Content, Health Tech Trends

Health Tech Trends Series 2021: Oxford Health’s draft digital healthcare strategy

Our latest Health Tech Trends Series, sponsored by InterSystems, has focused on NHS trusts’ newest strategies and ideas for implementing and embedding digital technologies.

In part one, we examined Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s five-year plan for the next stage of their journey, before turning to Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust’s refreshed digital strategy, which features expectations and a vision from one year ahead up to a decade.

In the final instalment, part three of our series, we delve into Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s (OHFT) draft Digital Health and Care Strategy for 2021 – 2026. The trust provides a number of specialised services, such as Forensic Mental Health, across 160 sites and “sees and treats approximately 150,000 patients per year”. The fact that the trust has “almost 40% of the 1.2 million or so appointments delivered in patient’s own homes”,  highlights the crucial part that technology could have to play in OHFT’s development.

Setting out its digital stall, the document states that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “virtually overnight, the trust went from an organisation that used technology and systems as part of its daily business” to “health and care services that are predominately delivered via digital means.”

Acknowledging that “whilst there are still many questions about the qualitative benefits of the shift and the clinical effectiveness,” the publication says that “the quantitative benefits are pretty clear”  and lists an increase in the trust’s clinical capacity and ability to deliver activity at higher levels, a refocus of resources on priority areas and a reduction of car emissions as the main takeaways.

Meanwhile, a consultation with patients and carers in summer 2020 revealed that – of those questioned – the average score for overall satisfaction with the trust’s current digital options was 3.4 out of 5.

NHS apps, GP online services for appointment booking and repeat prescriptions, text reminders, and digital meetings/consultations, were among those cited by patients as the most useful. While, “suggested areas for digital developments” included online help and support groups, online programmes for self-management, tailored social networking platforms, digital technology supplemented with physical resources such as access to devices and laptop loans, more online educational material, and virtual group clinics.

The trust emphasises that the digital strategy “needs to be viewed as an addendum and an enabler of service rather than a strategy in its own right”, but also highlights that “given the importance that the role of digital ways of working and technology now play in our lives”, having a “comprehensive, scalable and flexible digital strategy” is “considered a key enabler to the trust achieving its stated ambitions.”

Oxford Health’s four key strategic objectives across the organisation are as follows:

  • Delivering the best possible care and health outcomes
  • Being a great place to work
  • Making the best use of resources and protecting the environment
  • Becoming a leading organisation in research and education.

Set out across four sections is how the trust aims to align its digital strategy with the trust’s wider one, an overview of where the trust is currently at with its initiatives, and suggested activities to enable the following ambitions: digital empowerment; a digital culture; research, collaboration and information; and a digital foundation.

The trust’s ‘Digital Baseline’ – or where it’s at currently – includes: a strategic review of its Electronic Health Record (EHR), a shared care record now being available in Buckinghamshire with work on the Oxfordshire shared care record continuing, and “excellent progress” in the development of the Online Business Intelligence System (TOBI) – which is providing advanced analytics and also “starting to support the intelligent automation of day to day operational data processing”.

Other areas of note include “significant progress” being made in the development of patient facing systems with the “rapid deployment” of the Microsoft Teams platform to deliver around 15,000 digital consultations per month, as well as the work towards becoming a mental health Global Digital Exemplar (GDE). One of only seven NHS trusts working towards this, the organisation says “good progress has been made on digital projects, blueprinting, and partnerships” with further work to be undertaken to complete projects such as electronic prescribing.

In the section on digital empowerment for patients and carers, themes are matched to activities and what patients, carers and family members can expect. They include the following:

  • Improved access to and choices about healthcare – a suite of online options; a Self Help and Service Portal
  • Improved experience of healthcare services – apps, wearables, home devices; tools to capture and analyse patient experience and journeys
  • Self-care and personalisation – a patient suite of apps; a clinical suite of apps; patient information
  • Personal health record – a Single Care Record; personal read/edit access
  • Tell us once – interoperability of systems; a focus on ‘Record Once, Use Many Times’ to avoid repetition.

For improving on the digital culture of the organisation, aims or themes revolve around freeing up more staff time, providing the necessary tools for work, digital leadership, data protection and sustainability and efficiency. The many activities to enable all of these include: regular, ongoing training and digital induction; cyber security training; procurement standards; clear pathways of care; intelligence automation for efficient data capture and visible digital leadership.

In the areas of research and collaboration, activities such as improving access to research software systems, academic partnerships and use of machine learning and intelligent automation are all mentioned. Oxford Health says it will “increase its capabilities to predict and/or improve early diagnosis” for conditions such as dementia, as well as use Population Health Management analytics for healthcare planning.

Key themes in its digital foundation section, meanwhile, are: IT infrastructure; data centre servers and storage; a devices refresh; Wi-Fi provision; and interoperability.

To reach its goals in these areas, the trust will: achieve higher HIMSS levels; install and commission new IT data equipment; migrate services to a new data centre; provide devices for staff that meet their needs; ensure reliable and high-speed Wi-Fi access across all sites; deliver clinical and patient portals; and “develop integration of systems to be able to share data between them, improving workflow efficiency and interoperability work with future and current suppliers” with the objective of implementing single sign-on capability.

Find a draft of Oxford Health’s digital strategy to download at

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