There is often an assumption that adopting a better clinical system will result in better clinical outcomes. This is far from guaranteed. The new technology can provide the ideal catalyst for change…but not on its own.
There are a number of well-documented cases of organisations that have sought to ‘upgrade’, only to find systems and processes grind to a halt or the workforce engineer elaborate workarounds to avoid using the kit.
People are the backbone for the safe and effective delivery of health and care services and enabling people through the successful deployment of a new clinical system can change lives and deliver tangible benefits for individuals, the organisation and the wider health and care system.
Critically you need to:
An ‘off-the-shelf’ methodology or adding additional project managers will get you so far, but an individually tailored programme approach will safely take you further, faster.
At Channel 3 Consulting, we have led and supported truly ground-breaking digital transformation in health and social care. We have seen that a clinical system transformation journey can, when successful, positively influence patient outcomes at an unprecedented scale. That said, when a clinical system transformation overpromises and underdelivers, it can have a devastating effect on clinical safety, standards of care and organisational reputation and place additional pressures on resources and staff.
So, before you embark upon your system overhaul, step back and take stock. A clinical system implementation programme is a marathon, not a sprint, and realising the full value can take years. It is important to understand that and manage your own expectations as well as those of your colleagues.
Here are five questions to ask yourself before you dive into your clinical system implementation programme, to ensure you are prepared to deliver the best possible results.
Before making any decision about technology, especially before committing your budget to a specific system, it is important to carefully consider what the programme needs to achieve. For example, should it save staff time, improve clinical outcomes and mitigate errors, or enhance communication within an organisation or across the wider system? We would suggest all of these apply, but which are the most important and are you being ambitious enough?
Examples of ambitions for a new clinical system that will change lives
The newest system, the one with the most features, or the most expensive option may not be the best for your specific goals. The cheapest one might not be either. The focus should always be on finding the right solution for the needs of your healthcare organisation; therefore, it is important to agree on desired results before making any commitments.
Perhaps this is an obvious question, but it is remarkable how often the decision about purchasing a costly new system or taking an innovative new digital approach is decided without taking the time to really consider the full range of options.
There are increasingly new, innovative and evolving digital solutions that provide different options and systems which can compete with and challenge the standard legacy options. In some instances, implementing a new clinical system may not even be the best way of achieving your objectives, depending on your ambitions and priorities.
With so many options available, to choose the best way forward for your organisation, you’ve really got to understand the benefits and limitations of the clinical systems and their alternatives. However, the prospect of reviewing and assessing so many options may seem overwhelming, time-consuming and a double-edged sword.
Whilst your people understand your organisation better than anyone, assessing the rapidly evolving digital solution options is a task that benefits from external experience. Your people can thoroughly explain your situation and needs to a knowledgeable external party that can then connect your organisation to the appropriate solutions and suppliers.
This is exactly why, as specialist digital consultants to the health and care sector, Channel 3 has well-established relationships with all the top clinical system providers. Crucially, we don’t have favourites – we support you to determine which solutions can best suit the needs of your organisation, situation and environment against the timeframe you have to make an informed decision.
Perhaps you have defined your digital transformation ambitions, but do you understand the pain points and blockers from the perspective of your key stakeholders, especially those in frontline operational roles? Digital transformation involves new processes, potential changes to job roles and responsibilities, shifting team dynamics, and incorporating new ways of working. So, securing buy-in from your stakeholders before you begin is fundamental to success or failure. Find out what capabilities your people are looking for in a new system and how much transformation they are prepared to embrace.
There will always be stakeholders who are resistant to change and, whilst this mindset is generally present in less than 20% of the workforce, their need to understand and embrace the programme is just as important. They need to be brought along on the journey, not forced along it, and failing to listen to all voices will add risk to your project. It is critical to engage, enthuse and hear the thoughts of the both the vocal and silent cohorts, regardless of their openness to change.
Actively listening and acting on all feedback will not only identify quick wins but will inspire and encourage people to join you on the journey and also more importantly uncover ambassadors throughout the implementation. It’s all about winning hearts and minds from day one.
Even the most robust technology will not change lives in a vacuum – success is entirely reliant on adoption and compliance by your people. For people to use technology to its full potential, the working environment and associated resources must be aligned to the tech landscape.
The implementation of a new clinical system is more often than not an infrequent event for many IT teams. However, there is often an assumption that internal resources can simply be reassigned to lead and support a complex clinical system implementation. What is not always obvious is whether in reality, the necessary skillsets to deliver the project successfully exist within the current team.
Do you really have internal capabilities and capacity for your planned system implementation and its ongoing adoption, or could some additional experienced support help you to get it right from the start and provide resilience internally?
It is common for strategic leadership teams to lean on external support from organisations to successfully deliver, or in some instances fix, clinical system implementations to build capacity and capability and manage costs by proactively managing risk through experience.
Hold yourself to account and be honest with yourself. Regardless of the stage your programme is at, if things are not going as anticipated, don’t dig further into the hole. Seeking help, support or advice is not failing. It’s a positive step that shows leadership. The alternative is to push through on the wrong path, which has devastating results in the long run. As with any project, regular checkpoints with all key stakeholders are essential to keep on track as they enable all involved to adapt to the ever-changing landscape and external influences that can impact the project.
In conclusion, there is no standard solution or a magic bullet when it comes to a new clinical system project – the magic bullet for your organisation will be unique to the needs of your public and of your staff.
Take the time to step back, assess your goals and decide which approach works for everyone involved. There are many ways and means to realise your digital aspirations. The best way to unlock these results is to consider all of your options before you make any commitments.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, for example, asked Channel 3 to prepare a business case for their clinical system project, assess their readiness and facilitate a smooth roll-out of a new EPR. The Trust has now completed the roll-out of this transformative new EPR system, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, and has successfully gone live across its mental health services.
Channel 3 is experienced in working alongside organisations to clarify where they find themselves, where they want to be and how they can get there. When we embark on a clinical system implementation, we’re in it with you – our success is fully dependent on your success.
Talk to us and let’s discuss your clinical system transformation programme.
Eleanor has worked in the healthcare sector for the last 30 years in clinical, operational and advisory roles, and has a real passion for making a difference in health and care services.
Simone has a breadth of experience of the healthcare sector having worked both directly for the NHS and clinical software suppliers combined with her consultancy and advisory roles.
Astrid is a trained doctor and has worked in digital health transformation for the past six years, with a focus on EPR implementations and clinical risk management.
Having worked in the NHS and a number of other sectors, David has been engaged in delivering systems and process for primary care, community and mental health providers.