Paul Rice: The role of Local Digital Roadmaps and the Digital Maturity Index

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  • Posted:Wednesday 24 June 2015

Paul Rice, Head of Technology Strategy at NHS England, speaks at the 2015 Digital Health and Care Congress at The King's Fund. Paul discusses implementing the effective use of digital technology, not just in pockets, but across the whole health and care system.


The focus of the work stream that I’ve been involved in is very much around giving care professionals access to the data they need. One of the most inefficient things we have is health and care professionals having to make imperfect decisions with partial information, having to create in their mind, with fragments of the total picture, a judgement as to what to do next as far as treatment and care is concerned. But fundamentally there are five or six areas which the work stream that I have led on have identified as critical.

The inter-operability challenge was made, digital maturity I said I was going to focus on, and the local digital road maps. Clearly there has to be work done as well to align the levers and incentives around this agenda, and the last element from our perspective is developing digital capability.

I’m going to focus on the digital maturity. The by-line there is a baseline and benchmarking tool to ensure progress and highlight best practice, and we don’t universally know where we’re starting from in this context. There is a real issue about the extent to which our system currently has got pockets of excellence but not necessarily that excellence written enterprise wide across provider organisations.

In terms of care settings they increasingly need to be fit for purpose in terms of using these digital technologies and these digital capabilities. What we sort of have at the moment is a handle on what people have bought. This idea of install capability, you know the tech that you’ve got the licence for or you’ve got installed in your organisation.

Too often we know that that technology is championed by a small number of clinicians or professionals in some parts of the business and isn’t actually being used enterprise wide. Our people are making deliberate decisions about starting with a pocket of those who are interested, for example in enabling clinical decision support, but are anxious about taking that conversation with the clinical leaders and their organisation across the whole organisation. So fundamentally we want to prompt people to say it’s not just having the stuff it’s actually effectively using it.

We need to be able to give organisations an ability to measure where they’re starting from because we simply cannot move at the pace we want to in relation to new models of care if information continues to be trapped in the silos of individual organisations. So we’ve been at the design stage in relation to this work for the last couple of months.

We’ve worked in partnership with UCLP and a number of the other academic health science networks, and have road tested this resource out with the NHS and social care, and my view would be that you’ll be interested in it because you probably don’t know ostensibly where you’re starting from, but you should be really keen to understand and have some wider benchmark your progress on this agenda against that of your peers.

You might want to make some decisions about resource prioritisation because we will not be able to afford all of this stuff simultaneously, and you’ll want to align that with your planning ambitions. We want to create and ensure that there’s an ability for people to learn from others. We know somewhere in the country at the moment there are people actually and actively optimising some of the resources that they’ve got and some of the capabilities that they’ve got, and there are other places which just haven’t quite managed it.

And again this whole idea is to place this in a cycle of continuous improvement, so at local organisations, local health and care economies understand and how they can thrive in this context. Why is this of interest from a perspective of the centre, a national perspective? It’s because, you know, there are and will be priorities around funding going forward, there are and will be strategic priorities around investment and delivery. 

There’s something about ‘what can the technology do for you?’ And we’ve used this idea of digital capabilities and homed in on that. We also recognise that there’s something about the readiness in organisations and health and care systems to make the full use and benefit of this, so we’re talking about organisations asking themselves some key questions around ‘are they best organised with their partners to maximise the benefit of this?’ 

We’ve broken this down into a number of key capabilities. Capabilities around record assessment and support plans, decision support, transfers of care orders and communications. Can you do those effectively in your own organisation, and do you have the utility to share that information across your local health and care system? Are you making progress in terms of remote and assistive care? Are you ensuring that you’re using some of the tools and resources that digital offers you to maximise the assets and resources in your organisation? GS1, bar codes, RFID, Intelligent Scheduling etc etc. And have you begun to find your way forward to actually, in that organisation, in that health care economy, release some of the potential that citizens have to be active in the management and delivery of their own care?

That’s the design stage, we’re just about to complete that. The assessment model will roll out over the next number of months. Extensively it’s about giving people an opportunity, CCGs, Health & Wellbeing Boards, to conduct sensible conversations locally to get started, but ultimately to say this is about producing back to the NHS something of relevance and meaningful to NHS and social care about where people are starting from on this progression towards being digitally mature.

I hope that was useful and thank you for your attention.


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