Interview, Secondary Care

Interview Series: Lisa Emery, Chief Information Officer, The Royal Marsden NHS FT 

In our latest interview we met with Lisa Emery, CIO at The Royal Marsden NHS FT and asked Lisa few questions. 

Could you tell me about yourself and your organisation?

I’m CIO at The Royal Marsden and I’ve worked there just over a year. This CIO post is the first time The Royal Marsden have had one, it was created on the back of an approved IT strategy and a desire to really drive that forward.

Previous to that I was CIO at West Herts NHS FT for around 4 years which I thoroughly loved but my current role offered a really interesting opportunity in a different type of organisation. The Royal Marsden is an NHS Foundation Trust and it is specifically a cancer specialist hospital.

What did you talk about today in your presentation?

We talked about establishing digital literacy in the NHS; we broadly talked around what we thought those basic needs were, how we would service them, which leadership roles needed to change to make sure we delivered digital literacies, what the centre should do and how all of us had a part to play in really increasing digital literacy in our trusts and organisations.

It was a very wide-ranging discussion with the takeaway sentiment being digital literacy is everybody’s challenge and problem; it stripes through absolutely everything and we’ve got to get it right and how do we support our staff to really become those digital champions out there in the NHS.

Do you implement digital literacies at the Royal Marsden?

One of our big areas of focus at the moment is on creating the digital workplace, which is what we’ve called it, just to make it a little more accessible for staff. The idea of the digital workplace ranges all the way through from improving basic needs such as the networks and how much time it takes to log on, but more fundamentally we are doing work to create digital personas for staff. That is not our own invention, we borrowed the idea from another NHS trust; we are out there doing questionnaires and interviews with NHS staff and looking at how they work, how they would like to work and developing a digital persona for them.

We know that for example physiotherapists require certain tools and certain devices and access to different systems, which will be different from another staff group, so we can really start to give new people an experience once they come in to The Royal Marsden which is clean and seamless. It will dictate how we roll out tools such as Office 365 and the various types of devices we are going to give to people. A huge undertaking but worthwhile because it impacts everything we do.

What would you say is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?

We’ve done a lot around the nuts and bolts of making improvements; signing off a business case for Office 365, getting improvements to the network agreed, and securing funding.

But actually for me it has been starting the cultural shift so we had a rebranding of the team. We were called the computing department and we decided to modernise and rebrand the approach of it; we put it out to the team, and asked them ‘what would you like to be called and how would you like to look?’ We are now called ‘Digital Services’ and have more mature dialog with staff beyond the ‘my mouse is broken’ or ‘computer is slow’ – it’s now more about how technology that is coming along is going to help them work differently. So, although it is a relatively small change, it has had a cultural step change and has been one of the most important things.

This has really lifted the morale in the team and perhaps has helped them feel that they now have more of a place in how patients are treated and their importance in the organisation, with the most pleasing aspect being that the organisation has really picked up on that as well.

Could you choose one technology that has been of significant impact to your organisation?

We are about to roll out Office 365 and that is about to be a game changer for us. We already have staff that have worked in other organisations who have been using it, and because we work across different sites having multi-disciplinary teams, Office 365 will really change the way people can work and I’m quite excited to see how they react to it. In particular, the messaging tools, the ability to do team conferencing and face to face video conferencing are some of the functions which will change team functionality and make for a much more dynamic workforce.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently looking at modernising our systems, so we will be looking into procuring a new digital patient record, and looking at expanding our data warehouse and business analytics capability as well. We are heavily research based as an organisation so it is really important that we can give our researchers those tools, that cutting-edge kit and the storage space that they need to keep doing that research.

What EPR system do you currently use?

Ours is currently an in-house system so a team of developers, who are incredible talented people, built it over 20 years ago. Up until recently it was considered cutting edge; highly paperless, well developed and bespoke and our clinicians really like it. We are currently working on the procurement of a new digital health record for our patients, and will be piloting a patient portal in one of our specialties.

At West Hertfordshire, what was your key achievement there?

It was a very different environment in an acute trust; funding challenges with the organisation being in CQC special measures for a period of time, and harder to access funds compared to my current role. So, from a successes point of view, probably more around being able to be really creative with what funds you have to then being able to build really successful cases from going out there and securing external funding. It’s a great organisation with a talented team.

How would someone start a career in health tech?

You can catch people at the school and university end, and there are some great people doing work with graduates through the graduate scheme, but I’m not sure if we are talking to students early enough in schools and colleges about the different types of careers in digital, not just coding or interfacing but we do not sit GCSE level students down and ask them ‘do you want to be a CIO, or even I suspect, ‘do you know what a CIO is?’