Comment: Healthcare digital solutions - delivery challenges for 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, we speak to Tas Hind, director of technology at Essentia Trading about the challenges and opportunities for healthcare in the coming months

Tas Hind

NHS trusts are facing another challenging year for implementing digital solutions inside and outside their organisations.

And, naturally, this will have an impact on their ability to deliver them.

Usually trusts only have sufficient resources to keep the lights on and maybe a little bit more. Anything extra will mean looking for resources from outside with the right capabilities and cost

One of the biggest challenges they face is to ensure they have sufficient funding to be able to deliver the solutions on time and to a high standard. In part, this will mean having robust business cases and benefits realisation plans.

For Global Digital Exemplars and Fast Followers it means they need to have delivered some of the key milestones on projects before any money can be released from the centre.

Once funding has been agreed, the next challenge will be the availability of resources in general and having the right capability.

Usually trusts only have sufficient resources to keep the lights on and maybe a little bit more. Anything extra will mean looking for resources from outside with the right capabilities and cost.

As the implementations progress and more and more patient information starts to be held electronically, the need to ensure it is secure becomes increasingly important. The need to put in the right processes and security around the data front end and back end becomes paramount.

We all recognise that the NHS is under a great deal of pressure and every hour and minute of the day is taken up caring for patients. This means motivating stakeholders at all levels in the organisation to be engaged throughout the design, development and implementation process.

Project teams will, therefore, need some very imaginative ways of securing their time and ensuring that they have a say in solutions. Otherwise they run the risk of being rejected and never implemented.

Often initiatives are driven independently with little appreciation of their wider impact, especially when business transformation and IT are organised and run separately

A wider challenge for NHS trusts will be to ensure that any solutions being implemented are aligned to wider trust, LDR and STP strategy. Inevitably, this will cause a great deal of frustration as all these initiatives are likely to be progressing at different speeds. It is therefore essential that robust governance is put in place to ensure that business and technology initiatives are aligned, and dependencies are clearly understood. Without this, opportunities to generate real value from the investment will be missed.

Maintaining the focus for IT changes in trusts is challenging as other more-pressing initiatives may take priority. Robust business cases and benefits realisation plans will help to see off any such challenges. Prioritising resourcing and funding of initiatives that will generate in-year revenue will also help.

Much of this can be achieved by maintaining joined up-thinking and not delivering solutions in silos.

Often initiatives are driven independently with little appreciation of their wider impact, especially when business transformation and IT are organised and run separately. This can lead to frustration, wasting of time and money and projects being abandoned in mid-stream. In these situations, joined up-working and governance will be key.

It is essential that staff are trained and educated in new solutions in a timely manner. Without that they will struggle to understand their value and how they need to be used.

To conclude, trusts will be able to make technology changes stick if they can focus on initiatives that key stakeholders believe will generate the greatest value

This, again, will involve finding imaginative ways of training them in between their busy work schedules and could include camping out in the wards, clinics and departments. Factoring in training of bank staff and locums will be important. It is often these transient staff that can make or break a system.

To conclude, trusts will be able to make technology changes stick if they can focus on initiatives that key stakeholders believe will generate the greatest value. These will have business cases and realisation plans that the organisation is bought into and prepared to own, engaged staff throughout the design, development and implementation phases and be adequately funded and resourced.

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