NHSX seeks evolution of digital transformation capabilities

New approaches and team structures could be tested as a result of learnings from the work around Covid-19

NHSX, the digital unit of the NHS, is working on a design research project to understand how its recent experiences around the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak might support the delivery of digital transformation demands presented by future health crises.

NHSX’s digital transformation team of 30 in-house staff and contractors had to scale quickly during the pandemic to develop the function, which focuses on understanding user needs, as well as building capacity and assuring digital spend in public healthcare.

To respond to the various digital needs arising from the Covid-19 crisis, work carried out by the team includes rapid design research to improve products and services. As well as initiatives relating to data and apps, ongoing initiatives are focused on calls that include clinical work on matters such as antibody testing, as well as projects around connectivity and devices for vulnerable and isolated citizens.

The evaluation project of NHSX’s digital transformation capability as a service aims to learn what went well, what didn’t and why, when it comes to work focused on tackling the pandemic. The initiative is also intended as a detailed investigation into the needs of key NHSX stakeholders, such as senior leaders.

Outcomes include establishing whether assurance processes need to change in order to support new models and define “a collective goal for the digital transformation profession”.

In a blog post explaining why the process is being carried out, NHSX’s senior user researcher, Sophie Rankin, said it is a key element to learning and improving the process of the organisation, so that end-users in the health system can get better results from the work delivered by the digital unit. “It’s important we design services that respond to user needs in a way that is rapid, iterative, and follows best practice,” said Rankin.

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Questions that are being asked as part of the research include investigating the ways in which NHSX can develop and drive uptake of technology that is still valid and compliant, as well as the main challenges and frustrations faced during the Covid-19 outbreak, and new roles and approaches that may be needed in order to “work with ambiguity” and “identify opportunities when there is no service owner”.

The process will involve three stages, which will entail in-depth interviews, experience mapping, workshops, and anonymous surveys with senior leaders, the digital transformation team itself and project stakeholders in NHSX. Insight from sources such as community meetings, and the outcomes of key projects, will also be considered.

NHSX said the insights will be used to identify new opportunities that can be taken forward in small teams, and testing of new approaches and team structures is expected as a result of the exercise. “This activity will help to reflect on learnings, celebrate success, and give us more empathy for each other and our wider stakeholders,” said Rankin.

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