Content, Health Tech Trends

Health Tech Trends Series 2021 part two: health tech professionals share their learnings

Part two of our latest Health Tech Trends Series, sponsored by InterSystems, asks the audience about their experiences and learnings as health tech professionals. We put out a call for experts to answer six questions in total and received a number of thought-provoking responses.

In part one, we posed questions to our readers on their priorities for the next six months, as well as the biggest challenges their organisations are facing and what has helped them the most.

Here, in part two, we share the submitted answers to the final three questions on what’s most needed to support projects and organisations, which areas of digital transformation require the most work, and also ask respondents to share their stand-out learnings from the year so far.

Below are a selection of the responses we received from top profs working across a range of roles, companies, NHS trusts and other healthcare settings..

One thing that’s needed the most

If health tech professionals could have one thing, what would it be? We asked some of our readers to tell us that, if they could choose anything to help them further in their jobs and organisations, what would that ideal scenario look like. The answers were rather mixed but revealing overall – stretching from money to recruitment and beyond.

Grace Murray, Digital Midwife at South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Philippe Croze, Operations Manager of the Nexus Primary Care Network, both honed in on the financial aspects.

Grace explained that she thinks what’s most needed is “money – to increase the hours for digital midwife[s] and to make changes more straight forward rather than making do with old systems”, while Philippe echoed that by saying, “funding (of not only IT solutions/systems but also staff to manage, implement and be proactive in testing new pathways/processes across our practices).”

Staffing was also, understandably, an area that our respondents felt was worth their one ‘wish’. “Extra EPR staff,” was the one thing that Alix Massocchi, EPR Pharmacy Specialist at Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust, felt was most needed, and Pamela Fearns, Digital Lead Nurse Implementer at The Christie said that, “an increase in the number of clinical staff within the Digital Team (Nursing and Medical)” would be their choice.

Fran Husson, Honorary Research Officer at Imperial College London, also felt the greatest need was “staff…well trained staff who understand the benefits of digital tools and products and who are prepared to engage in continuing learning”, as Simon Stuart, Consultant Clinical Psychologist – Digital Lead at NHS Lanarkshire Psychological Services answered, “right now? A dedicated administrator.”

Aside from requiring an extra pair of hands, in a similar vein, Lisa Emery, Chief Information Officer at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, spoke of the need for “more capacity in the organisation to embrace digital programmes”, and our industry experts also highlighted the importance of people.

Kenny Bloxham, Managing Director of Healthcare Communications, said: “Digital transformation is more about people than it is about technology, and for the complete success of any digital transformation project, buy-in from internal stakeholders is crucial. A significant part of this is creating a digital culture within the organisations we work with, to secure engagement from everyone, encourage adoption and overcome any resistance to change.”

Andrew Meiner, Managing Director and Chief Commercial Officer, Silverlink Software, also commented: “It can be very hard to find the right people for the right jobs. Something that the whole health IT industry could benefit from is a centralised, comprehensive platform to house the technical talent pool in the UK. There are bright people with transferable skills across the country but it can often be very difficult to find them.”

Practical solutions were high up on the agenda, too, as Tim Bishop, Chief Information Officer of South Western Ambulance Service, expressed the need for the “join up of system[s]” and a “regional and national ‘digital’ initiative”, while Rebecca Butler, Service Manager  for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, suggested “shared record keeping with primary, secondary and urgent care, including local authorities”.

Rosemary Emmonds, Practice Manager at Stepping Stone Practice, added that if she could choose one thing it would be an “on-line [sic], quick, easy to use…self management and self referral to third party services without the need to speak to doctors…”

Which areas need the most work in terms of digital?

We then asked readers which areas of their organisations they feel need the most work in terms of digital. There were a whole host of replies here, with answers including big data / data democracy, workflow systems, getting products out the door, scanning, read-coding, document[ing] workflows, networking speeds and reliability, the people, overall digital skills, maternity, and top (board) level management’s understanding of data and database systems.

Some of the longer answers included Alix Massocchi of Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust’s view that the area most in need of work is: “Being able to maintain BAU and optimisation in a timely manner. This will come, but the focus is on rolling out solutions at the moment and I don’t want staff to feel disheartened when they suggest improvements/changes.”

Andrew Meiner of Silverlink Software also shared that, “for us, as we can imagine it is for many, [it] is Cloud services. We need to understand our route to true Cloud, so that we can fulfil our aims of providing SaaS [software as a service]. Cloud will enable seamless, bidirectional flow of data that is essential to the delivery of modern healthcare services.”

Kenny Bloxham of Healthcare Solutions added: “For us, it is about streamlining product delivery, and finding the marginal gains in terms of efficiency and service that will set us apart from our competitors.”

Other answers included those by Simon Stuart, who felt that “encouraging and galvanising staff to engage more comfortably with things digital” was key, while Pamela Fearns from The Christie pinpointed “devices to enable bedside documentation ie: live data entry.”

One learning from the past year, in terms of digital transformation, that stands out

Finally, we asked our health profs to share with us one digital transformation learning from the past year that has stood out for them. This question elicited some really thoughtful answers that covered a broad range of topics.

Lisa Emery said that her main learning from the last 12 months was “don’t over-complicate and listen to your staff and patients”, while Rebecca Butler also spoke of trust, sharing her thoughts that “we can trust and support staff to work from home to aid there [sic] work life balance, [and] reduce travel costs, including environmental costs.”

For Alix Massocchi it was that “external systems providers need to work together more to enable interoperability. The abilities to interface are often severely hampered and [it] makes life far more difficult than it needs to be.”

Simon Stuart, meanwhile, asked in return, “isn’t it amazing how a global pandemic has enabled us to make the case for getting things done?”

Some of our audience also wrote in to express feelings that the “NHS is decades behind any other modern service when it comes to tech”, that serious investment is required, and also to share frustration at how it can be that, after a deployment of a solution, “a whole plethora of new paper systems springs up and the systems gets used in a way to remove the benefits and advantages.”

Other takeaways from the year included Tim Bishop’s sentiment that “technology can do it – might take some time to set up and cost a bit [but] it works (mostly)”. Pamela Fearns, meanwhile, advised others to “ensure that you communicate effectively with the end users prior to any release/upgrade.”

Further responses focused on collaboration and interoperability. “External systems providers need to work together more to enable interoperability. The abilities to interface are often severely hampered and makes life far more difficult than it needs to be,” shared Alix Massocchi.

While, Kenny Boxham added: “Most significantly, I think we have realised the true value of collaboration and the benefit of having multi-disciplinary teams focused solely on delivering transformation. As I see it, the pandemic has served as a ‘shock doctrine’, insofar as it has allowed us to push the envelope for digital transformation across the NHS and lay the foundations for a new way of working, with patients firmly in control of their own health and wellbeing.”

Andrew Meiner of Silverlink also shared his thoughts, stating: “While it might not be the most novel answer, this past year has confirmed that necessity is the mother of invention. Before the pandemic, I think we were all allowing ourselves to be pulled in multiple directions and setting long lists of priorities. The pandemic forced us to become pragmatic, to figure out exactly what things were most important, making us work far more efficiently. As a result, digital transformation has been accelerated at such an impressive rate as it became a necessity itself. Looking forward, it’s about maintaining a similar level of pragmatism so that the wheels can keep moving forward.

Finally, Karl Redmond of Digital and Estates at NHS England and Improvement, concludes our trends report with the insight that, “as always – digital innovation is only 20 per cent of the problem – 80 per cent is the people, without people on board you will achieve nothing no matter how good your digital innovation is. Develop/secure buy-in with leadership.”

For more content from our trends series, view the dedicated channel.