NHS & digital transformation – two important steps to success

Doctor with laptop and stethoscopeThere is so much being written, at the moment, on the impact of digitisation of healthcare and the NHS in particular.  There are a frenzy of articles and opinions with it feeling like the most exciting and frightening of times all at once. I tend to think it has the potential to be game changing but there is a real possibility that the potential will not be realised because organisations forget a couple of steps on the journey to success.

Firstly exploration.  What does digitisation of healthcare really mean? I have seen lots of articles about the pitfalls, the issue around data and GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) and other grim warnings but I have yet to really formulate what it means.  Not that I apologise for my uncertainty.  It is fine to explore the potential of something that could be so impactful.  After all, this is a massive journey and we don’t have the answers now.  It needs to be ok for organisations to admit that too.  There needs to be a culture that encourages exploration and doesn’t make any one feel too scared or stupid to join in that exploration.

We so often jump into solution mode but digitisation really needs a phase of discovery and explorations with sensible, honest and open discussions including all the people who are impacted and care about this.  That definitely includes clinicians and providers who work in the digital space.  It should also include patients and future users.  At Ideal we have been working on a leading-edge project which will impact future care delivery. I have been delighted with how open and explorative the workshops have been with a variety of stakeholders. We really do need these wide-ranging conversations about what it could mean, should mean and what value to patients and staff and the nation’s health will be achieved. Honest conversations about what can really be achieved rather than what is just in the sales brochures of suppliers or what we pretend we can achieve because we want that vision so badly.

Secondly the real, undeniable importance of change.  Once organisations have explored what digital means for them they have to acknowledge that a change process is vital they need to put the money behind that acknowledgement.

Change is social, relational and, while often ignored, emotional. It involves building genuine relationships, having honest conversations and developing levels of trust that create a togetherness to drive change forward. It involves giving people the time and space to think about what is happening, to make sense of it and to have the opportunity to choose to be involved. With the digitalisation of healthcare, the change is far ranging and people will have a very emotional response. Organisations cannot be scared by this and must embrace it as part of their change journey.

Organisations also have to understand how important it is to be honest during whole change process and as soon as possible must start to clearly articulate what the future could look like, the good and the bad. Everyone should be able to understand what the change means for them and the benefits should be clearly articulated

In many ways the digitisation agenda, which is about the future of our care and the health of the country in very different ways, can be a very important catalyst for approaching change differently. The digital agenda can not lead the change but be part of it.

As we begin exploring and accepting the importance of change in healthcare we can also begin to accept that in the long run, there is no downtime from change. We can embrace the fact that organisations will be constantly evolving and develop a system wide set of skills, behaviours, knowledge, language and processes that give the NHS the energy and confidence to adapt to every new challenge.

We would love to hear your views about change and digital transformation within the NHS. Join the conversation by tweeting us at @IdealUK or e-mail us at idealchangechat@idealts.co.uk

If you need impartial advice or guidance on any aspect of your IT Healthcare strategy, call me on 01483 453508 or email me: jill.debene@idealts.co.uk

Jill De Bene, Development Director

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