Health Tech Trends 2022: what do you and your organisation need to support digitisation?

So far in our Health Tech Trends series we have explored our survey respondents’ thoughts on the biggest challenges facing digital transformation, and what success in digital transformation for integrated care systems looks like.

Next, we will examine what our health and care leaders have to say about the areas in their organisations that need the most work to achieve digital success, and the main factor that they believe would support digital transformation, in or out of their own organisation.

It’s clear from the survey responses that there is wide agreement for one particular area: infrastructure. 42 percent of respondents highlighted their current facilities and/or technology is a factor that would benefit from improvement; with some respondents identifying that the implementation of an electronic patient record (EPR) would significantly help their organisations achieve efficient digital transformation. In primary care, an operations manager of a Primary Care Network commented that improved “networking speeds and reliability” would help them, whilst better “processes and workflows” were the most important areas for a manager of a GP practice.

“For us, as we can imagine it is for many, [the area that needs the most work] is Cloud services,” said the managing director of a software company, adding that “seamless, bidirectional flow of data'” is “essential to the delivery of modern healthcare services”.

As well as infrastructure, access to the necessary technology within it was a key point; a digital lead nurse commented on a need for “devices to enable bedside documentation and live data entry”, whilst the system configuration lead for another trust said that on a wider level, “availability of digital devices” needs to be bettered.

Several respondents identified integration as an area that needs more work. A healthcare innovations organisation spoke of the need for “integration into multiple NHS systems”; a health access manager said that “standardisation and interoperability” are key for their organisation.

Another area in which a need was highlighted was for training of staff. A lead pharmacist for an NHS trust shared their view that digital competence among NHS staff needs to improve, commenting that staff can sometimes believe that they are digitally capable because they use social media in their personal life, but this does not mean they are aware of GDPR regulations and how to comply with them. General training such as Word document formatting would be beneficial, the respondent added, noting that sometimes “forms are barely usable due to inexpert construction”.

Along with training, views/attitudes of staff were brought up in survey responses; with culture raised as a major factor in both of the previous Health Tech Trends features. Asked what area needs most work, a respondent for NHS England and Improvement simply said, “People”. An NHS consultant clinical psychologist agreed that “encouraging and galvanising staff to engage more comfortably with things digital” would help achieve digital success. The managing director of a mental health support platform concurred, stating, “The area that needs constant attention is digital culture”, adding that it’s vital to “be aware of the rapid rate of clinical change around us, adopting the good bits and excluding those elements that place the care imperative at risk.”

Marketing warranted a mention; “we need to become more forceful in how we market digital transformation,” commented the CEO of a healthcare organisation working with artificial intelligence, suggesting that improving awareness and acceptance through improved communications could be beneficial to organisations.

Finally, the survey highlighted leadership as an area of focus: “Until they understand the basics of data and database systems, we struggle”, with another respondent adding: “They can envisage a direct replacement of paper by electronic paper but fail to understand what is possible once you understand how data acts.”

That leads us on to the next set of answers. HTN asked,  if you could ask for anything to support digital transformation, from your perspective, what would it be?

30.7 percent of respondents raised a need for resources, with answers equally split between a need for time and a need for funding. “Investment in digital and the redesign of the healthcare workplace,” is needed, whilst a respondent from a Northern Ireland trust stated that time is the key factor: “time provided for all clinical staff with job plans to be involved in digital transformation.”

Leadership came up again, with respondents choosing it as the one thing that they believe would help the most. A director of a healthcare organisation emphasised how important it is to have a leader who understands the need for digital transformation and champions it thoroughly: “leadership that sets the scene, explains the reasons why, sets the aspiration, reinforces the need, engages the team, reinforces the need, provides energy, helps people to overcome the barriers, reinforces the need and then reinforces the need again.”

Another respondent chose “experts who can change the culture of a hospital to one that fits this digital vision”.  The head of business for a company dedicated to providing personal assistant services for healthcare practitioners agreed that changing the way the hospitals work is key, opting for “uniformity and collaboration between NHS trusts” as their most-needed change.

Respondents came back to the issue of training, highlighting the need to provide the appropriate training to all staff, regardless of perceived existing competence: “‘Computer literate’ needs to include proper understanding of how data, GDPR, document formatting and computers themselves work”, said another NHS digital lead.

“[We need] more therapists seeking to be trained on digital delivery so that they can ask the right questions of the platforms and IT systems they use, so they can properly undertake digital duty of care alongside their patient duty of care,” agreed the managing director of the online mental health support platform. “I’d like to see every industry body in this sector to require training for online delivery before qualifying or endorsing a therapist of any type.”

To explore the HTN trends series further, please click here.