Digital transformation in healthcare

Early adoption attempts at integrated care

A health and social care system should be truly seamless so that people receive the right care and support at the right time, in the right place. Services are under intense and growing pressure due to limited funding and to succeed, radical transformation is required.

We need to embrace and develop innovative solutions and truly integrated multi-agency working so that local health and social care systems work as a whole to respond to and meet the needs of people who use health and care services. In an ever increasing older population who are most likely to suffer problems with co-ordination of care and delays in transition to services, it’s essential that we transform the way care is provided with the ultimate aim being better outcomes of care in a holistic approach.

It was about five years ago when, as the Trust Integration Lead in a hospital setting I first had an insight into what we now commonly refer as Integrated Care.

The Nuffield Trust published a report back in June 2011, defining what I think is still relevant today:

‘Integrated care’ is a term that reflects a concern to improve patient experience and achieve greater efficiency and value from health delivery systems. The aim is to address fragmentation in patient services, and enable better coordinated and more continuous care, frequently for an ageing population which has increasing incidence of chronic disease.

At an event that brought together large and SME organisations across public and private sector based in and around the area, I happened to meet someone from Social Care representing the Local Authority. After the introductions we discussed and shared our mutual concerns, benefits and outcomes of collaboration across the Health and Social Care. We identified a project for sharing of information with Child Protection in mind. I had also produced a feasibility study for a simple role-based user access for

  • Mental health nurses to have access to the Acute hospital system
  • Acute clinical staff to have access to primary care systems
  • Acute clinical staff to have access to social care systems

At the time it was a difficult to progress any further due to a multitude of reasons; costs, who would fund the project, buy-in from stakeholders and resource availability. The project set out to foster a better culture of information sharing across care settings thus reducing delays at the point of need and overcoming some of the obstacles to authorised access.

So what has changed and why is it now right for progress to be made in the “Integrated Digital Care” revolution?

Some of the drivers forcing change now are down to:

  • Chronic Diseases, including an increase in diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Public sector savings
  • Healthy Child Programme
  • Reducing “length of stay” and repeat visits to hospital
  • The Care Act 2014

The NHS is looking to improve quality of service, provide a better patient centric user experience by providing the “right care” at the “right time” and “right place”. We should also not forget that staff in these new integrated multi-disciplinary teams must have access to accurate real-time or near real-time information. By taking full advantage of the information revolution we can meet these targets of:

  • Ensuring clinical staff across care settings no longer have to depend on or complete paper records by 2018
  • Care records being digitised, instantaneous and interoperable by 2020

To support these aims the NHS now has an Integrated Digital Care Technology Fund, an Integrated Digital Care programme in place and data sharing projects.

Healthcare and Social Care professionals face challenges in the current working environment and would be more effective if they could:

  • make informed decisions based on better access to information about a range of services
  • avoid the need for ringing around multiple agencies to identify the right service
  • avoid keying in the same information on more than one system by staff in integrated teams
  • do away with multiple computers to access health or social care systems and reduce IT assets
  • reduce the need for completing documentation to share information across services
  • streamline associated paper processes helping to improve on time delays and quality issues

I’ve only focused on one element of the integrated care lifecycle here, but the benefits are significant.

How do you see the Integrated Digital Care revolution adoption as it gathers pace? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

How to design digital services: imagine talking to your customers face to face?

Your customers have their own personal relationships with your organisation’s products or services. So how can you design the right digital services to deliver this personalised customer experience?

Although the hype of digital talks a lot about such personalisation, it is perhaps ironic that it encourages the use of such ways of working and technology to keep customers’ and employees’ physical interactions to a minimum.

But imagine if you were actually facing one of your customers right now; what questions would you ask them directly to help you deliver a delightful, memorable customer experience? And how could you use digital to respond to their answers?  Here are some indicative examples…

How do you feel about my brand?

How much does your customer actually like your brand? What are the reasons they selected to buy from you? Do their feelings, emotions about your brand align to you own and employees’ views? Such insight can help you assess the effectiveness of your social media strategy and engagement approach – is it effectively building, managing the right kind of relationship you personally want with your customers?

What things should I know about you before I serve you?

What information should an employee intuitively, instinctively know about an individual customer before they start serving them? What things shouldn’t they know or ask about? How can an employee genuinely surprise and delight a customer every time? This is an opportunity to consider how big data and analytics could be used by your employees to better understand your customers – how can you proactively, directly respond to an individual customer’s wants and needs without being intrusive?

How can I better serve you my products or services?

What way is easiest, quickest to satisfy your customer’s requirements? How confident are they that your employees are serving them in a safe, secure way? Does your customer feel special, unique or “just another transaction”? Understanding how and why your customers want to be served can drive effective user experience design – are you making your customers feel like they are valuable to you short and long term?

What other direct questions would you like to ask your customers to help realise effective digital services?  

For more information about Digital Service Design please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

The Magpie mindset of being digital

I have an issue with the word ‘digital’. It’s innately technical. It makes you think 1s and 0s. Bits and Bytes. Computers.

The issue is that it has become to mean so much more than that. As with much of our professional lexicon, careless usage has led to the term morphing into a description of an ethos, an ideology. It defines the way we work just as much as the tools we use. And that’s a good thing. You see, my problem isn’t with the fact that ‘digital’ has been corrupted beyond its immaculate technology origins. Personally,  I’m more than happy to play fast and loose with the rules of grammar if it helps get the message across. Rather, my worry is that it’s the technological heritage that is holding back the term ‘digital’.

Too often – in my humble opinion – organisations think that becoming ‘digital’ is about the adoption of a specific technology. You know, “If we move our pre-historic CRM database onto some cloud-based, mobile-friendly platform, we’ll be digital, right?” Well – and I salute your endeavour – not quite.  That’ll get you some way towards it, but that alone probably won’t change the way you work.

And that’s the point with ‘being digital’. It is about changing the way you work. The challenge (and the opportunity) with digital is that it’s all or nothing. You can’t just tinker around the edges, replacing a bit of your technology and hoping it’ll fit in with the rest of your operational environment. Being digital is more than just ‘change management’; it’s re-invention. Being digital is not about defining new processes; it’s a fundamental rethink in the way you and your organisation approach problems.

People in digital organisations are like magpies

Magpies pick up, borrow and make use of whatever toolset, methodology or technology that is going to achieve a result. That’s not to say that they treat these tools lightly – they are often experts in each. It’s just that their digital nature makes them distinctively quick at assimilating and deploying them. And if they don’t work? Well, they move on and use something else.

This is why focusing simply on the technology side of digital can be so limiting. At the end of the day, a specific technology in a digital project may end up being disposable. Achieving the result is everything in digital not how you get there. Don’t worry about the technology. It’s the magpie mindset that’s key.

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Is your jar full yet?

If you’ve never read the “Is your jar full?” story that describes a philosophy lecture a professor delivers to his students, then do take two minutes to read it…  otherwise I may lose you.

It’s an interesting take on fitting the important things into your life but I’d like to turn it on it’s head and re-use the story for another purpose; to describe how to ensure your business transformation programme delivers value.

Let’s think of the planned jar contents as follows (MoSCoW method):

Golf balls – must have deliverables
Pebbles – should have deliverables
Sand – could have deliverables

Our vision statement being “We will fill the jar.”

The students would argue that when you can’t fit in any more golf balls the jar is full and therefore the project vision has been met.

We know this is not the case and that the reality is that it will be a combination of all three BUT when delivering any business transformation project it’s important to not lose sight of what you’re aiming to achieve. I see clients get lost in the detail and, as a colleague puts it, they “look at the bonnet, not at the road ahead”. Some start-ups are a good example of getting stuck tweaking and tailoring until they find they’ve either

a) missed their market time window
b) “perfected” a product that no-one actually needs or wants

Both can be a death knell.

If you’re not careful the same can happen within the scope of your programme.

Trying to fill the jar with sand could be an endeavour that takes you past the point of delivering your vision when all you needed to do was get to the golf ball or pebble stage.

This highlights a key stage in planning which is to determine how to measure success before, or at least early, in the programme.

Including checkpoint reviews against your success measures will mean that you’ll be clear when you’ve reached the “good enough”stage at which point any changes must be considered for the business value they deliver.

I’m not saying you don’t want some sand in your jar but it’s important to understand the value it will deliver.

So what about the beer? I agree with the professor, there’s always time for a couple of beers and what better way to celebrate the delivery of your vision?

What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

2020: The Digital Office?

Despite the intense debate about digital on social media there appears to be limited insight about the practical, tangible application of these new ways of working and technology on our personal working lives. 

Here are some indicative examples of such potential digital services that could be designed, implemented and managed by system integrators and outsourcers for their clients in 2020…

Personalised work search engine (Cloud): When I “log in” for work (from anywhere, on any device) I don’t access a Windows desktop screen; I enter a customised, secure search portal that uses text, voice or picture commands. This engine can instantly access all the internal and external apps and data I need to carry out my job. It can run, possibly hundreds of searches and tasks simultaneously in the background. My own and colleagues’ work using this engine is also shared dynamically, intuitively across our organisation.  It is the beating heart of our competitive advantage.

Meeting/workshop automated workflow (Internet of Everything):  Sensors in breakout rooms automatically record my meeting/workshop outputs and share them with relevant stakeholders via email, follow up appointments and enterprise social media tools. This includes creating actions/tasks for people that have been identified at these sessions. Consequently I spend less time on administration and related low value tasks.

Social media analysis and response (Artificial Intelligence):  My virtual personal office assistant has learnt by itself my work interests and objectives. It’s constantly applying this insight across external and enterprise (internal) social media channels to identify and engage organisations or individuals of benefit to me. Often it will intuitively speak/respond on my behalf on these channels to help raise my profile with these stakeholders, do a deep dive analysis of a new contact’s social media footprint to recommend ways for me to engage/work with them, or sign me up for events where such groups are participating. Unlike the bland social media robots of today, my assistant is a true reflection of my personality that is a critical networking tool.

Location-based time recording (GIS):  I no longer have to complete my timesheet manually. Sensors at my client site, company office and home office capture my location and time spent there – this data is used to record my time against my assignments and deliverables. As a result, billing and expenses for client work is smarter and faster.

Monthly performance assessment (Analytics): At the end of each month I receive a report on my productivity; how much time I spent on different tasks versus what was achieved during that period. It also compares my current against historic performance to spot any positive or negative trends.  I can use this information with my line manager to address any issues and training development needs proactively. My organisation benefits from using a performance management approach that is based on actual data driven insight rather than anecdotal evidence.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation realise a digital office please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Never run on empty again

We often perceive queuing to be a waste of time simply because we could be doing something better. The advent of the driverless car could potentially change the regular visit to the fuel station by virtue of an intelligent planning solution.  Being able to understand your upcoming schedule, current capacity and prevailing travel conditions (weather, road works, congestion, etc.) could mean that an intelligent planner ensures your vehicle is re-fuelled at a convenient time without you being present, either on-demand or at a scheduled slot at your local station with which you have a contract. It could also be an attractive venture for the station to guarantee revenue, predict capacity and optimise the supply chain and delivery schedule of multiple fuel types, not just carbon based fuel. Using ANPR cameras and sensors, the garage can record the transaction and post it to your credit card.

Driverless cars have the potential to create many disruptive joint ventures.  Automated business and consumer deliveries would overcome skills shortages, but offer a new challenge to security staff. Health and community services could be accessed by elderly customers or simply extend their mobility. Roads could be surveyed using driverless cars with cameras that are later inspected back at the office. Vehicles that interact with smart cities could be used to collect important environmental, traffic and other data.

The car journey may start to resemble the train journey with all the benefits such as time to relax, indulge in a good book, watch a film or catch up on emails and telephone calls, but without the pitfalls, such as waiting on the platform and last mile to and from the station. Being able to access a greater range of on-demand services could be made available with innovative pricing and billing engines.

Of course, it may also mean that in future you will never run on empty again.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Digital transformation and the shadow of dot-com

Is the IT boom and bust of the late Nineties making today’s C-suite cautious about the long-term benefits of digital?

Business surveys across different sectors suggest many in C-suite remain slow to adopt digital ways of working and technology as a key source of their organisation’s competitive advantage. Could the failure of dot-com be causing their hesitancy? Here are some ideas…

Dot-com was pre-Millennial

The “dot-com bubble” broadly occurred between 1997 and 2000; a period that pre-dates today’s young entrepreneurs who are passionately trying to bring their own digital services to market. Yet it is their explicit lack of awareness (or arrogance?) about the lessons learnt from this period that arguably validates a market follower strategy. Many of the failed dot-coms had sound propositions for B2C offerings to market; what killed them was that their ambitious business models were unsustainable. Demand didn’t grow fast enough to deliver the rapid returns expected by investors (Pets.com being a notable example where its continued price undercutting on pet supplies and accessories required an unfeasibley massive on-line customer base).

Arguably digital services face similar (harder?) challenges today given they have to compete for increasingly discretionary, disloyal customers who can switch to competitors instantly. This suggests B2C and B2B markets are saturated with digital companies that may have no long-term sustainability – why bet now when you can wait to see who are the real winners? 

The strategic opportunity (and risk, if ignored) is that Millennial entrepreneurs are chasing a customer base that can only grow in size as younger generations continue their embrace of digital (while compelling older groups to accept such services regardless of preference). Whereas in the late Nineties there was limited evidence or insight about market demand for on-line services; today such wants and needs are tangible and measurable as bottom line benefits. Investing now in digital could result in capturing growing revenue streams; choosing to wait risks lost of market share.

Ability to industrialise

Many dot-coms lacked the right supply chain capabilities to fulfil customer orders effectively or efficiently. They focused on optimising the customer experience while failing to put in place an operating model that could scale to demand – for example, Webvan.com couldn’t upscale its grocery delivery operations successfully to meet its commitment to deliver goods ordered on-line within thirty minutes to a customer’s front door; on paper a great customer experience that was practically impossible to fulfil probably even today (perhaps unsurprisingly Webvan.com was ultimately consumed by Amazon).  Many of today’s digital companies are either focused on improving the customer experience through user experience design or by reducing touch points in service delivery – with the exception of IoT it seems there is far less focus on supply chain optimisation and related back-end cost improvements. Like dot.coms, are today’s digital companies focused on realising tactical, cosmetic improvements that deliver short term benefits rather than fundamental end to end transformation required for sustainable competitive advantage?

A converse view is that digital companies are maturating far more rapidly and successfully then their dot.com ancestors driven by major investment in such transformation by traditional, older companies across many sectors (especially Retail). Unlike dot.coms these companies aren’t starting such industrialisation from scratch; they already have a deep understanding of their own supply chains and have the resources and commitment necessary to drive the required change to fully realise the benefits of digital transformation. Companies behind this curve may quickly become uncompetitive.

Hype versus profitability

Perhaps the biggest criticism of the “dot.com bubble” was that investors were too willing to buy into any idea or gimmick that was remotely connected to on-line services despite contrary evidence about their commercial viability. This could be seen in the proliferation of internet search engines during this era that had little to differentiate them from each other. Even today it’s not entirely clear if the surviving dot.com companies are profitable with, for example, Yahoo generating billion dollar revenues but operating at a loss. Can the plethora of digital companies currently competing for our attention all be successful long-term – the lessons learnt from dot.com suggest not?  

But short-term profitability is not necessarily the primary goal of many digital companies today – instead, profits are used as a source of continued growth and expansion. Amazon, one of the biggest and most influential companies in the world, pursues such a philosophy. Rather than suffer the dot.com fate of cyclical boom and bust, this approach enables its penetration into other services and sectors to drive sustainability – Amazon was originally a book seller; through such aggressive growth it now provides public cloud services as well as retail and media on demand. Is short-term profitability the wrong metric to assess the performance of digital companies?

Closing thought: although the “dot-com bubble” resulted in too many extraordinary failures, this period industrialised and legitimised the on-line customer channel – without such high risk innovation, digital would not play such a dominant, positive role in our lives today.

What strategic risks and opportunities do you think organisations face as digital continues to penetrate all sectors? Please share your feedback below.

For more information about digital transformation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.