With recent news of the NHS set to reach a deficit of £2.8 billion by year-end and significant investment in technology announced, all eyes will be on us, as an industry, and our customers, to ensure technology enables the transformational change that’s much needed in the NHS.
There’s no better or more important time for us to get this right. But how?
I’ve always believed that success is rooted in collaboration. In my 29-year career, I have developed and delivered large and small scale projects with co-production at the heart. The last 23 years have been in the health sector (in both the public and private sectors), yet my approach hasn’t always been met with acceptance from business partners, customers, prospects and peers alike.
I was therefore, delighted to be at the Digital Health Leadership Summit last week where there was overwhelming consensus amongst delegates, which included CEOs, CCIOs and CIOs of hospitals in England and as far away as New Zealand, that collaboration is key to digital transformation.
I have seen first-hand – most recently with our decision to become an open-source software provider – how powerful collaboration can be. By working with our customers, we have developed products and services that are personalised, user friendly, interoperable, safe and effective. And by working with our peers in the industry, independently and via techUK, we are getting to a point where all supplier systems will meet a minimum set of interoperability standards.
For me, we shouldn’t just be discussing ‘digital by default’. We need to talk about ‘collaboration by default’.
Whilst everyone at the Leadership Summit agreed on the importance of working together, there were three standout reasons why digital transformation wasn’t happening at scale, which are ultimately underpinned by collaboration and partnership. They are; clinical engagement; interoperability and information sharing.
Clinical engagement and buy-in
A fundamental part of the successful procurement and deployment of a technology, is securing the buy-in from staff, namely clinicians and the Board. Yet, the Leadership Summit confirmed that this is an on-going challenge for CCIOs and CIOs. However, they shouldn’t be trying to do this alone.
We, as suppliers have a role to play in encouraging engagement and ensuring staff see the breadth of opportunity that an investment in technology can provide, as well as the importance of collaboration in its deployment. Our experiences with Taunton and Somerset FT have been a testament to this; the involvement of 200 clinicians in the procurement process, 500 members of staff actively participating in a demonstration day and a dedicated team of IMS MAXIMS and Taunton staff working together to scope out project needs and requirements, have all contributed to a successful deployment.
Interoperability and information sharing
The same applies to interoperability and information sharing – the barriers that currently exist can only be addressed by working better together. That is why techUK’s Interoperability Charter is such an important initiative, as it sets out principles that suppliers must adhere to, to ensure their systems are fully interoperable and do not pose financial or technical obstacles to integrated care.
For information sharing to become an enabler to the digital agenda, we need collaboration with one of, if not the most important part of the health care service, patients.
Speakers from across the globe discussed at the Leadership Summit how information governance is a barrier to digital transformation. Ultimately it’s because the health system itself has responsibility for managing patient data and they take a one size fits all approach to security. However, fears over security and inappropriate access to patient information has been part of the reason, particularly in the NHS, for why it has failed to take the right approach. Hence information does not get shared.
By giving patients control of their data and who accesses it– through the use of Personal Health Records – and then collaborating with them, the doctor-patient relationship can be transformed into one of co-production and shared decision-making. The door to digitally, integrated care is then opened.
Collaboration is key
We could take some comfort in the fact that these challenges transcend geographical boundaries – as we heard at the Summit, our colleagues in Ireland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand face similar problems. However, we should see this as an opportunity – for ‘collaboration by default’.
Why does collaboration have to be at a local, regional or even national level? For us to truly achieve digital services, we need to work internationally; to share knowledge, ideas, lessons learned and best practice.
Moreover, if we are to reach the goal of full interoperability and data sharing – we need to think on a bigger scale. We need to be bold about how we collaborate. And only then will we achieve a truly digital healthcare system.