Prepare, transform, improve: digital transformation in the NHS | HSJ Partners

How, where and when patient care is delivered is changing.

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There is a natural evolution towards smart health services, where technology is integrated into clinical pathways and the digital patient is the new normal. It is essential that our health services, staff and NHS patients are ready for this. Because ultimately, smarter healthcare means more efficient and safer patient care.

Healthcare organizations at any stage of their smart healthcare journey need a strong technology procurement strategy that establishes close collaboration between their procurement and ICT functions.

They will also need to optimize their resources through their purchases, adhering to clear integrated care system requirements and cost improvement programs, while keeping social value and net zero carbon programs in mind.

At Crown Commercial Service, the UK’s largest public procurement organization and an executive agency of the Cabinet Office, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to buying digital transformation solutions in the NHS. We explore the three main phases, with a clear breakdown of program stages and projects along the way.

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Year 1 – Preparation

The first step is to develop the technology strategy that aligns with your NHS trust’s organizational development plan and its intended outcomes. From there, you can develop your program, create your design and delivery structure, prepare outlines and full business cases, and allocate budgets.

Next, you will need to review your existing assets with the goal of getting the maximum value from what you already have. Where do you need to refresh your core infrastructure and networks? How can unified communications bring together phone, email, and instant messaging to complement each other and foster collaboration? You will also need to think about how your devices, applications and databases will be deployed and managed, and how cybersecurity requirements can be met across all aspects of the IT estate.

Years 2 and 3 – Transform

Take the example of digitizing patient records. These can be integrated into clinical software and systems, facilitating the digital delivery and receipt of patient data at the point of care. If you need to digitize historical paper documents, consider the other processes and resources needed. You will need a validation process to verify that scanned documents match the original paper versions and create new workflows to ensure they are securely available.

Smart technologies can also be deployed to enable patient engagement and empowerment throughout their clinical journey. You can integrate systems such as image archiving and communication, radiology, pathology, pharmacy and bedside monitoring, focusing on interconnecting and sharing data, using standards messaging systems such as Health Level Seven. Review your data warehouse and how a central data store could improve your reporting and analytics; you also need to build integration into your solutions, considering how you can safely extend use to other organizations such as primary, acute, mental health and social services.

Years 4 and 5 – Improve

The human element cannot be lost in any digital transformation process. Smart champions involved in the implementation stage of your training program will be able to take greater ownership of the process. Training providers can create tailored training programs that empower users and tackle resistance to change. Real-time data and intuitive dashboards can inform your decision-making, provide more accurate clinical coding, and improve analysis of current and future activity. You might even want to think about how apps could help improve the patient experience and facilitate access to clinical services.

At this point, you should aim to put the digital patient at the heart of everything you do. You can prescribe digital solutions to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, but make sure all health services are inclusive and think about how you can help patients learn the basic digital skills they will need to access services autonomously – and support those who can’t. Focus on early intervention and prevention initiatives with your fellow integrated care system providers.

Learn more

CCS has developed a free, easy-to-use guide to digital transformation in the NHS. Learn more and download the guide from the CCS website.

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