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Mid and South Essex digital action plan to deliver “excellent, connected care through being a digital-first organisation”

Having updated its digital strategy following feedback from its Digital and Data forum, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust has published a “Digital strategy – in to Action” plan. It brings together its digital strategy and plans for an EPR, which form a major part of the strategy.

The plan sets out four 3-year digital priorities: strong digital foundations, supporting staff, empowering residents, and integrating as an ICS. Across these priorities, the trust highlights the importance of bringing in new solutions to address urgent challenges, providing digital upskilling to its staff, using digital to improve equity of access for residents, and supporting improved integration and data sharing across the ICS.

“The way forward to develop an EPR” is now clearer the trust states, adding the importance of implementing an EPR in order to deliver on each of the pillars of its digital strategy, including meeting NHSE’s minimum digital foundations, overcoming day-to-day staff frustrations, giving patients more options to self-serve, and improving opportunities for ICS interoperability. To enhance communications within the EPR programme, the strategy proposes activities such as informative snippets being included on the central trust communications sites and intranet, the targeted release of “hype videos” to spark excitement and awareness, and the use of digital champions and super users to drive and support teams.

On governance, the plan sets out a proposed governance and prioritisation structure, providing a “single route for all digital initiatives to be evaluated, agreed and managed to deliver value to staff, patients and the organisation”. At its centre is the Digital Design Office (DDO), which will work on coordinating support to help introduce new ideas and innovation, facilitating the project request process, and linking to the wider Trust transformation team.

The DDO will also support programme delivery, establishing a consistent approach to digital programme management which will cover methodologies, training and tools. Developing and producing a reporting mechanism to monitor programme value across digital implementations will be another key facet of the office’s duties. As part of this, planned actions include sharing best practice, facilitating discussion for ideas to be reviewed, working closely with businesses to develop user centric design principles, and engaging with the digital clinical advisory group to promote feedback and communication on the needs of clinicians.

Taking action on digital priorities

The plan sets out specific actions to be taken in line with each of the areas of digital priority, noting priority areas to act now, and act quickly on.

On strong digital foundations, immediate actions are modernising software and operating systems to reduce failures, the rolling-out of a data quality framework to provide more personalised care, the development of ACP to reduce the number of systems clinicians need to access to view patient records, and the implementation of cyber security review recommendations to reduce cyber risk. Actions to be taken within the next year are replacing Wifi, conducting a gap analysis, standardising data across sites, producing a system map aligned with EPR implementation, and procurement of an EPR.

Under supporting staff, immediate actions are developing a bring your own devices policy, reducing the number of separate legacy domains to improve cross-site working and reduce logins, conducting a baseline review of staff digital literacy, and creating an outpatient programme to be rolled out across sixteen specialties. Actions to be taken within the next year include developing a digital upskilling curriculum to improve and assess staff digital competency, using new unified communications to improve collaboration between teams, and putting in place a “feedback loop” when implementing new technologies to ensure they are driven by clinical change.

On empowering residents, the plan sets out immediate actions as scoping, developing, and procuring a digital front door solution to enhance patient access, improving the availability and quality of virtual consultations, and providing a patient portal to help patients retrieve information, letters, test results, and more. Over the next year, actions to be taken are exploring options for digital self-service solutions and remote monitoring tools ahead of procurement.

Finally, on integrating as an ICS, actions to be taken immediately include the delivery of a shared care record, the provision of a digital solution for real-time data sharing enabling digital handovers across sites, establishing a digital infrastructure to support integrated pathways, and sharing specialised technology and skills throughout the ICS through skills and knowledge forums. In the next year, the plan outlines actions to be taken as collaborating with ICS colleagues on sharing services, technology and skills across the ICS.

Whilst the majority of these projects will be the trust’s responsibility, some aspects will be jointly or ICS governed. Those to be jointly governed include the implementation of an EPR, the sharing of technology and skills across the ICS, and the provision of a digital solution to link clinicians with primary and social care colleagues to support knowledge sharing and digital handovers. To be ICS governed are the patient portal, digital infrastructure, and shared care record.

Over the summer, we spoke with the trust’s director of strategy and innovation, Preeti Sud, on her insights on change management and digital strategy.