Despite being relatively new to digital innovation and services, Dr Gill Horne outlines the difference the Topol Digital Fellowship has made to her and the people and families in the care of her Devon hospice team, Gill being one of the first adult social care leaders to take part in the Fellowship.

Whether you’re an early adopter or a slightly nervous new arrival, there is no denying that digital is the future when it comes to providing safer, more effective and more personalised care.  

In all honesty, I was pretty new to digital. That’s why I was thrilled to be accepted onto the Topol Digital Fellowship. I may be a couple of months away from completing the course, but I’ve already put the learning into practice in my role as programme director at Rowcroft Hospice in South Devon.

I am one of 4 fellows focussing specifically on social care solutions. As a result of learning and discussions on the programme, I have been working with people who have experience of dementia and motor neurone disease (MND) to co-design a new, decision-making tool for choosing the right digital and artifical intelligence (AI) in care home settings. This tool, still in testing, guides care home managers, staff, residents and other stakeholders by asking questions that help them consider the potential impact on people (residents and staff), operations and governance. The journey we have taken together has been so rewarding and has led me to apply for and secure funding for 2 other digital projects.

One of these is enabling our hospice community team to design a new app for use at home to explore and meet the needs and challenges of people at the end of their life, with input from their families, carers and hospice staff. Funded by The Health Foundation's Tech for Better Care Programme, and using human-centred design principles, this is already shaping up to potentially make a real difference for planning and delivering care specifically tailored to individuals and their families. This proactive approach simply won’t be possible without the interactive technology and the ability to collate and synthesise the various perspectives, be they from patients, carers or professionals.

The other piece of work involves developing 2 new AI concepts, one of which will use AI-enabled doors in our future care home to create a more open environment and avoid a sense of confinement. The other will use AI technology to monitor and prevent dehydration, a common concern in elderly people that is hard to spot at an early stage and linked to infection and other health challenges. This work has been funded by Amazon Web Services Imagine Grant which launched for the first time in the UK last year.

These grants, discovered through my Topol Digital Fellowship, are enabling us to deliver truly transformational work. The programme has helped me to understanding technical language, set up and run digital projects and importantly develop ideas and discuss plans with other fellows in both clinical and non-clinical roles. I have learned about everything from machine learning to human-centred design.

It has allowed me to make connections with new digital networks and organisations, including the South West chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO) digital nursing network, AI developers and digital companies.

Some of my colleagues here at Rowcroft Hospice have suggested I am now a digital ‘guru’! Very clearly, I am not, but being a Topol fellow has truly opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of digital technology and programmes to improve health and social care services.

I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity.   


Dr Gill Horne

Registered Nurse and Programme Director Care Services

Rowcroft Hospice

Page last reviewed: 16 February 2024
Next review due: 16 February 2024