In the second of the HTN Health Tech Trends Series sponsored by InterSystems, we asked NHS professionals what is holding your organisation back from becoming digital?
In this article we have selected some of the key themes, comments and challenges highlighted in the survey.
Of the respondents 22% were positive in terms of digitisation in their organisation, with primary care organisations typically more positive than other care settings. A significant proportion of respondents highlighted the challenges they face and from our analysis we segment the responses into four themes:
It came by no surprise that investment and funding was a popular reason holding organisations back from becoming digital. Interestingly the responses detailed that there is a lack of funding for proven technology with strong reference-ability and a track record. Respondents highlighted the need to accelerate the adoption of these technologies and highlighted often new unproven tech gets more attention.
One respondent said “We need funding for larger projects and proven technology. Our IT infrastructure is not reliable enough to go completely digital and there needs to be improved leadership to take us on the journey.”
Get the basics right
Featuring strongly in the article, respondents highlighted the need to get the basics right, citing login problems, system issues, lack of integration and also that the system is heavily paper-based.
One respondent put their situation into a clear perspective “We’re talking about Machine Learning and AI at one level, yet at another level we’re pushing paper around in a trolley. Undoubtedly there is a need for AI, particularly where it can support clinicians against a back drop of job vacancies. However the reality is also we’re still moving and posting paper.”
We found many responses touched upon culture, people development, leadership and strategy from a variety of angles as reasons for holding their organisation back.
It was clear from the responses that there is a need to up-skill and develop people in the field of health tech, one respondent highlighted “there isn’t enough investment in our people, we need to really train and develop our leaders to deliver technology.”
Respondents also cited the need for health tech to be higher on the agenda with their leadership teams, one respondent, a leading surgeon and founder commented “The NHS is driven by metrics and targets, there’s no space for innovation and those targets at board level do not relate to digital.
“There needs to be a mind set change and better understanding at board level of health tech. However people can innovate at any level but they need the culture to be right to do so. We need to start to be open that we might not get it right the first time, and have a culture that accepts that. But we don’t invest in our people, there’s not the culture to come up with ideas and leadership need a broader understanding of what leadership is.
“We should be open to inviting in experts from other industries. We also can all be guilty of not taking a minute to think if what we are doing could be done better or smarter.”
A CIO at a large trust commented on their approach “We’ve delivered digital on a shoe string. We have found success by having a culture where we are open to getting things wrong. Our approach is that some things will, but we will then fix the problems that arise. Our message is, it’s okay not to get it right. It’s been vital that our board has bought into our plan and technology is discussed at that level.”
However a Director of IT in the survey commented “We need significant buy in and focus at board level but we have no dedicated CIO or CCIO on the board so see little hope of change in near future.”
Finally an Assistant Director Informatics said “The challenges are in business change and leadership capacity. We need nationally agreed standards from clinical coding through to interoperability. There needs to be better funding and recruitment.”
Innovation and Engagement
The common themes as part of the survey included the need to truly understand the problems that we need to solve and then to look at the technology to address them. One respondent said “There needs to be a clear understanding of the benefits that will be gained from solving some of the problems, then it might get higher up the agenda. We also need to engage with all staff at every level to understand the issues and what can be done to solve them.”
A Head of Nursing said “I have had an interest in what technology can do for us since completing a Master of Nursing Degree including Health Informatics 24 years ago! But people are very slow at asking for and accepting change if they are not in control of it preferring to hang on to old ways. Even at Board level they listen to the resistors instead of embracing change.”
One respondent commented “It doesn’t matter where you are in the hierarchy you should have a mindset to change. People can innovate at any level, but they need a culture open to do so.”
An Orthopaedic Surgeon said “There is a lack of engagement with staff who have experience in digital technologies and in understanding what the workforce and workplace need.”
Further comments included a Business Analyst commented on some of the barriers in their organisation “I think there are several barriers; – culture of staff adopting technology – short term pilots that fail to become embedded for a variety of reasons – a lack of trust in technology – a lack of time that is able to be given to developing and implementing digital solutions. The focus is often on getting it out there without much thought given to the change management process – Needing to show a cost benefit within short periods of time – The time taken for the IG paperwork and processes.”
The survey highlighted many common themes holding organisations back such as funding, culture, red tape, stuck in old ways, lack of resource or someone prioritising tech, upskilling staff, being brave and accepting failure. More information and analysis is provided in our printed newspaper.
In the next Health Tech Trends Series we continue to analyse our qualitative research and data, covering topics on: successful tech projects, health tech priorities, cloud, automation and AI, cyber security, sharing information and interoperability. We will also focus on methodology and advice from health and care professionals.