Transforming the digital delivery process in healthcare

To transform digital delivery in healthcare and achieve better patient outcomes, we need to learn the lessons from the COVID-19 response and the ongoing digital transformation happening within trusts.

We need to keep users at the heart of the services we build and to use the full potential of the cloud, as well as developing the digital skills and capabilities that are needed at Trust level.

What does success look like?

In ​our talk at the Digital Leaders summit,​​ Andy Callow​ and I discussed 3 enablers to achieve better patient outcomes within Trusts:

User-first:​ A user-first approach means being driven by patient needs and measuring success through clinical outcomes. We worked with Andy and his team to r​apidly develop the NHS Book a virtual visit service​ precisely because there was a clear patient need. This has enabled over 1,000 calls with an average duration of over an hour, so it’s having a measurable positive impact on the lives of Kettering General Hospital’s patients.

Interoperable:​ Without interoperability between systems you’ll struggle to pick the right tool for the job, and to have the right data at the right time. When systems refuse to talk to systems outside of a particular vendor’s own ecosystem, Trusts’ hands are tied when it comes to picking products or building services. This vendor lock-in is stifling innovation, and is one of the drivers for NHS staff members having to remember ​up to 15 logins to do their job.​

Collaboration:​ To innovate, Trusts need to develop new capabilities. The best way to do this is by collaborating and sharing ideas with other Trusts, suppliers and organisations undergoing similar transformations. I personally feel that open source software presents a massive opportunity for collaboration between Trusts. The open source NHS Design System let us rapidly prototype the book a virtual visit service in just 48 hours – and have it tested on wards within a week.

How to achieve better patient outcomes

We also discussed a number of ways Trusts can iteratively improve patient outcomes. This isn’t an overnight process and, in my opinion, it’s not a process with an end. But you have to start somewhere, and we shared a few ideas on where that could be.

Build a pipeline of candidate services:​ Developing a r​oadmap ​that includes all your candidate digital improvements and services which focus on better patient outcomes is a great way to keep track, prioritise and communicate what you have in the pipeline.

Secure proper funding:​ You should aim to secure specific funding for your digital programme, so you can ring fence delivery teams to work on it. This will help you make sure your funding is directed towards continuous improvement of software. You should also try to help your entire Trust become more comfortable with the transition from capital to revenue, as you move towards subscription services in the cloud.

Build momentum through early success:​ However small your early successes might be, they can really help you to build momentum. Invest in your teams, expose them to new ways of working, and make sure the organisation knows about it. A tool to help the discharge process was one early success at Kettering General Hospital.

Work in the open:​ Keeping your successes to yourself wastes time for you and others who could learn from it. With more remote work taking place, documenting your work helps others and helps you to make sure your explanation of the detail is as clear as possible.

Commission open source alternatives:​ Ideally, if individual Trusts can develop small amounts of technology themselves, these can be shared with others for everyone’s benefit. This will make sure patients aren’t paying for services twice and drive down costs over the long term. It also means more digital services can be ​built transparently,​ in the open and to the NHS Service Standard.

Require suppliers to develop skills:​ Suppliers should not just build services for Trusts, they should also help them to develop skills. While delivering the NHS Book a virtual visit service for Kettering General Hospital, I’m proud that we were able to work with their developers. We eventually handed the service over to them.

Accelerating a Trust’s digital journey

Crucially, this is a path that any NHS Trust can plot should they choose to do so. Andy freely admits that, not long ago, Kettering General Hospital was a digital lagard.

But by implementing a user-first, interoperability and collaboration strategy, it’s showing how the NHS as a whole can be radically transformed and achieve better outcomes for patients.

About the Author

Luke Morton

Chief Technology Officer at Made Tech. Talk to me about delivering value through digital and technology, how inclusion and feminism can address a digital skills shortage, and on creating mentoring and coaching cultures.

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