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NHS Digital picks up pace on paperless healthcare

NHS Digital’s director of digital transformation, Beverley Bryant, says the organisation needs to demonstrate pace and agility and highlights plans for improving interoperability, standards and collaboration with suppliers

NHS Digital needs to be more innovative and customer focused to achieve a paperless 2020, according to its director of digital transformation, Beverley Bryant.

Speaking at UK e-health week in London, Bryant said the organisation, which has often been criticised for moving at too slow a pace, is picking up speed and changing.

“We’ve been given the responsibility to deliver a paperless 2020 so we have to become a modern IT organisation that demonstrates pace and agility,” she said.

Bryant added that although some things could be done better and quicker, the organisation is changing to become more focused on users and is ensuring the right building blocks are in place. 

“Alright, there could be more money, we could get the money out quicker, and it wouldn’t be NHS IT if we didn’t have the odd controversial policy flying around; and let’s be honest, if we didn’t have the odd controversial policy we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. But we’re doing this now – we’re not just talking about it. There’s no toxic legacy, there’s no wilderness, we’re not instructing and planning, and we’re delivering,” she said.

“The pace and the momentum we now have on health IT cannot be slowed and cannot be halted. We’re off the blocks, and locally and nationally we’re going to drive this through until we have a joined-up, modern health and care system that our patients and our citizens deserve.”

Working closely with suppliers

This includes collaborating with industry. In November 2016, Bryant called on suppliers to raise their game and make software more usable and interoperable.

Yesterday (3 May 2017), Bryant launched a strategic partnership with trade body TechUK to help transform the way suppliers engage with NHS Digital.

The partnership will aim to ensure that industry can begin to gear up for all the potential opportunities and inform our strategy, and we’re going to continue to work closely with suppliers,” said Bryant. 

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“NHS Digital needs to be excellent at everything it does, but where other people are the experts, we need to work with them and recognise that we don’t need to do everything, because there are partners in the ecosystem who can support and do it.” 

NHS Digital is also joining forces with the Telecare Services Association (TSA), an organisation representing around 350 organisations which deliver or support technology-enabled care services, working to form a leadership programme. 

“We don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the best ideas come out of these small organisations, so together we’re going to use the national platform of NHS Digital to find these ideas and create thought leadership programmes to help us think about what the technologies of tomorrow need to be,” said Bryant.

Joining up health and social care 

One of the key goals of the paperless 2020 agenda is to join up health and social care, ensuring that clinicians in both sectors have access to a single patient record at the point of care.

NHS Digital is also working with research organisation KLAS Research and TechUK on a survey covering interoperability across health and social care that will launch in the next few weeks.

“It will pull together knowledge about interoperability from across the NHS and social care to act as a baseline against which we can monitor future progress, actually asking health and care users how they feel about interoperability, both in terms of national systems and proprietary third party systems,” she said. “It will allow the providers to really understand the performance and capabilities of the suppliers in the UK.” 

Bryant added that it wasn’t about the centre “dreaming up” systems and deciding what would work for social and healthcare workers, but rather figuring out what works and what frontline workers need. 

Another survey, recently completed by NHS Digital to try to improve the organisation’s understanding of the sector, found that more than half of social workers experienced difficulties using the technology. 

“Sometimes we put technology in their hands that just isn’t useful, and then we wonder why they stick with paper and whiteboards. We just have to keep that usability central and developing,” said Bryant. 

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