Karina Brisby on setting a universal standard for health data

Karina Brisby on setting a universal standard for health data
Karina Brisby, head of digital at Versus Arthritis, joins us to chat about her journey into digital and the necessity of creating a standard for health data.

Why did you choose to pursue a role in digital? For example, has it always been your passion, or was it pure happenstance?

I originally wanted to be a journalist, and I have always liked telling stories, but when I discovered the connections around the world that could be made by writing a few lines of code, I was hooked. It was like super-charged penpals. So while I have worked in commercial digital agencies, the core focus of my career has been very purpose-led.   It has been very satisfying to move from the connections that I loved early in my career to evolve into devising and delivering digital resources, products and services, focused on the benefit of people and communities.

What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the digital sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

Curiosity. No matter how much of an expert you are in digital, it evolves and changes so quickly that you need to be willing to grow and develop your knowledge and approaches continuously. I would also add listening. I like using design thinking approaches to solve problems and create solutions by listening to people and communities articulate what they need.

What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?

Working in a not-for-profit with limited resources and huge demand is a constraint, but it is a constructive challenge. It forces me to prioritise our plans, be open to collaboration and be very lean at all times. It can be a bit exhausting, but it means that my team focuses on the things we are best placed to solve. As a result, there is a tremendous amount of innovation in the sector and many opportunities for people to work on exciting projects.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

More data standards across government, private and public sectors, especially within the health sector. In particular, an agreed set of health data that are easy to find and safely manages data individuals so it can't be misused.

There are already lots of positive development in that area in the NHS. The further growth of adoption and leadership of Digital and Data in the NHS will help improve our understanding of our health and drive improvement across other sectors.

How is the role of digital perceived in your organisation? Versus Arthritis focus is to support people?

Digital (and I include data and technology infrastructure here) is understood to be crucial to Versus Arthritis success and for us to deliver our purpose of supporting people with arthritis. So whether it is; ensuring we fund research into emerging technologies that might one day provide a cure, or a trusted digital platform that provides quality information and advice, or an infrastructure that enables us to smoothly switch over to remote working and still deliver our support services during the lockdown,  Digital is vital to the organisation's success.

What do you think the secret of success is when working in digital?  Perseverance and listening.  Perseverance, as we know that our projects are never finished, and we continually have to respond to analytics and insight to drive improvement in the next version release. And, listening, as we need to embrace the experiences of others to ensure that we develop digital products and content that reflect our communities experiences and not just people that look and act like ourselves.

At React & Share, we're obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

I am very focused on showing the impact of our digital program, in addition, and the reach and engagement. It always feels nice to meet and exceed our targets in our analytics, but if we are not making the impact we envisaged, those numbers can quickly become vanity figures. This means going beyond the stats and understanding how to capture and measure that impact of your digital program, at the beginning rather than the end of a production process.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in digital?

I think we are just wrapping our heads about the full potential of blockchain, besides crypto-currencies. I think we will see more on how blockchain can be used for transparency and accountability. It could have a transformative effect on so many areas of our lives, from voting to your health care, to supply chains to ethical production and much more. I am incredibly interested in how NFT's are being used. There is a lot of hype about NFT's, but I think it could be transformative in the arts and maker community and licencing of products, as the originator's benefit any future sales.

Also I think there will be more of a focus on the impact of digital on the climate. More is needed to be done on e-waste and its effect on the environment. I can see the "right to repair" movements and options like Fairphone will gain more support from users.