NHS trusts struggling to implement digital transformation strategies

Research from SolarWinds reveals 17% of NHS trusts either have no digital transformation strategy, or have just begun to work on one, despite government investment

Nearly a fifth of NHS trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have no digital transformation strategy in place, despite government investment, a new survey has revealed.

Research from SolarWinds also shows a further 24% of respondents have only just started to develop a strategy.

This is despite 88% of respondents knowing about the NHS’s Five Year Forward View, which in 2014 provided NHS trusts with a plan of how the health service needs to adapt over the next five years.

With the survey revealing that nearly a fifth of trusts haven’t begun their digital transformation at all, it is evident that implementing new strategies is not considered a simple, or necessary, process

Now, almost four years later, these same respondents are still tasked with the same mission, but a much-shorter implementation window, to ensure they can properly address quality of care and the overall health of the UK population.

The survey, conducted on behalf of SolarWinds by iGov, received responses from 102 IT managers at NHS trusts and CCGs.

In 2016, the Government invested £4billion in a digital transformation programme to help NHS trusts implement their own strategies. This included initiatives such as making the NHS paperless and improving cybersecurity.

However, the lack of development of digital transformation strategies, as found in the survey, suggests that financial investment in new tech alone is not enough to assist NHS trusts with this transformation.

“The NHS has so far relied on proven technology when it comes to its infrastructure,” said Paul Parker, chief technologist of federal and national government at SolarWinds.

“With the survey revealing that nearly a fifth of trusts haven’t begun their digital transformation at all, it is evident that implementing new strategies is not considered a simple, or necessary, process.

“This, however, should be the role of the IT teams within the healthcare industry - to integrate the most-efficient technology solutions that then enable the medical staff to do their jobs.”

Further key findings from the survey include:

  • The healthcare industry remains sceptical about the achievability of some initiatives and directives around digital transformation, such as the Paperless Initiative, which 47% of respondents thought was unachievable for the wider NHS
  • A third of NHS trusts (29%) view legacy technology as a significant barrier for their organisation for security, efficiency, and service delivery, with a further 34% stating it was an issue, but not an immediate risk
  • With 80% of respondents finding competing priorities to be a significant roadblock on the journey to digital transformation, it’s clear not enough is being done to make the digital transformation process organically evolutionary rather than uphill and revolutionary

Public cloud could, and should, be adopted to improve data storage and accessibility, while allowing for ease of implementing cyber security measures, thereby meeting the suggestions of the Government’s digital transformation programme

“Public cloud, for example, could, and should, be adopted to improve data storage and accessibility, while allowing for ease of implementing cyber security measures, thereby meeting the suggestions of the Government’s digital transformation programme," said Parker.

"This transition will also be eased from the use of monitoring and management tools that work across both new technologies, like cloud, and legacy environment infrastructure.

“Tools like this provide visibility into performance and efficiency, which will ease any anxiety about the transition and the continuation of services.”

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