Good health is key to wellbeing and an important contributing factor to economic progress; healthy societies have a greater average life expectancy and are more productive. We are seeing a growing demand for healthcare with an ever ageing population, but despite improvements in medicines and provision, the NHS and other healthcare service providers, are grappling funding cuts while facing the constant technological challenges such as digitisation , Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Value for Money and Cybersecurity. Changing demographics mean people live longer alongside their diseases and health issues, while the changing nature of illnesses and the spread of infection, now being seen on an unprecedented scale with the emergence of global pandemics, placing further stress on already limited resources: this needs to be managed strategically.
Technology is playing an increasing role in creating solutions and services to help healthcare providers navigate through this challenging landscape, providing opportunities to drive efficiencies and improve processes; the integration of new digital solutions requires IT departments and functions to evolve and restructure to support new operating models and structures.
Our team has proudly delivered a range of projects and programmes across the Health sector from IT strategy, OpModel, service management, networking, infrastructure and system reviews, and security and business continuity. Some of the key challenges faced are highlighted below.
A global poll by Gartner (2019) identified that of the 63% of healthcare organisations affected by disruption, 30% are a result of IT failures and 47% via organisational issues; the negative impact of this has been more far reaching than in any other industry. Organisations need to become more agile and responsive in order to maintain competitive advantage and proactively manage oncoming threats, with the introduction of AI and Internet of Things solutions and opportunities. With these technological changes, CIOs must ensure their organisations are able to adapt and use disruptive events as opportunities rather than threats; this can only be achieved if IT functions work in partnership with the business and have the relevant skills and capabilities to hand.
Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Data is being produced at unprecedented levels, and digitisation means we will continue to see growth in information being collected and stored. CIOs need to put this vast amount of data to use, and question how this data can become knowledge. Effective data management strategies combined with AI solutions can ensure organisations remain competitive by making intelligent, data driven decisions. This will allow for more effective patient treatments, preventative solutions, and new services, and also provide the opportunity to deliver services more efficiency.
Value for Money
The NHS has been financially constrained over the past decade, with a negative effect on frontline services, and now more so than ever, putting a strain on the supporting IT infrastructure. No amount of investment will solve problems automatically. Therefore, CIOs should look to make IT investment decisions which align to overall business strategy and identify services which can be digitised to reduce operating overheads and provide maximum public value. And although NHS primary care leads in terms of IT use, other areas such as acute, community and mental health sectors have been slower to adopt newer technology.
To support the government’s drive to achieve ‘best value’, health services must embrace effective strategic planning and sourcing. Through streamlined sourcing processes (e.g. making best use of frameworks), and effective tender specifications, health services can get the desired strategic outcome efficiently and effectively from the marketplace. To ensure ongoing value, commercial teams should periodically assess service value and industry trends through service reviews and benchmarking opportunities to influence contract renewals, or to inform future sourcing strategies.
Often, organisations only invest in Cyber Security after a major security breach. The WannaCry cyberattack in 2017, which affected millions of NHS computers, was a worrying example. The sensitive nature of data that healthcare providers collect, makes them a prime target. Investment in this area should be part of the overall strategy for any IT department, as this is a fast-changing landscape and organisations must remain one step ahead. Moving away from legacy systems and complying with NSCS guidelines and best practice is just one of several ways to keep data safe.