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5 ways to drive digital transformation across the NHS – ensuring improvement in patient outcomes



Digital transformation is a key element in transforming healthcare. Particularly where it can generate efficiencies and improved health outcomes. How can industry be true partners within the local NHS? What should we prioritise to ensure this is done in a meaningful way that demonstrably improves the health and wellbeing of all parts of society?


Looking in particular at some of the key aspects of government policy in “A plan for digital health and social care” published in June 2022 makes interesting reading and was a key component of our latest roundtable event focused on digital transformation.


We were joined by Emma Doyle, Deputy Director / Head of Strategy, NHS England. Emma has worked across heath tech and data for over 20 years in analytical roles in regulation, leading business intelligence of a local purchaser of health services, as product owner for nhs.uk and in policy and strategy roles for NHS England and Improvement.


With attendees across pharma, health technology, and NHS services the discussion was lively and there were five key outputs generated, all worthy of further discussion and focus.


1. Sharing what works

  • There was a question mark around how good practice is being shared across the UK. What is the best way to share this information?

  • NHS Futures may not be the ideal solution for sharing best practice. Is there a way it could be used more effectively?

  • Although tough to solve, clearly there is a need for best practice to be shared in a better way – who’s role is it to do this? How can digital transformation be scaled without a straightforward way to share?

2. “Procurement blocking” - reality or myth?

  • There was a feeling from many tech suppliers that they are persistently being “blocked” when trying to contact key people within the NHS and ICSs to share their digital solutions.

  • Of course, there are hundreds of email contacts from start ups chasing NHS managers every day attempting to sell their services and solutions. This is clearly challenging to manage.

  • However to be successful, there is a requirement for companies to cut through the noise and get the attention of managers. One route suggested was that there is an appetite in the NHS for quality solutions that improve patient outcomes. And of course, clearing waiting lists is clearly top of the priority list.

3. Digital maturity

  • When suppliers focus on ICSs, knowing how evolved – or digitally mature an NHS organisation is, is an essential component.

  • There was a feeling that the NHS has not invested enough in skills and knowledge in the NHS workforce – is there enough knowledge within the system to effectively select and manage digital programmes?

  • The NHS should soon be launching digital maturity assessments across ICSs - dates to be confirmed – this will support digital transformation.

4. Measures of success – are we talking the same language?

  • The key point here was around ensuring that you are aligned. There is little point forcing your proposition into the health service that is not aligned with their objective.

  • This has to be based on improving patient outcomes and care, as well as assessing the impact on budgets. Can it replace something as opposed to be additive to budget and resource?

5. How can industry work with the NHS?

  • It is important to have conversations with ICBs and decision makers, especially around navigating procurement complexities. Companies should be aware of decision maker priorities and pay attention to the time of year (e.g., when funding is available).

  • There was much discussion around the benefits of tapping into groups that can facilitate these conversations – The Digital Healthcare Council can support on this and is a valued body that supports the health tech sector.

Governmental changes in leadership and priorities have not helped the digital transformation development over the past few years. Let’s hope this stabilises until the next election.

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ZPB’s aim has always been to increase collaboration, accelerate innovation and transform healthcare. We do not believe any one sector or industry can do this alone, which is why we work across the three key pillars of healthcare services, technology, and life sciences. We look for unifiers across these sectors: areas of collaboration, shared goals, and mutual gains. ZPB run the directorate for the Digital Healthcare Council. If you would like to hear more about the council and how it could support you and your digital solutions being adopted across the NHS, please get in touch. We would be keen to talk to you. Contact Carwyn.Jones@zpb-associates.com


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