How Covid-19 has accelerated the NHS’ digital agenda

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As lockdown is starting to ease and public sector organisations now gearing up for the return back to “normal”, what innovations and changes to culture can be taken away to enable the public sector to innovate and operate better and faster? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused public sector bodies to react in a radically positive way, having to provide solutions to problems at an unprecedented scale to ensure the safety of citizens but also to enable BAU 2.0 during lockdown.  

While leaders across the public sector remain focused on the immediate COVID-19 threat, they should be increasingly mindful of its longer-term implications – and for some, the crisis could be an opportunity for real innovation by using this time to drive digital agenda at pace.  

 

Emerging Trends  

In my role as a Public Sector Account Manager at ANS, I spend an awful lot of time speaking to healthcare organisations to help them develop their public cloud, application development and data capabilities to enable them to provide better outcomes for their patients and staff. In this blog, I want to draw on some of the trends and innovations I’ve seen over the past few weeks as well as providing my opinion on whether these changes may be here to stay.  

 

Remote working, is the office a thing of the past? 

If you ask me – yes! The speed at which some organisations have implemented their business continuity plans, enabling sometimes thousands of people from a variety of different departments to work from home, has been incredible. 

Its not just me whos noticed this change to mentality and the benefits it brings, it’s also started to drive behaviour in both the public and private sectors. 

 

Barclays Bank CEO Jes Stately 

Staley said in a press conference in April that “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building” could be consigned to history and that, as employers adjust to the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, there will be more remote and dispersed working”. 

He added that the fact that around 70,000 Barclays staff were now working remotely showed that it was possible to keep even a complex organisation such as a bank running smoothly, despite not being in the same office. 

Leicestershire Health Informatics Service- Ciaron Hoye  

Ciaron and his team had been working on VDI solutions to enable clinical staff to access EPR Systems to be able to do their work from home. Cioran stated, 

The requirement to enable public and professionals alike has given rise to considerations of mobility and remote access. These are manifesting in technology jumps such as desktop virtualisation. Major periods of upheaval through history have seen significant iterations in our approaches, World War I gave us flight, World War II gave us NATO. Perhaps the legacy of COVID-19 is data/digitally driven health. 

From these, my viewpoint is that remote working will be a legacy of COVID-19 with most public sector bodies and commercial organisations reassessing their current remote policy and enabling the workforce to work from home more regularly, if not permanently where applicable. 

 

Data & Digitally driven health care 

My own experience of working with NHSEI on their data strategy is that the motions are already in place when it comes to one version of the truth for patient data. With the emergence of the pandemic, the steps the NHS & Local government have made in regards to how they use data has been incredible. 

One of my key contacts working at NHSEI has stated that more has been done in the last 4 months than what has been done in ten years when it comes to innovations utilising data we don’t have to look far for examples of this: 

 

NHS contact tracing application 

The NHS Contact tracing application is a great example of the use of patient data to gain an understanding of a current trend and then to use this information to better inform and protect the public. 

It could pinpoint exactly who needs to be in quarantine and who doesn’t, making it key to easing up social distancing measures. The purpose of the contact-tracing app is to try and track down people and alert them of the need to self-isolate faster than traditional methods. 

The scale at which this has been rolled out is immense and my thoughts are that this applicatioand the underlying infrastructure is paving the foundations for a more digitally enabled NHS that is moving away from its heritage of on-premise infrastructure into the forefront of digital health care.  

We’ve already seen some NHS Trusts rolling out similar solutions internally, to monitor whether staff are well and working, self-isolating or on annual leave and help management identify areas where more doctors and nurses are needed enabling them to address staffing issues fast. Take a look at it here.  

 

Bury Council Triage application 

We’ve also been working with Bury Council to build a mobile-friendly application using the Microsoft Power Platform, which works by pulling together data on individuals who are considered to be vulnerable, from a range of sources and formats, along with a request service. 

Vulnerable individuals can contact the council’s contact centre where they will be asked some basic questions about what they need, along with details such as any underlying medical conditions and if they have been contacted by the NHS. The answers to which are fed into a triage process then sent to a volunteer hub manager who allocates a person to pick up the task. 

Councillor Sharon Briggs commented: 

“This project is an excellent example of partnership working in the community during these challenging times. This technology will streamline communication channels and ensure the people in need of support will be top priority. It will support volunteers at the front end of delivery to have improved communication links, maximising their valuable time and goodwill to further aid the quality of service they are giving.” 

Take a look at how the app works here.  

 

The COVID-19 outbreak shows that in times of crisis, the public sector as a whole has pulled together to create an innovative solution to an issue and has streamlined its technology to accommodate for it. In my opinion I feel that this crisis has been a kick starter for innovation across the public sector and is here to stay! 

 By Stefan Pilipovic, Public Sector Account Manager at ANS.

 

We’ve built an application on the Power Platform that enables frontline healthcare staff to quickly determine current PPE stock levels, log supply shortages and issues and request help from a local council. To see the app in action, watch the demo below.