Channel 3 is already working with clients on regional digital strategies that are helping NHS organisations and their local partners build the capacity and skills they need – and secure the necessary funding – to realise this vision. In doing so, we’ve developed a framework to help local partnerships create and agree the type of visionary approach they need to make digital work at ‘place’ level.
Developing a digital strategy for a single provider can sometimes be like completing a jigsaw puzzle: the pieces (EPR, integration, infrastructure etc) are already known – you just have to assemble them in the right order. However, creating a workable regional strategy across multiple organisations presents a new opportunity to truly innovate and introduce ambitious, impactful digital health initiatives, albeit within the confines of varying levels of investment in digital health and infrastructure within the region. These strategies also tend to be more closely driven by the needs of the population, rather than the internal operations of the organisation.
With innovation comes uncertainty, which is amplified by the shift towards cross-organisation working. As such, one of the biggest challenges facing those tasked with developing a regional strategy is not one of technology, but of leadership and organisational development. Regional teams tend to be made up of people working for different organisations, often peers on secondment. They have to grapple with their own operational duties, challenges, resourcing and budgetary issues and only have time to work on their transformational duties as a secondary priority. Therefore, a more consultative leadership style and organisation is required to engender cooperation and collaboration which will underpin the development of a successful strategy.
Mindful of the visionary thinking and strong leadership required, our framework for regional digital strategies provides a clear way forward to support regional organisations, by identifying the capabilities and tools required to develop an ambitious yet achievable blueprint. This includes looking at core technology needs and current levels of digital maturity, as well as how patients can access and engage with their care.
A visionary strategy also requires different drivers, focusing on the needs of the health economy, rather than starting with the technology. This means:
As digital technologies are introduced and form a core role in healthcare delivery it is important to make sure they are safe and secure but also that they don’t introduce or worsen inequality. Our framework identifies three key “licences to play”.
Ensuring inequalities are not widened by the introduction of digital technology, so that everyone has fair access to services and learning opportunities regardless of whether they are able or willing to use digital channels.
Making sure that information is used appropriately, is safe and secure, giving patients confidence in using digital channels.
Leveraging innovations at a national, regional and local level. Establishing relationships with industry and academia and ensuring the managed, safe and evidence-based introduction of digital technologies.
Ensuring that these three principles are embedded as a thread throughout every strategic workstream will lead to initiatives that are fair, safe, ambitious and fit for purpose.
Regional strategies are new and bring their own opportunities and challenges. Although there are some strong national drivers for change, local interpretation will always be required to deliver an approach that is fit for purpose for varied communities and acknowledges variation in digital maturity across partners.
Understanding the population and economic drivers and establishing your licences to play will provide a solid base as you build the core elements of your strategy. However, the importance of leadership and the need to support new ways of working must not be overlooked. If you can focus on getting these building blocks in place first, you will be in a strong position both to develop the strategy itself and, most importantly implement exciting new technologies in a way that improves care for your patients and makes life easier for the health and care workforce.