• Fayaz Tirmizi, Director |
4 min read

Everyone involved in healthcare delivery would agree that digital technologies and data and analytics have huge potential to create more streamlined and better targeted services, transforming the patient experience and improving outcomes. But how far have health and care services come in adopting this on the ground, and what are the challenges and learnings along the way so far?

To deepen our insights on this and discuss the emerging technologies shaping the healthcare sector, we decided to sponsor the best practice stage at this year’s Digital Health’s Rewired event. In doing so, we were able to talk with a wide range of healthcare providers and partners on the latest direction of national policy, pioneering work by local health IT teams and the new innovations making waves across health services.

From our work with healthcare clients across the spectrum, we were already familiar with the most common challenges. These also came through as clear themes in the discussions at the event, including:

  • Bridging the digital and data skills gap – Most organisations aren’t maximising their use of data and technology due to the lack of capacity and capability within their teams. When a technology investment is made, it’s essential to also invest in the skills staff need to use it for ROI to be achieved. Half of digital initiatives fail because of this reason alone.
  • User adoption – There is a challenge to ensure that products and services are designed in a way that makes the lives of doctors and nurses easier rather than more burdensome. Key here is to focus on ‘useability’ and ‘intuitive design’ to maximise adoption. It applies to digitisation programmes for new EPR systems through to BI and reporting.
  • Not reverting back – COVID was the best thing that happened to digital transformation in the NHS. But the benefits of speed of deployment, virtual back-office service delivery and clinical delivery, and evidence-based decision making will be lost if services sleepwalk back to doing things how they used to be done before. It’s essential to embed new digital ways of working and make them ‘business as usual’.

Workforce planning

Another pervasive theme in the conversation throughout the event was workforce planning. With so much pressure on services and resources, workforce planning is perhaps the biggest single challenge the NHS faces. Understanding what is required up to ten years into the future is something we should be using an evidence based approach on supported by data and analytics. Currently, there isn’t a consistent way for this to be approached nationally.

Nevertheless, progress is being made in individual Trusts and services – we heard from 10+ Trusts and systems who are using strategic workforce planning, aided by data and analytics insights, to better plan services, predict future skills requirements and plug the workforce gaps. The challenge here is to broaden this approach out to become a system-wide and even national reality.

Five key takeaways

The event was brimming with ideas and emerging trends as well as challenges. If I had to highlight just five things that stood out, they would be:

  1. Clinical Informatics is a fast-emerging discipline and clinical teams are getting more interested in it. Chief [Clinical/Nursing/Midwifery] Information Officer roles are on the rise and in demand. This could help break down barriers between ‘IT’ and ‘Ops’ teams.

  2. ‘Digital skills’ was perhaps the most used phrase across all the stalls and presentations. Unfortunately, digital skills aren’t keeping pace with the rate of technology change as yet. But the overwhelmingly positive message was that staff at all levels want to improve their digital capabilities and are ready to engage.

  3. There are excellent examples of Digital Health to be inspired by already. The national shared care record for example, as demonstrated in Wales and Northern Ireland, is a fantastic example and something which others can learn from.

  4. There are excellent examples of small and large businesses working on solving real patient challenges from virtual mental health support to connected medical devices at home and in hospital. There’s no shortage of ideas, but maybe a lack of awareness and routes to implementation.

  5. The workforce pressure on frontline midwives, community staff and diagnostic professions was palpable. When talking about strategic workforce planning, these groups in particular seemed desperate for ways of alleviating the load. Solutions are needed.

Keep moving on the journey

It was inspiring to hear about so many high-impact digital projects and programmes being implemented across health and care organisations. What’s more, hearing from NHS organisations who are leaders even when compared across sectors whether that be in attracting top IT talent, championing social mobility or leading in tech innovation was inspiring. 

Despite the NHS facing some real challenges in the short and long-term getting back to full recovery, resolving workforce challenges and integrating services better. I am optimistic we can make a big leap forward enabled by intelligently deploying digital assets, technology and data. Moving from a culture of ‘describe & act’ to ‘react & pre-empt’.

Our clients are at different stages of their data and analytics transformations. Wherever they are, we provide them with end-to-end solutions to support them through the journey.

To find out more how we can help with your analytics journey click here.