Thursday 04 June 2020

Accelerating NHS digital transformation during the pandemic

LNWH logoLondon North West University Hospital Trust (LNWH) was amongst the first in the UK to treat COVID-19 patients and one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. It tripled the number of critical care beds across its Northwick Park, Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals, and at its peak was caring for hundreds of COVID-19 positive patients. TechMarketView spoke to Glenys Lawson, Digital Matron at LNWH, about the role technology has played in helping the Trust respond to the crisis.

Made Tech logoGlenys said that one of the issues that became apparent very quickly during the pandemic was how challenging it became for patients, their families and clinicians to communicate effectively. On 14 April 2020, Sonia Patel (until the end of May 2020 joint CIO at LNWH and now CIO at NHSX) put out a call on Twitter challenging SMEs to create an alpha version of a tool within 24-48 hours that could help alleviate the situation. Public sector digital specialists Made Tech responded to the challenge and a 48-hour team hackathon later, and with some service design help from Difrent, had built a digital service that enabled hospital staff to book virtual visits for the families of patients via video call. The service supports Jitsi and Whereby video conferencing  technology, utilises GovNotify for SMS messaging, and is hosted on Heroku—it has been released as open source.

The NHS Book a virtual visit app was introduced to Northwick Park Hospital about a month ago and is now available across every hospital ward in the Trust, including non-COVID-19 wards. Glenys said there have now been approximately 1,900 visits booked through the app, which has provided much needed reassurance to patients and their families. She said the app is so intuitive that little training was needed, in fact the biggest challenge was sourcing suitable covers for the iPads used for initial deployment.  

Hospify logoMade Tech is not the only technology company supporting LNWH through the pandemic. Communication between staff has been improved through the adoption of Hospify’s secure messaging app (see SME Hospify ramps up secure messaging in NHS). The adoption of Microsoft Teams has also enabled the Trust to maintain the human element whilst  social distancing, keeping the information flowing and freeing up time to deal with the clinical daily issues and liaison with colleagues internally and externally (see Microsoft Teams available across the NHS).  

IMMJ logoGlenys also highlighted the rollout of the electronic document management platform by IMMJ, which, with partners EDM and UKCloud, is helping the Trust move towards a paperless approach (see LNWH transforming clinical records with IMMJ). She said, in the past there has been resistance to moving away from the reassurance of physical documents, but the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for change and the number of requests from departments to have their documents held digitally is increasing rapidly.

Infinity Health logoPaper-based task management has also been digitised through the adoption of Infinity Health’s platform, which is being used to make portering and patient transfer more efficient and to coordinate the STARRS rapid response and community teams. The strong and trusted relationship LNWH has with Bluewire Technologies, which provides the Epro mini electronic patient record (EPR), was also highlighted by Glenys as being key during the crisis.

As the peak of the initial wave of COVID-19 cases continues to decline, LNWH has been able to start thinking more about the future. The speed at which health services have introduced new digital technologies in recent months has been unprecedented, but Glenys is convinced this won’t be a blip in the history of slow and cautious NHS procurement, this will be the new normal. There will be no returning to the old ways—she believes LNWH is now well placed to deliver a significant proportion of outpatient appointments virtually and linking them back into GPs. 

Glenys concluded by saying that with the new technology, “the world is your oyster as long as you have the right supplier”. It’s clear that many of the Trust’s suppliers have stepped up to accelerate digital transformation during the pandemic and that LNWH wants to maintain that momentum. It is in the process of transitioning to Cerner’s EPR, but with COVID-19 acting as a digital accelerant, LNWH finds itself several months ahead of schedule in bringing the digital solution to the forefront. Things are certainly changing in the NHS.


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If you already have a corporate or UKHotViews Premium subscription, further NHS-related articles are available here, including: Epic secures £181m Manchester NHS contract25 suppliers named on new '£250m' NHS Cyber frameworkNHS Login deploys facial verification tech from SME iProovNHSX and jHub to track COVID-19 with third-party app dataNHS reaches for the robots; and NHS Scotland commences contact tracing tech trial. PublicSectorViews subscribers can also find out more about the likely impact of COVID-19 on digital transformation in the NHS in COVID-19: The impact on UK public sector software and IT services. For further details please contact Deb Seth.

Posted by Dale Peters at '15:43' - Tagged: nhs   digital   transformation   enduser   covid-19   hospital