Feature Content, Interview

Feature: Civica moving to the cloud

It’s been an eventful year for Civica who, as well as moving many of their software solutions to the cloud, have also hit the headlines for new partnerships with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust – which chose the company’s Cito cloud software for integration with its Electronic Health Record (EHR) – and Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, who signed a  £10 million EPR deal.

With that in mind, HTN got in touch with Paul Sanders, Civica’s Clinical Systems Managing Director, to discuss how the year has been so far, what else is in the pipeline, their innovation lab, understand the market challenges and to find out more about their transition towards the cloud.

First, we ask Paul to summarise Civica’s journey to the cloud so far…

“We focus on four areas – clinical, workforce, financial and care, which are aligned to the quadruple aims of healthcare. What’s really exciting is we are specialists in each of those areas and we’re starting to bring those capabilities together.

“We’ve got a significant number of our products already available via the cloud and some are on that journey. Cito is one product that we see the market needs changing from an on-site to a cloud-first solution – that’s what we’ve been investing in over the last six to nine months.  The need for more secure and scalable solutions, those that are quicker to deploy and with a lower cost of ownership. We’re about to make Cito available in the Public Cloud to our clients in the next three to four months.

“I think it’s really exciting. Some of it resonates with the COVID challenges. Cloud solutions provide a secure and scalable foundation where solutions can be rolled up or down as per needs; it gives that assurance of service because you’re not reliant on your own infrastructure. It’s more accessible, with enhanced safety and security, faster, and fundamentally, it has a lower cost of ownership – it allows organisations to focus on their core areas of patient care and less on delivering systems and maintaining infrastructure. It’s an immediate gain.

“It then means we can start utilising the cloud micro-services available, be it chatbots, artificial intelligence, machine learning and access to converting data into speech. It’s been talked about data being the new oil and we can really start unlocking the value of that data with access to the cloud.

“We process over 150 million clinical case notes a year, and we hold millions of case notes in our applications. But actually, the cloud allows us to do some really smart analysis and innovation, rapidly and cheaply, to unlock the data for clinical uses.”

Cloud thinking from Innovation Labs

Civica’s NorthStar Innovation Lab is a space where the company and its customers accelerate cloud ideas and bring industry, NHS and academia experts together to rapidly prototype and create proof of concepts around great ideas.

Paul added: “By having those products already available in the cloud, enhanced now with an innovation lab, it is proving to be a great way to bring ideas to reality. Our job is to take these generic tools like chatbots and robotic process automation and machine learning – and bridge the gap to be domain specific so it can be brought to life for staff and patients.”

Clinical collaboration for Guy’s and St Thomas’

Civica recently signed a £3 million, 10-year contract with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to deliver its cloud Cito enterprise document and content management system (EDCM). The project is part of the trust’s wider Apollo EHR digital transformation programme, which is centred around Epic’s suite of healthcare products.

Cito will support the trust in its paperless and digital strategy and, once fully implemented with Epic, it will be one of the health sector’s largest cloud EDCM deployments. It’s scheduled to go-live in April 2023 and will provide a real-time, single view of patient electronic documents, which will be unified and structured into a customisable electronic health record, thereby helping to reduce reliance on paper case notes.

Robyn Tolley, Apollo Programme Director at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS FT, said of the news: “Guy’s and St Thomas’ is pleased and excited to have procured Civica as a key partner and supplier of digital content services to the Apollo programme and the trust as a whole.”

Civica added: “Combined with Epic, Cito will support the provision of effective clinical pathways with assured decisions and operational efficiencies, helping to deliver high-quality care at Guy’s and St Thomas’. We’re delighted to be playing a key role in the trust’s digital transformation programme with Epic, providing the software and high-quality data to help improve patient care for all in the future.”

Cloud-based EPR

Earlier this year, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust also signed a new eight-year, £10 million deal with Civica. The trust is to implement the company’s cloud-based  EPR and case management functionality, clinical information system and prescribing solution. The software will be managed by Civica in UK data centres, and includes monitoring, risk management and support.

Grace Birch, Associate Director of Information Management and Technology, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust, commented: “Over the past year, we’ve seen increased demand for our services as the UK’s mental health demands becomes ever more acute. This, combined with the availability of new technologies, saw us review our existing digital capabilities. Continuing our Civica partnership will enable us to improve care pathways and future-proof the trust.”

Over the course of the contract, the trust will adopt a new digital portal to provide healthcare workers with a holistic view of information while working remotely. The trust is also exploring the introduction of a patient-facing portal.

“13 years of analysis in under two hours”

Paul also provided HTN with a case study of one of Civica’s solutions in action – a product launched earlier this year, called Aurum – which he described as a “cloud-based module to our Population Health Intelligence financial platform, using machine learning to analyse our costing data”.

During a pilot of six trusts, Aurum, he said, had allowed them to complete “13 years of analysis in under two hours” and highlight “£40 million worth of savings to those trusts involved.”

“All of that data has been sat in those systems for years,” Paul explained, “and it is the cloud capability and machine learning that means you can process that so quickly – finding a needle in a haystack and highlighting those opportunities.”

Further examples over the past 12 months include an NHS recruitment platform adapted for video consultations. Civica also developed a Team Connect App for healthcare providers in Northern Ireland, a COVID-19 app which they created in just 10 days. It helped trusts to communicate key information to their staff in real-time, during a period when situations where constantly in flux.

Downloaded by around 20,000 people, the app illustrates the level of flexibility and adaptation that Civica offered customers during the pandemic.

“Sometimes it can be the smaller things that make a big difference – a tweak to existing software, or giving customers space when they’re busy,” said Paul.

“We’ve got over 200 NHS customers across the spectrum and hopefully we’ve supported them all to do their fantastic work.”

“Macro pressure points in health have been there for some time”

But what does the near-future hold for the health tech industry? Paul expects, “from a market perspective,” a continuing need to offer “more efficient digital solutions, remove paper from organisations, have tools that enable sharing and collaboration, and greater access to information in a safe and secure way.”

“They’re not necessarily new themes,” he explained, adding that “the macro pressure points in health have been there for some time”, but that COVID “has accentuated those and highlighted developments can be made quicker and more dynamically.”

Moving services to cloud-first, thereby making them more secure and accessible and providing scope for the addition of more innovative tools, Paul concluded, will be crucial over the next few years in speeding up that advancement and meeting market needs.

To find out more about Civica’s product suites, visit Health and Care at Civica.