Royal College of Occupational Therapists publishes data and innovation strategy

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) has published a data and innovation strategy to support occupational therapists with data management.

As well as guidance and instruction, RCOT is providing its therapists with resources and links, and the opportunity to share their ‘data literacy learning and development needs’ through a short survey.

In a further explanation on its website, the College explains that, ‘Informatics is all about data and how that data moves around the health and care system’ and adds that ‘Data can take numerous forms and types such as numbers, words, videos and images’.

It notes that, ‘When data is analysed it can produce something useful and become information…All occupational therapists are generating, sharing or using data (information) to make decisions about the services they provide.’

RCOT uses the strategy to explain to occupational therapists what their tiered approach to data quality and innovation will look like, and also explains via its website what this will mean for therapists across three levels – individual, service/organisation, and nationally.

It outlines that, at an individual level, each member will be ‘collecting and interpreting data throughout the occupational therapy process’, most commonly via Assessments and Outcome Measures. While it adds that occupational therapists also have access to population health data, workforce statistics, measurements of demand and capacity, patient and citizen reported outcomes, and staff satisfaction surveys.

At service/organisation level, it’s stated that ‘managers and commissioners may extract data to better understand supply, demand and workforce productivity’, with the results used for a number of ‘secondary purposes’ such as improvement activities in work planning, audits and research.

Finally, at a national level, RCOT explains that some of its anonymised data ‘may be collected by government departments through data sets’ to ‘develop health and social care policy, provide and regulate funding and engage in strategic planning’.

Resources shared with occupational therapists through its website include guidance for keeping electronic health and care records, professional standards and ethics, how to access its national subset standards for improving the structure of records, how to find online training in SNOMED Clinical Terms (CT), as well as links to further reading, websites and groups.

The new strategy, which runs until 2023, will be followed up by a programme of activity. Across the next two years, RCOT says it intends to support occupational therapists’ development of data literacy skills through a vision that includes ensuring every therapist is ‘confident in engaging in a range of activities that use, collect and share data for the purposes of improving health outcomes at the individual, service and population level’.

RCOT’s recommendations to support the vision include: improving the ‘structure and quality of occupational therapy data recording in electronic health and social care records’; becoming ‘interoperable ready’; and by developing data leadership skills.

Its aim is that – by the end of 2023 – all occupational therapists will be able to:

  • Articulate ‘what information or data is recorded, used and shared’ and ‘identify improvements to how data or information is utilised’.
  • Understand their role in ‘improving the quality and structure of information and how this supports interoperability, clinical safety and quality improvement’.
  • Identify activities and opportunities to develop data literacy skills.
  • Contribute to ‘organisational projects that advance the range of information available to people in receipt of services and partners in care as part of public health and self-management approaches’.

RCOT hopes that ‘different forms of data can be triangulated’ to answer questions about whether services are meeting the needs of the local population, whether resources are being managed effectively with occupational therapists working at the top of their license, and whether the public have access to occupational therapy information that supports self-management.

As well as setting out a number of recommendations, including those above, and specific goals, the 12-page strategy document also explains actions that can be taken in 2022.

These include: RCOT establishing an expert reference group (ERG) for each recommendation to ‘actively support the development of a data innovation community that will advance the capability and capacity in the profession across the UK’; building on the Health Education England’s (2021) Digital competency framework for allied health professionals by using RCOTs (2021) career development framework: guiding principles for occupational therapy; linking ‘current continuing professional development (CPD) resources and opportunities to the data and innovation career pathway’; and identifying ‘gaps in CPD resources and opportunities’, while working with the ERGs and experts to ‘develop resources and new opportunities’.

Read RCOT’s data and innovation strategy, in full, here. Or fill in the College’s survey online before 5pm on 7 February 2022, to share your views.