In December 2015, the NHS published NHS planning guidance, which was dominated by Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). These are five year plans that layout a new “place based” approach to procuring and delivering services.
The scope of the STPs is broad but key themes include improving productivity and addressing variations in care. This is where digital transformation can have a positive impact if the right systems are used in conjunction with each other. There is a major drive within the NHS towards Electronic Care Records (ECRs) to allow different services to access the entire patient record for Health Care Professionals (HCPs) to save time and improve care.
The challenges to this are many and varied, as outlined in the recent NHS IT Leadership Survey Report, 2017*, which looks at the priorities and concerns of health CIOs, CCIOs and NHS IT leaders.
Building a sustainable future
ECRs, accessible by different services and patients themselves, remain a top priority, as reported by the same survey last year. Central to this project is the aggregation of the plethora of information about a patient, which crosses numerous specialist applications within a trust and beyond. These applications deliver numerous benefits to individual departments. Many have been developed by software vendors working in partnership with leading clinicians to ensure that they deliver exactly what the department requires to manage patients in their specialty.
To underpin such a major undertaking there are several sub projects that need to be addressed to guarantee success. The survey highlights infrastructure upgrades as an essential component of progress towards achieving the end goal. With more departments going paperless, the strain on the existing networks and servers is growing and needs to be reviewed with sufficient capacity that can cope with the increased usage. With Paperless 2020 fast approaching, pressure is building and confidence in meeting this target has slipped. Cyber security is also high on the list – even though the survey was completed before the WannaCry outbreak, which exposed weaknesses in an aging infrastructure. Making so much data available more widely also presents challenges in the area of Information Governance (IG).
Making progress more simple
With so many interconnecting challenges, it might seem almost impossible to quickly make progress. Fortunately, alternative solutions are already having significant impact. Leading provider of clinical information software, Hicom, is working with the NHS to precipitate a shift towards a more modern IT infrastructure and provide sustainable and affordable high-quality services that are supported with efficient processes that drive better health outcomes. Hicom supplies 100 trusts with diabetes patient management solutions, which can integrate directly with a hospital’s main Patient Administration System (PAS), pathology system and into its electronic medical records, and with the introduction of patient portals, mobile applications and clinical workflow tools, Hicom is helping to facilitate faster, safer and better care.
Interoperability is another NHS watchword and one example of this is Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland (HSCNI), where Hicom is delivering interfaces that have overcome historic obstacles to silo’d information. Interfaces have enabled the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record (NIECR) to be populated with data captured through each of its five Trusts’ diabetes information management systems, which incorporate Hicom’s adult diabetes management solutions, Diamond, which has been developed in the UK in association with leading clinicians and healthcare specialists. Hicom’s paediatric diabetes solution Twinkle is also being deployed.
Twinkle is hosted by Hicom, thereby removing the headache of maintaining infrastructure from the trust. Diamond, traditionally a larger installation on trusts servers, is also now offered as a hosted service; proving attractive to procurement and IT teams alike.
Unlocking digital transformation
Having access to patient information at the point of care empowers HCPs and community-based professionals to make the most appropriate treatment decisions that can alleviate avoidable hospital admissions and enhance health outcomes. Digital technology is certainly proving to be a powerful stimulus for this and for enhancing communication and the move away from silo’d working within the healthcare industry.
Based on 30+ years of working with the NHS, Hicom is acutely aware of the pressures trusts face in meeting the current healthcare strategy and the overarching feedback is the need for integration, and high-quality data that is accessible at any time, and at every touch point along a patient’s journey.
Local NHS organisations are compelled more than ever to explore new, secure ways to harness the information revolution and take the necessary steps to improve patient care even more. The NHS’ strategy, along with GDEs, are helping trusts to migrate in the right and same direction. System integration and exploiting available technology such as cloud computing will help to further advance the progress being made.
*NHS IT Leadership online survey, 152 responses, 2017