.
L: How do you think IT and technology could be better used to improve IPE, CPD and by extension, patient care?
G: IT and technology has made the world a much smaller place by giving access to so many people at one time. With the development of health Apps and games, healthcare is made more attractive to our younger population who, it would appear have developed a third hand called their smartphone. Reliable health websites provide a secure private area for patients to research health conditions and then speak to their healthcare professional in a more informed and confident way. However, the internet also provides a large pool of dangerous and misleading information written by unscrupulous people. There is a growing recognition among healthcare professionals that they need to have a greater online presence to reach their patient population with the correct information. While the issue of confidentiality and professional conduct remain paramount, that still allows for wonderful opportunities to engage with patients and fellow professionals at a time suitable to all parties.
E-learning, online webinars and discussions are becoming more commonplace now with healthcare professionals seeking to develop their CPD portfolios at a time and place which fits with their hours of work.
Good quality online health education can mean the difference of whether a patient will come forward to their healthcare professional with a relevent problem or not. They are more likely to become more compliant and interested in their condition if they understand their illness and treatment. None of us like to be dictated to so why should we do it to our patients. Involve them by sharing information with them. There was a time when the more forward thinking of our patients arrived at their appointment with a sheaf of papers printed from the internet and our hearts sank, now with better attitudes and knowledge of online activity the healthcare professional should embrace their patients ingenuity and interest in researching and taking responsibility for their own health.
L: What are you working on at the moment?
G: Currently much of my time is spent informing myself of new technical developments which are relevent to healthcare professionals. Following on the success of HealthEvents inaugural event, Primary Care Conference – Interprofessional Education in Primary Care, which took place in May 2012, feedback was so positive that I am planning the next HealthEvents Primary Care Conference for 25 May 2013 which will take place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, Co Dublin. The theme will be Communication and looking at new and improved ways in which healthcare professionals can engage with each other, their patients and their families for a better overall outcome. I have some super speakers lined up who are eager to participate in this conference.
L: What are your future plans for HealthEvents?
G: Now that’s a hard question to answer.
In the ideal world I plan to develop and grow HealthEvents to engage other people who share my vision. I already see the whole area of Healthcare Conferencing growing to embrace new technologies and bringing the world’s experts together physically or virtually and I certainly intend to be aboard for that exciting journey.
One thing that I am confident about, and that is any HealthEvents event will bring people together to learn with, from and about each other to improve the quality of care for the patient, but having lots of fun while doing it!
For more information about Grainne’s services please see www.healthevents.ie