Comment Blog 6 June, 2019

Implementing Digital Technologies: Making it Happen

The value of digital innovation is relatively well understood by policy-makers, NHS leaders and patient groups. There is however, still a challenge in making it a reality and ensuring the effective adoption and spread of digital technologies across the NHS.

As the number of people who require care rises, this places huge pressure on already stretched acute health services. This has led to increased efforts across the NHS to introduce innovative technologies that help shift care out of acute hospitals and enable people to self-manage their conditions in a home or community setting. Supporting effective self-management using digital technologies represents a promising strategy for treating and preventing complications related to long-term conditions. They can offer opportunities to improve privacy, free up more time for personal interactions, reduce costs, and make it easier for patients to navigate their own healthcare. Inevitably, there are barriers to the introduction and spread of digital technologies. These include a lack of funding, poor interoperability of systems, governance concerns, evidence, technological literacy and capacity to implement.

Implementing new technologies will also require overcoming organisational inertia and resistance to change. Embedding a different system into clinical practice can be particularly challenging. Delivery is likely to be more successful if the local clinical community supports the change. A key element of growing and maintaining momentum around a new approach is therefore bringing the wider clinical community on board as early as possible. In fact, it is a must. Collaboration between all affected stakeholders, directly or indirectly, is the only way to successful implementation, and that includes the suppliers of the technologies.

Baxter has a team of trained people who work collaboratively with trusts to understand their patient pathways and identify the pinch points, highlighting where changes are likely to be needed to achieve the desired outcomes.

Collaboration has enabled hospitals to successfully embed the use of a digital two-way cloud based remote management technology to manage dialysis, allowing patients and clinicians to input and monitor therapy data,moving care out of hospital and leading to a positive impact for patients support. To do this clinicians have needed to change and adapt to a different way of managing patients and work flow. They have moved away from seeing patients in clinics on a reactive basis, to proactively reviewing patients daily and managing them remotely before patients present in clinic with complications. Identifying problems in patients much earlier than before reduces the need for patient visits and saves on staff resources.

The process does not end when a digital technology has been implemented. Investing in a programme of organisational change may be needed to make sure the technology becomes embedded in practice. This requires a culture that is receptive to change and an environment where all staff feel empowered to spot opportunities to improve. Once the change is fully implemented, it is important to monitor to ensure the original aims and benefits are being achieved.

Having worked in partnership with many trusts over the years Baxter has learned much about what can go well and what can go wrong. We wanted to put our learning to good use, so asked a group of experts in their field from across the NHS to talk through their experiences of implementing change. From this, Baxter has developed a toolkit to support frontline NHS employees to introduce innovation to service delivery. The toolkit brings together a range of tools and resources in an accessible guide. It will help those considering new approaches to find the most effective routes to delivering change.