Interview Series: Dr Michelle Webster, CCIO, and Shafiq Khalifa, Associate Director of IT, Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust

In the latest interview in the series, we speak with Dr Michelle Webster, CCIO, and Shafiq Khalifa, Associate Director of IT at Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust.

We talk digital programmes, digital champions, ‘I want great care’ and ‘you said we did’ projects, patient apps, learnings, and lots more.

Can you give me a brief introduction of your role and background?

Michelle: I have been with Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust (CWPT) for 20 years as a Clinical Psychologist, but in October 2021 I started my role as Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO). I was thrilled to be offered the job as there are only two or three CCIOs that I know of who are also Clinical Psychologists within the NHS.

From a trust perspective, my appointment has worked well, as they were looking for a CCIO who knew the services well and could engage with patients and staff. It has been a learning curve, and I have had to quickly learn more about the corporate and digital side of the trust and find ways of bridging the gap between corporate and clinical services.

Shafiq: I am responsible for the management of all digital strategies within the trust, and the wider Integrated Care System (ICS). I am also accountable for running the IT services within the organisation and delivering general digital solutions for staff, patients, and the NHS.

What digital projects are you currently working on at your trust?

Michelle: We have lots of exciting digital projects currently underway as part of our Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme, which we are around halfway through. We have rolled out the OxeVision and Cambio Bed Management Systems on our in-patient wards, and some of the projects we are currently working on involve a patient portal and an electronic prescribing and medicines management system.

As a digital team we have a keen interest in digital innovation and transformation. One of the big projects I am working on is to streamline our process for digital innovation and launch a ‘Digital Champions Network’, which I feel will be key to the success of our GDE programme.

Shafiq: In a wider sense, we are also taking advantage of agile working and the workforce in terms of the opportunity that lends people to work flexibly. I hope we will use some of the functionalities within Microsoft Teams going forward to improve ways of communication, but also how we conduct business going forward – there are huge opportunities in this area for the trust.

What digital projects are on the horizon?

Michelle: We launched a new intranet site back in March 2021, which has been a ‘you said, we did’ type of project, working with staff. The intranet site is where we put information out for staff to read and respond to, but eventually we do want a more interactive part of the site and have more of a collaborative community platform where people can help each other; almost like a chat room.

We are trying to foster a culture within the organisation of ‘being a digital community’ and working together, and we are trying to live our values through our digital projects.

Shafiq: We also have the Integrated Care Record (ICR), which is a key piece of work moving forwards. We will have a shared care record to support new models of care across health and social care and we are working with the ICS, and wider partners such as NHS 111 and Birmingham STP. The ICR project also has the potential to become a West Midlands Health care record.

We are also looking at using digital technology to work with our care homes and how we can provide apps access to patients in the future, in terms of providing data for us to be able to manage their long-term conditions.

Something else we are excited about is how we are going to communicate with our patients as we increasingly move into the digital age through such programmes like ‘I Want Great Care’, which is designed to look into patient experience through a website dedicated to healthcare reviews.

The ‘I want great care’ website allows a patient to search for a hospital, doctor, or clinical service which then displays reviews from other patients who give a rating based on their previous experiences. 

What learnings have you acquired from projects that you have been working on? 

Michelle: One of the key learning points has been how clinical engagement is crucial, together with having a shared purpose and vision about our digital transformation and digital health delivery.

What I’ve learnt over the past 12 months is ‘the art of the possible’ – people do get onboard if you include and involve them, especially through the launch of the Digital Champions Network, it’s amazing how many people have come forward due to a keen interest about digital ways of working.

There’s also a sense of ‘no one size fits all’ – especially for a trust that has really varied services – crucial learning over the past 12 months has been that one single system will not work for everybody, so a large part of our digital transformation moving forward is variability and flexibility.

Shafiq: There’s also an acceptance within the culture of the organisation to start increasingly using digital; prior to COVID, people who may have been hesitant about using digital solutions have started to adopt it. Although, some of the barriers against using digital have not quite disappeared but have been eroded as people have gotten more familiar with it.

COVID has also brought people closer together in terms of how they communicate and make decisions. It has enabled staff to make decisions about patient care much more quickly than before. Certainly, from a staff point of view, they are far more connected than previously. Prior to the pandemic, we had to go through several networks before we arrived at an agreement, whereas now there seems to be less resistance.

What are the negatives from the heavy rollout of digital technology over the past year?

Michelle: We have become more aware of the digital divide and we need to make sure we are mindful of digital inclusion issues, and not creating health inequalities. As a Trust we have worked hard to make sure health inequalities aren’t developing; we have been offering face-to-face where needed and there is an acceptance that not everybody has access to technology.

As a psychologist, I’ve found that working digitally has given some service users a platform to talk about issues they previously may not have felt able to do face-to-face. Such as service users where there is a long history of trauma and feelings of shame. There are clear and key advantages, but also clear and key disadvantages too.

Shafiq: Our workforce is now starting to take Generation Z staff on, and they’ve never experienced anything but digital. There is a requirement for the organisation to be adopting these modern approaches because staff now joining our workforce have never worked without digital systems of some description.

The organisation is starting to be geared up for these technologies and adopt new methods to communicate and provide care. We continue to evolve, adapt our workforce, and deliver to the digital demands at the same time. There is a huge shift towards digital, but as Michelle says, there is the inequality aspect that we need to understand; we cannot slide one way or the other too quickly.

What projects have you been most proud of over the past year?

Shafiq: If we are looking at what has really changed and had a huge impact, rolling out Microsoft Teams, connecting 4,000 staff, getting everyone trained and using it is probably one of our proudest achievements. We continue to learn new ways of communicating as that’s a result of the response to COVID.

Michelle: It’s a bit out of my scope as it was led by our Systems Team, but I wanted to mention our e-consent portal that was rolled out for the school age immunisation programme, which went live last September. Within weeks there were 30,000 parents that had registered on the e-consent portal; this was a huge collaborative piece of work between IT and Systems. We were then in the position of being able to use the e-consent portal to rollout the vaccinations programme and [it] enabled us to become a lead provider in doing that.

Shafiq: Attend Anywhere is also something we should be proud of – where clinicians and patients have really taken on this new mode of communication and patient booking. Zoom sessions for group therapy has also worked well. We are very proud of both the IT Team and Systems Team for delivering the capability to the organisation.

Michelle: The new intranet launch was also a proud moment for us; getting that up and running with everything else that was going on was impressive from the Communications and IT Teams in particular. The rollout of all the systems we have mentioned is really testament to the dedication of our staff, and all our systems have been really well received by staff and patients alike.

The coming together of services is something else we should be really proud of; if we had declared prior to COVID that we would be using video consultations widespread across all our services as quickly as we did, people would have never believed it was possible, but we managed to get it done as a team.

Shafiq: Indeed, we are very proud of all of our digital developments, but we couldn’t have done any of this without all of our staff playing their part.