Many born into a generation of rapidly changing technology are able to seamlessly adapt to the almost per-second changes.
But there are many among us who do not quite have it so easily. Technophobia – the fear of technology – is real and is oftentimes seen in people afraid of using new technology.
With the pace of change, technology can, indeed, be very daunting. However, with the increased use of technology across sectors and many companies going digital, it is clear that technology is here to stay.
People will need to be prepared to be a part of this technology revolution, especially with its incorporation into important sectors such as health.
Oftentimes, technophobia is due to a lack of confidence in one’s ability to use the technology. In some cases, persons may think that the purpose of the technology is to undermine them.
We had such an experience in the early stages of implementation of the Hospital Information Management System at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
There was apprehension among some staff with respect to how the software would affect them. Some thought that they would lose their jobs. Thankfully, we were able to overcome these issues primarily because of the strong commitment and consistent support from the management team, as well as a change in the management strategies employed.
These included ensuring that persons understood what the software was about, constant and consistent communication with staff, training workshops and allowing staff to get a feel of the software themselves.
The ability to communicate the benefits of the software within the context of each person’s job functions was also very important. We found that there was a major difference between telling it and selling it, and so, practical experience was extremely important for staff.
Not Unique To UHWI
The UHWI experience is not unique. When computers were first being introduced to Jamaica, I had the honour of being integral in that process.
We faced a lot of resistance then from some staff and even unions afraid of the new technology. I also remember being told that Jamaicans would never use ATM machines.
When the Government’s accounting procedures were being computerised, few persons believed in it. The key to getting acceptance of all of those processes was, like the UHWI, having a strong and committed management team and ensuring that those who would be integral to the use of the technology were fully involved in the process.
Health technology also needs buy-in from members of the public, especially when it is applied in the public health sector.
Persons will need to be shown repeatedly how the technology will make their access to services easier, benefit their health, cost less and improve efficiency on an individual level.
For example, the introduction of electronic medical records means that dockets will no longer be lost and are transferable across physicians and facilities. Persons will be able to get quick and easy information on bed availability; and there will be significantly reduced waiting time in areas like admission and pharmacy, among other benefits.
Social marketing will be important throughout the entire process of digitisation and should include local champions, such as community members, doctors, nurses and so, on to convey the message.