Interview Series: “If you don’t digitise everybody, you still have a risk,” – Vijay Magon, CCube Solutions

HTN caught up with Vijay Magon of CCube Solutions to find out what he hopes to achieve across the rest of 2021.

Last year was a busy one for CCube – as they launched an updated cloud version of their electronic Lloyd George platform for GP practices and CCGs, as well as launching a new service delivery platform for sharing information.

Vijay took time out to tell us about the company’s biggest recent challenges, successes and what else is in the pipeline for them at the moment. The Milton Keynes-based company provides a suite of electronic document & records management products to help organisations with their digital transformations and information strategy – and have been using their technology to deliver digital healthcare for two decades.

Collectively, across all the health sector sites they work on, CCube holds in excess of 350 million documents. On a daily basis, Vijay says they have over 15,000 users accessing CCube systems across the country, but not just healthcare clients, as their haul also includes holding 150 million records for the Ministry of Defence.

“We’ve been working with the NHS for about 20 years now,” explained Vijay, “we help trusts and health boards minimise dependency on paper – we capture, store, manage and deliver electronic patient records at the point of need. Furthermore, we ensure that the digital records can be integrated with other IT systems in use in the NHS – we have not installed a single system which sits in a corner looking after patient records – these systems must be interoperable, using established data standards.”

“We work with hospitals who want to do their own scanning. We set up the scanning process for them. For those who choose to outsource, we will work with a number of scanning service providers and link with them to provide digital records within the trust,” he said.

“The digital records are managed within our system. The underlying technology is electronic document and records management – its application is what we do within the NHS,” Vijay added.

“It’s not new…it’s already been done”

Although last year saw a substantial shift by many trusts and healthcare organisations towards being paper-free or paper-lite – due to issues surrounding infection and transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic – Vijay was keen to highlight that leaving paper behind was far from a new initiative.

“If you remove the paper, so the clinician doesn’t have access to the paper, the system to replace that has got to be better. We’ve invested a lot in that and worked with a lot of trusts to remove paper completely.

“The track record of doing that goes back over 12 years – so it’s not new, it’s not something we’re talking about [now], it’s already been done,” he said.

On benefits realisation in regards to moving away from paper, he added: “Some of those trusts have been saving tens of millions over the years because of the way they’ve implemented this technology. The focus is on the application of the technology, rather than the technology – and if you do it the right way there are real, tangible savings.”

The ‘realisation’ in the public sector and the NHS about digital transformation and digitising patient information, he continued, was not new either.

“That’s been around for a few years,” Vijay stated. “If you remember back in 2013, Mr Jeremy Hunt challenged the NHS to be paperless by 2018. A number of people are still declaring future milestones for that – it hasn’t quite happened. It may not happen in its entirety for a while to come. But, certainly, less paper has become real and what we’re working towards.”

“It’s a bit like COVID, really – if you don’t vaccinate everybody you still have a risk. If you don’t digitise everybody, you still have a risk,” he added.

However, since the pandemic, Vijay believes that the awareness of digital transformation and the realisation of the need to digitise medical records has “risen sharply”.

“What’s the point of having a paper record?”, he asked, “if the clinician is forced to work from home and the patient can’t leave home. That need is still there and that need has grown.”

“A lot of minds have opened up”

Recounting what’s been happening at CCube Solutions HQ over the past year, Vijay told us that – due to the positive response of staff to remote working – they have reduced their office space by 50%.

“Working from home and providing support services to our NHS customers,” he said, “was just natural. There was no disruption in service. We were actually able to carry out full installations completely remotely.”

As well a long-term project with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS, CCube Solutions has also been working on a project for NHS England – which HTN previously reported on – and that involved setting up the CCube system for the organisation’s private cloud infrastructure.

“We set up the system for them to use and also to offer that as a service for some of the applications projects within NHS England,” he continued, “things haven’t come to a standstill, work is still going on. Technology is actually [now] a lot more cloud-friendly, a lot of minds have opened up to it and I think the NHS is a lot more receptive to cloud-based operating now than it has been.”

Quicker installation he said, was also allowing NHS organisations to start “reaping the benefits” of these products sooner.

Those benefits Vijay said, included the data being held in the UK: “We work in partnership with UK Cloud – which is a well-established provider in the UK. As the name implies, it’s based here, which means we’re not holding confidential information half-way around the world. They have got a good track record of working with the NHS, which is why we selected them as our partner. That’s the foundation.”

In terms of other more specific benefits, he added: “It means we can set up a system on a secure UK cloud with all the tick-boxes in place, in terms of governance and compliance, and make that available within two or three weeks. There is no dependency on installing any IT within the organisation, so we don’t have to have trust set ups – everything is offered as a service that they can consume and is charged based on what they consume.”

“There are immediate benefits,” he continued, “of not having lengthy installations, not having dependency on trust IT equipment and departments, and it’s a way of managing risks – they can outsource the risk to us in terms of the system and service availability.”

“We hold huge volumes of documents”

Another area of development that CCube Solutions are keen to look into is improving patient engagement. “We’ve been looking into that and we’re well underway with a piece of development on a patient-facing portal,” Vijay said. “This will allow a patient to view and manage their outpatient appointments, referrals and latest results, and communicate with teams within their health organisation to actually contribute to the delivery of the healthcare by providing data.

“In time we’re hoping this will link in with other devices for providing biometric data, as part of the information patients can provide to improve the delivery of their care. It’s early days at the moment but it’s a very exciting development that we’re well under way with. It links in very well with the work we are doing with trusts and health boards in terms of holding huge volumes of data in our systems.”

Continuing in this theme, Vijay also highlighted how he hopes the company’s solutions can help with wider issues such as unstructured data. “We hold huge volumes of documents – digital records within our system,” he explained, “that’s actually unstructured content and huge volumes of it.

“We’re now exploring emerging technology on machine learning and even AI, to see how we can use those tools to make sense out of the huge volumes of unstructured content held within our system. We’re working with other companies who’ve got good toolkits, so that’s another exciting avenue for us.”

Vijay said his team had been thinking about “the fact that care providers and patients are now geographically and physically distanced,” and working to ensure “that they can exchange information easily.”

This led to the development of their e-sharing platform, called eShare, which helps with secure document exchange – “we know when they look at it, we know when they download it, so it’s much more secure and IG compliant, to make it easier for organisations,” he said.

“From Orkney…to Cornwall”

The company is now also offering “digital records services” – not just in the NHS on hosted platforms, but outside of the NHS as well.

Vijay stated that CCube is looking towards the SME sector in particular, to help them reduce costs through a “pay for what you use” system “based on a subscription model” rather than “high, up-front capital costs” for what may be new start-ups.

Having also recently signed a contract with the British Standards Institute (BSI), CCube Solutions is working with them to achieve certification and accreditation with information governance standards, which will mean they can provide further reassurances to customers.

With more forward-thinking, CCube also plans to set up a series of webinars for customers to use for support. “We have NHS sites up and down the country – from the island of Orkney, all the way down to Cornwall,” Vijay stated. “We do invest a lot in keeping close to customers and because of the rise in online meetings, we thought it would be a good idea to arrange our own webinars. There will be set topics on what do to with the software and how-to’s, but also an online health facility for our customers – so that they can connect in a session and raise a question or an issue in real-time.”

Concluding with a discussion about the biggest hurdles facing health tech, Vijay felt prioritisation and funding were top of the list of challenges for the present and future.

“At the moment, of course, everything is focused on COVID and vaccinations and that is entirely understandable,” he said. “But we hope that this has shown up the huge gap in the country about availability of useful information at the point of need. All the problems people had can be worked around but it’s not just about money, it’s about resource and the availability of resource. By hosting the IT and making it available we hope to get rid of that issue for trusts.”