All posts tagged eHealth

Handover CIO

First published in CIO Magazine, November 2017.

In 1797 George Washington instigated the first handover period for the presidency of the USA, he handed his responsibilities to John Adams. Since the 1960s a 72 to 78 day handover period has featured in every transition of the presidential role, and yet in almost all other public sector and civil servant role changes a handover period simply doesn’t happen, in all the CIO roles I have had I have never had the opportunity to conduct a proper handover one that means you hit the ground running, rather than running to catch up.

In a few days time I will leave Ireland for Leeds after three years working in a country with a passion for what digital can do for healthcare. When I resigned from my post my boss, the director general of the health service here in Ireland could see that there was a need to have a careful, considered and informed handover process to maintain the pace of change that we have been working to. In a break from what would have been the easy decision it was decided to look outside of the Office of the CIO for an interim person to hold onto the digital healthcare business and to receive a handover. Appointing a progressive, digital business leader to the role of interim CIO eight weeks before my departure has meant we have been able to work through a handover of the business, we have been able to agree priorities for 2018 and at this time in the Irish political calendar we have needed to agree how the budget for next year should be spent.

CIOs need to get better at succession planning, I would suggest one of the reasons we have not been seen to be great at this so far is that we have very much an individual stamp on the businesses we run as CIOs. Our styles and how we work with the ‘business’ to achieve digital goals is one of our core values, handing that to another is always difficult.

With an interim CIO appointed we began to plan the handover, we broke the content down into areas that would make the most impact the quickest, what this did was highlight a prioritisation process for the work of the team and the office.

There were five themed areas that we agreed would be our area of focus:

1 – Delivery of Person Centred Care

2 – Trust and the Protection of the health systems assets

3 – Value add services – Patient focused innovation and proving the digital capability.

4 – Create Insight and Intelligence through data that is already collected.

5 – Connect the Care Delivery Network

The digital strategy has been in place since 2015 and the delivery plan for this was agreed in 2016. This means the interim CIO can move into the continued delivery of this, however what does need to be refreshed is a new operating model for the Digital team, an operating model that reflects changes in how service is delivered and how engagement can be brought from a digital responsibility to an organisational scalable way of working. This now becomes a priority for the new CIO, not always ideal, making changes in the early stages of taking on a new role but a necessity to continue to enable the evolution of the team.

Being able to instigate a proper handover has given the organisation the opportunity to really consider the way the team works as one function. In a recent Gartner presentation the idea of four digital accelerators was raised and how these are now being applied to the future of team working. These areas are; Digital Dexterity; Talent, Diversity, Skills and Goals; Network Effect Technologies and the Industrialised Digital Platform. The handover process with these as core values as to where and what is done next has helped hugely as we strive to put in place a robust way forward that continues to drive a new pace to digital in healthcare.

The handover process has included not just a new ownership of the digital agenda but a new face of the change being brought to healthcare through digital. Therefore involving the new interim CIO in all engagement events has been part of the process and one that has seen the new CIO move into the public eye. The handover has also been delivered in the public domain using social media as the platform to enable the team and our partners to see the process and to meet the new CIO in a virtual way. The #HandoverCIO has been used as a way for stakeholders to see the activities that are underway. The culmination of the handover process was a meeting of all partners to an open interview with me and the new interim CIO, the design of the session was to make it part of one of the quarterly Eco-System meetings but also to ensure that the partners could see that they were going to be able to continue to evolve the relationship they have from a traditional vendor relationship to one that continues to be described as a partnership.

The transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001 was a fraught process best epitomized by the Clinton prank of the removal of all of the ‘W’ keys from keyboards throughout the Whitehouse. The transition from CIO to CIO often does end up with a lack of knowledge of where ‘the bodies are buried’, a phrase used when I came to Ireland in 2015. A colleague offered his services on my first day to help me avoid digging up the bodies that had been carefully hid. By working on a handover process and a proper transition there can be no ‘buried bodies’, no surprises and no need to re-learn what has gone before.

Handover has been great, but now its time to let go as the quote suggests below…

Make yourself available for advice if they want it, but only if they ask for it – don’t stand in the shadows trying to hang on to something you’ve decided to stop doing. Professor Graham Moon

Giving up your ‘baby’ is hard to do but as a CIO in transition to a new role it has to be done smoothly and the new CIO empowered. As handover comes to an end please support a new CIO with advice and guidance, Jane Carolan is a digital leader that is now a CIO, she is excited to be in the role and can’t wait to engage with the wider CIO community, tweet Jane @janemcarolan

Leaving Ireland…

The 31st of July was a very sad day for me, it was the day I had to sit down with the Director General and say those words, ‘I resign as CIO of the HSE.’ Nearly three years in Ireland has been amazing. In the following week one of the team asked me, ‘was it a hard decision?’ Yes it was, one of the hardest I have ever had to make, over the last three years I have met some of the most committed and talented people I have ever had the pleasure to work with, a team of people who truly, with the right support, can change the face of a country!

Some of you will have heard me tell this story before, so please forgive me; my second day in Ireland, I grabbed a taxi, the Dublin driver turned to me and did the usual, where are you from etc, and then asked what brings you here? I replied without hesitation, somewhat green to Ireland and the culture, that I was working for the health service. The taxi driver stopped in his tracks and said, “You have a lot to learn, you have joined the second most hated organisation in Ireland, after water Irish people hate the health service the second most!”

I assumed he was joking, but no he was kind of right. The health system of Ireland is not a loved system, its not cherished, its described as bloated, regularly someone has a ‘pop’ at it being top heavy, or spending money wrongly, or deploying resources in the wrong places. Yet, here we are with a health system that every day saves hundreds of lives, a system that has a workforce like I have never seen before, a committed one that knows how to deliver care with compassion and often against adversity.

Let me take my own crisis management experience in Ireland, Wannacry, as an illustration. On the Friday evening the team identified the global impacting issue was heading our way, without any consideration for the plans for the weekend the team mobilised, created a defence strategy and set about working all weekend, all hours of the weekend, to protect the systems that delivers care to the Irish citizen. Nobody was paid to do this, no one received any bonus, time off in lieu or really any kind of recognition other than a heartfelt thanks from the system. In fact some ‘friendly’ people on social media suggested that the strategy adopted was even wrong, and that the focus should never have been needed if the HSE had been more prepared. I was so proud when on the following Tuesday we returned all systems back to normal and were able to say we had protected Ireland when others across the world had not been able to achieve the same.    

Leaving this role, not being part of the team in the HSE leaves me with so much trepidation; the personal focus that so many people have put into the changes that we have made over the last three years is significant, I wonder if this ‘perfect storm’ of personalities will ever be created again. One of the first programmes of work I ever owned in healthcare was the delivery of a system called the Data Transfer Service (DTS). The solution was a new way for primary care and acute and administrative functions to share information securely and in a timely fashion and we had to deliver this in thirteen months, this was back in the late 1990s. I thought that was the best team I had ever worked with until I came to Ireland.

The team make-up is a happy accident that has evolved to be one that I will look to emulate elsewhere. The team is a mixture of evangelists, sceptics and pragmatists, after a couple of years in the role that mixture hit the right balance. The team has a group of people who believe in being open and a sub-set who understand the need to be closed. The creativity in some has been astounding and the sheer dogged focus to keep going in others has given us a drive that has seen us get to the finish line on so many projects.

What I have learnt is best described by a Yorkshire phrase; “It takes all sorts!”

Handing the team to a respected, committed and digitally enthused leader has given me a new reflection on what can be achieved. The team are gathering around my interim replacement ready to support her and help her continue the success, not just of the last 3 years but the building success that the team has been trying to achieve for the last decade. There are some new tools now; a ‘brand’ that is synonymous with success and openness is in place in the form of eHealth Ireland. The health identifier is a foundation for information stored digitally, enabling a leap forward in patient safety initiatives with a data flavour. Ireland and its health system has a renewed vigour for what can be achieved in healthcare through the foundations of a digital system. Its first examples of digital hospitals are live and are a success, the programme to sequence the genome of patients with suspected epilepsy is changing the lives of many people this year, people with a disease that is often not considered high enough up the agenda. The readiness to consider innovation, how to work with the new, the fresh, the different ideas is also now part of the way the Irish healthcare system is changing and delivering benefit. In the last 12 months alone there have been over 50 new digital solutions deployed into the health system, each of these implementations requires the unwavering commitment of a team to make the system live and support the system going forward.

Perhaps the biggest ‘thing’ that we have achieved though in the last three years is to place the possibility of digital in health on to the agenda. We have a minister who says that digital is no longer a nice to have, we have a HSE leadership team that has embraced the concepts of digital into the way it works and the way it considers reform. The representation of all of this is the passion of the team that deliver this though, as my goodbye reflection I want to pause here and call out, maybe even embarrass a few of them, “live” on this blog site, to be remembered here and learnt from in the future.

First and foremost, an often unsung hero of the team is Joyce Shaw, the driving force in how we have transformed as a team, a lady with a passion for the team, how It works and perhaps most importantly the reality of people working hard together. Joyce is the conscience of the team!

The most considered, calm and truly gentlemanly Fran Thompson would be next on my list of essential elements to any team of the future. Without Fran being there through thick, thin, muddy and clear so much of what has been achieved in the last three years would have got absolutely nowhere.   

When I consider the team that we were in December 2014 and think about the difference people have personally made I have to call out Michael Redmond as well. Michael is a true example of a leader building through engagement. Working with Michael and seeing him go from sceptic to optimist over a three year period of time has been one of my own personal highlights.  

The eHealth Ireland committee has been a joy to work with, and is a group of people I now call friends, Eibhlin Mulroe, Derick Mitchell, Andrew Griffiths and the ever committed Mark Ferguson have ensured that the path we have walked has been supported. The success of the eHealth brand can be put down to these people and others in the committee who work hard in the background ensuring that we can make a success of what we do.

I have been lucky in that I have worked for two ministers who have wanted to engage with the digital element of health in a different way, they have taken a personal interest in what we do as a team, supported us and been there for us. eHealth Ireland has been able to enjoy an open door to both ministers over the last three years an acceptance and realisation that the team here in health is a high performing team of committed and capable staff is a great by product of that engagement.

A wise old colleague of mine said to me once that those of us that want to evolve and change simply need a good manager, once that person is in place we will be able to achieve anything. It felt a little like a piece of Jedi advice at the time but working for the DG of the health service here in Ireland I now understand. The DG has empowered us to get on with it, insisted we stay calm in the most stressful of situations and supported all that we have tried to do in a way that ensures success, certainly without this support we would still be thinking through how to make some of what we have achieved happen.

There is space for just two more names on this list for fear of it turning into a gushing speech that no one will read.

Niamh Falconer is my conscience, where Joyce ensures the team has a voice in everything Niamh reminds me of my voice in everything, caring for me and reminding me that successful change needs time to happen and time can’t be magically created; although she has had a magic wand in her hand for the last two years doing Tinkerbell like tricks to make sure we can do what we need to do.

Last but not least is Maria O’Loughlin, when grey clouds appear Maria has blown them away for so many parts of the team. She has a unique ability to translate ideas into reality whilst adding a shiny creative style to them, if we adopt Pareto’s rule Maria is the way to achieve the last 20% in all that we do.

Calling out individuals is dangerous, I know that, the reality is that in every single case of every person I have worked with over the last three years they have touched what we have done and indeed who I have become in some way, I would love to simply list everyone here now but no one would find that an interesting final comment from me.

A vision of the future has to be my final comment, I came to Ireland in October 2014 to present at the HISI conference what my vision of the future would be, I think much of that vision is still valid! The purpose of eHealth in Ireland is to create digital as a platform for change, a platform for a health service that has every citizen’s health and wellbeing at the heart of what it does.

If I could have a final wish it would be;

… be nice to the system that is there, help it continue to evolve.

It needs to find a new way to celebrate what it is, the Health Service Executive is the life blood of this country, treat it as that, realise what is limiting its capability and focus on fixing that rather than damaging and attacking the resource that is at its disposal. The HSE is an organisation that is committed, it is an organisation that is caring and it is an organisation that is capable, treat it as that and it will deliver the best healthcare system for the population of this great country.  

Digital health and the Hollywood re-boot!

What can digital health learn from the biggest trend in Hollywood block busters, the Re-Boot.

In the last 15 years Spiderman has been through three ‘re-boots’, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and now Tom Holland. Batman has managed even more changes that have brought various degrees of success (personally I thought Michael Keaton did a great job!). Digital health can learn from this trend, a re-boot or two of how digital health is ‘sold’ to the public, the tax payer and the media is perhaps a little overdue.

The cynic amongst us though would be worried of the PR agency spin at this point, but I would disagree. Earlier this week I was being taken on a high-speed car chase through the streets of Leeds, otherwise known as a taxi ride from the train station to St. James. The usual conversation, what do you do and where do you come from ensued (does anyone else feel they are on a game show sometimes when they are in a taxi?) What was surprising was how much the taxi driver knew about the digital reform of the UK health system, but here is the issue; “Was that the disastrous IT project that failed”, says the taxi driver. No matter where you go the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is almost universally hailed as a failure, and yet the programme put in place foundations for digital health to rival any country in the world, it put in the ground work to engage the customer whether that’s the clinician or the patient. I guess much as Michael Keaton put in the ground work for the plethora of super hero movies that have become de ’rigour as the summer hit movies!

Ireland still has its own NPfIT. PPARS is still described by the Irish media as a ‘comedy of errors’, and just as NPfIT it has its failings, PPARS today is a success that can be built on! To go back to the superhero movie analogy, PPARS and NPfIT are best linked to the Daredevil and Elektra movies, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner vehicles of 2003, fans know these were ‘great’ films, the critics were convinced they were rotten tomatoes, but, they now have influenced some of the best Netflix superhero fodder ever to be made!

The culture and leadership of the digital team is significant in a judgement of success.

Building a team is a trick that every digital leader should accept as their number one priority. Without the team the priorities, the governance, the customer at the centre, any of the benefits of digital will not be delivered! Across the world the delivery of healthcare is under financial pressure and this in turn means that the immortal words, ‘do more for less’ are likely to be uttered to you as a digital leader.

When you then look at what you can do less of there is a risk that the things that ‘could’ be seen as not digital’s responsibility are the first to go. If your mind lands on this as a decision please, please think again!

All over the world organisations are being told digital fails without business change resource, and yet as fast as this is becoming a key message for many business areas health systems are trying to cut the business change element from the budget of digital. In Ireland, we have spent the last three years trying to reinforce the message that the projects we have set as priority projects will fail without proper business change elements. The success Ireland made of the first digital maternity hospitals was a success of the business change functions and the clinical leadership. The need to have 9,500 hours training in one of the hospitals is described in some of the Irish media as a failure, what a shame that is. Business change perhaps shouldn’t be labelled as training, I guess that’s where we went wrong in Ireland, the ‘brand’ of business change resources within the team needs to be clearer, they are the engineers of success!

In my move to Leeds I was recently asked what sort of a CIO I am? One that focuses on technology or one that focuses on information? I think I confused the person asking the question when I said I am a CIO that focuses on the people. The need to create a team that cares most about the business change we are trying to achieve; I hope is part of the legacy I leave in Ireland as I begin the handover of what I do to the next digital leader for healthcare, a team that has moved from one that delivers digital to one that helps create business change through digital innovation.

Resourcing any organisation to be able to achieve a business change is difficult, trying to ‘re-boot’ the view of the team at the same time really does require an engaged and enthused leadership team.

How will we find the right people for the right job at the right time is a tricky question for any digital leader trying to create a cultural change. It’s a challenge that we have worked hard on in Ireland. In November 2015 the department of health gave us permission to recruit 49 new members of staff to the team. An exciting time being able to consider how we could now truly begin to move the ‘dial’ on the ratio of staff available to the business and how we really could begin to focus on the delivery of business change. The trick though was what sort of staff did we need. We were pleased with permission to recruit 49, we had asked for 150 new staff which meant a prioritisation exercise and a structural alignment that matched the resource we were now allocated, a re-boot with a limited budget. Not all of the re-boots require the superstar actors and huge budgets though, think of the collection of superhero TV series now gracing the screens of Netflix, nowhere near the super budgets of Batman Vs Superman, nor do they have the big name actors and yet they are probably making a bigger dent in the film buff psyche than the most recent Batman film ever will, sorry Ben Affleck!

How do we professionalise the digital health function though, how do we become recognised as the go to function to achieve change in healthcare. First and foremost, the logic of success building on success is key. Pick the projects that can be successful, not the easy projects or the quick wins, but the projects that will make a difference and that you know can be achieved. Professionalising the digital role in health is influenced from the outside in to some degree, the clinical engagement in the success of digital will build an organisational ally to help in the consideration of what a professional digital workforce can bring.

The re-boot of digital health needs some tools as well as the new actors. The SAMR ladder has worked well for us in understanding where our focus needs to be. Are we Substituting, Augmenting, Modifying or Redefining the delivery of healthcare. Are the terms mutually exclusive or are they an innovation journey that digital healthcare is on?

Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s model gives any digital leader an opportunity not to just re boot the organisation but a model to re boot projects as well.

Lets look at PPARS in Ireland, its original premise using SAMR was to simply Substitute what was currently in use with a digital platform, what went wrong according to the general consensus is that a simple substitution wasn’t enough. The human process was exactly that, not a logical process that digital could be a substitute for but an emotional and geographically different process that actually needed a redefining re boot. The success of eReferral in the last 18 months is because the process has been augmented, and the project team set about the re boot of the process knowing that was the case.

As we move to the EHR programme here in Ireland we know that the whole programme of work has to be about redefining, that is why the business change resource is so important and its why Ireland’s EHR business case insists on the budget and resource allocation for the business change elements,

Einstein’s definition of insanity is perhaps over used, but it fits so neatly here; ‘doing the same things over and over but expecting different results’ is his tried and tested definition. Without a re boot digital health is not going to succeed and we need it to be the next Avengers re boot not the best forgotten Nicholas Cage classic, Ghost Rider.

Consider the re boot theme, build the business change resource and lets get this movie started!

Whose data is it…

Biden Vs Faulkner, whose data is it any way.

 

Having a common enemy, a common ‘bad guy’ will always help a cause. A figurehead to rally against is one of the best motivators for the creation of a movement. Maybe in the last few weeks the Biden vs Faulkner showdown will be the catalyst for a new lease of life for the patient data movement. If the reports are true the Chief Executive of Epic; the Digital Health multinational may have ignited a new enthusiasm for patient data openness, by challenging Joe Bidden as to why on earth a patient would want access to their own data.

The conversation is said to have gone like this; Faulkner was amongst a group of healthcare executives gathered together to discuss with Biden the Cancer Moon-shot. The internet based magazine Politico reported that Faulkner raised questions about the utility of patients being given access to their own health records in a digital format.

“Why do you want your medical records? They’re a thousand pages of which you will understand 10,” she allegedly told Biden.

“None of your business why, I, the patient want access to my information,” Biden is said to have responded. “If I need to, I’ll find someone to explain them to me and, by the way, I will understand a whole lot more than you think I do!”

The culture of digital health organisations in the UK and Ireland has changed over the last decade so substantially that Faulkner’s comments sent many of us into shock. I distinctly remember arriving in Ireland and in 2014 and being asked to take part in a patient advocacy roundtable. At this event the gentleman who represented the Parkinson’s patients of Ireland towered over me and demanded that I, “… stop pussy footing around and get my data shared if it means that a cure can be found for this god-awful disease!” His premise was that if I didn’t he would and he wanted his information now, on a memory stick so that he could give it to an academic.

In the US we are told that the way the patient portal payment structure was created for meaningful use means that vendors were paid on a ‘log in attempt’ basis, this meant it was in the vendors interest to lodge a member of staff in waiting rooms and ‘help’ patients log in to their records, just the once. Pretty much taking the meaning of the phrase meaningful use and throwing it away.

We can also think back to the National Programme for IT in the UK and its version of patient access, HealthSpace, I can place a clear reason why that didn’t take off too, it was so very very hard to authenticate yourself before you could use the service. It required to visit a library with three forms of ID, to receive a letter with a PIN and then set up a significant password structure, the drop off rate before people got to view their records was huge, and understandably so. And yet here we are in 2017 with a new start up bank, N26, who have the technology to allow you to authenticate who you are with a camera on a mobile phone, from the safety of your own bedroom you can have a bank account up and running in eight minutes! Technology moves quickly and really does allow us to implement the digital health dreams we have.    

So there are a few technology examples of Faulkner being right, well at least the technology not facilitating her being wrong! But, now glance over to Finland and Catalonia two regions that have proven the ideals that Biden has described for patient access to information to not just be the art of the possible but be actually here now, information in the hands of the patient and making a difference to the care being delivered.

The first time I heard the solution that Finland has created to this issue I was in awe; the work is a partnership with Microsoft and shows the innovation and ingenuity of the possible through partnership, clever thinking and a will to put the patient at the centre of what can be done. In Finland the national electronic health record is effectively a set of data that is mirrored to two windows. The first is the clinical EHR, the first place the clinician sees information about their patient, the second window is the patient version of the same, the key difference is the patient can add information to the record via their ‘window’. The patient can add free text or wearable gathered data or home held diagnostic information, the clinician can see this information and decide to add it to the clinical side of the record. The clinical governance of the information is still held with the clinician but the ability is now presented to the clinician for them to value the patient input to the record and move it over to their ‘window’ on the information, thus giving it the clinical validity it deserves.

Suddenly the comment made by Faulkner become even more ludicrous; the patient information is not only about them and owned by them but now has real clinically valid input into the care being prescribed and practiced, let’s not forget that this is the person Faulkner is worried won’t understand the information, they are now an author of some of the information.

The next success story here must be the amazing work that Tic-Salut have done across Catalonia in this area. They have created an eco-system throughout the region that has driven a new type of credibility to the delivery of patient access to information. The proliferation of health apps is huge; in Catalonia the market place for these apps to be released into has been created by the health system itself. An accredited app store for the healthcare system built to allow patients and clinicians to use health apps with confidence. Unique though to Catalonia is the arrangements put in place around the data that these apps can use. If you have an accredited health app one of the conditions is where the data is made available, not just within the app but in a secure, audited and protected way the data can be used within the health care systems own information systems. What Tic-Salut have done here is ensure that the lines between clinical data created by clinicians can be blurred with the data created or collected by the citizen and patient without overloading the clinical team with data, after all data is only useful when it becomes information.  

Then we come to our own projects; in Ireland we have a decade long history of under investment in digital health to first get over to allow patients digital access to information, but, in Epilepsy we are seeing an almost immediate patient impact by having access to information. The patient portal trialled in the delivery of care for patients with Epilepsy has been a huge success for many reasons. First and foremost the portal and its functions have been co-designed by the patients and families themselves, the elements you can do with the portal are exactly what the patient wanted to be able to do. So viewing the clinical note is there as a function that has been seen as being useful but also the new ability to record a seizure, its severity and frequency and type has enabled a new paradigm in the delivery of care.

The ability for a patient to be significantly involved in reviews of medication efficacy through the capture of data has seen around 100 patients come off anti-epilepsy drugs since the portal has been introduced. I have championed digital solutions for the care of epilepsy since coming to Ireland in 2014, largely because of the passion that clinicians and patients, the careers and the special interest groups have shown for what can be done here. I hope that this light house on the art of the possible in Ireland can continue in to 2018.

In Ireland we have a plethora of digital health start-ups and new organisations. The Jinga Life team for me are delivering a solution that is a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for what can be done in Ireland. A design unlike any I have seen in healthcare, truly a delight to use and see. The concepts of Jinga Life is to concentrate on the key member of the family who is ‘tasked’ with the care organisation of the family. In their research over 90% of care is managed and organised by the female in the family. The Jinga Life portal allows the family member a tool to organise that care and to provide new data that can become clinical information to the clinician. Part of the success on the build of Jinga Life is its clinical and patient focus, definitely one to watch and one that I hope will show Faulkner yet again how wrong she is.

In the same week that Ireland launches its Open Data portal this data debate rages on, whose data is it anyway? Much can be discussed here but one thing we do know, its not the data of the digital vendors that are out there, and we need to seize back the ability to get at that data. A patient engaged, involved and aware of the information that is used for their care is a patient that can be part of the clinical delivery process, a patient empowered to help themselves.  

The Liquid Hospital…

First published for KLAS research, republished here for completeness…

Liquid healthcare systems.

I was discussing a way to describe how eHealth can change the way in which hospitals deliver care recently with a learned colleague. He has come up with the phrase, the ‘Liquid Hospital’, which I have to say has grabbed my imagination completely. The concept of a Liquid Hospital is very much one not just supported by technology but actually made possible through technology and innovative ways of working. Its not that much of a stretch of the imagination to see it being possible but it will require a large amount of business managed change and can’t be made so ‘just’ through the implementation of technology. The thinking is starting to mature here and in November Ireland’s minister for health began to use the phrase a health system without boundaries, after all digital doesn’t recognise the ‘physical’ boundaries of a hospital or GP Practice.

Moving away from concepts of episode centric care will be a significant challenge for all considerations within any health care system worldwide. Let’s not forget even the concept of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) is based around recording the episodes of care that occur rather than around the patient. Breaking down the systemised walls for the provision of care will be key to the innovation that we describe here as the Liquid Hospital. Although as the concept evolves, we note a flaw in the name. The Liquid Hospital does not refer to one institution or hospital – the concept really is around the delivery of seamless care and wellbeing support to people (not just patients), however for the purposes of this article let’s stick with the name as a term.

Simple ideas

The idea is quite simple really; once the patient is in hospital the technology allows the episodes of care that the patient requires to come to them, rather than the patient being shipped around the hospital for different treatments and the risks that come with that. In other words, the system becomes clinical centric. I know from a stay in hospital in 2016 that being moved from ward to treatment room and back again is at the least uncomfortable and at worst darn right scary. The concept doesn’t just stop there though. It does also propose to achieve that panacea of eHealth – a truly paperless environment, as not only do treatments flow around the patient, so does information.

Imagine an outpatient visit to a liquid hospital. You arrive in reception and check in with a clinician who takes your identification and confirms back to you some details to allow you to confirm to them the reason for your visit. As a patient you have elected to collect information on your condition at home so you quickly synchronise the smart device you have with the hospital systems. This shares your medication record and real time recordings of how your condition makes you feel.

As your consultant comes to you they are fed this information to their tablet computer and are analysing the outputs in the lift as they come to meet you in your own personalised consultation room. As the consultant comes into your room your records are shared on the display on the wall for both you and the consultant to consider. You have also elected to share the consultation output with your primary care professional and therefore the actions the two of you now collectively take are recorded and made available to them digitally and directly into their system ready for next time you the patient are with them.

You elect to have a procedure related to your long term condition. Whilst with your consultant you choose when and where that procedure will take place and you are electronically introduced to the clinician who will be your key point of contact when you return for the procedure. Your consultant is then able to provide advice on what you need to do before coming in to hospital for the procedure and download this advice to your smart device for you to consider with your family when you are home.

You also consider a slight change to your medication. The consultant is able to provide you with advice and guidance from around the world and connect you to patients like you with a similar condition via a secure social media outlet. This allows you to consider the impact of a change in medication with a peer group over the coming weeks and access some key support.

Your clinician can provide you with a new prescription directly to the pharmacist of your choice and you can call there on the way home knowing your drugs will be ready for you. A copy of your prescription and your summary notes are also made available to you for your own health record as you have elected to keep this information in your own health vault solution in addition to the electronic record in the hospital.

A few days later your long-term condition takes a turn for the worse and you decide to drop into the primary care centre, which is in your village. You ring the centre and are asked to provide the information you have collected over the last few days via your smart device, which you can do whilst you are on the phone. The primary care centre advises you to up the dose of medication ever so slightly and alter the time you are taking your prescription and within one day your illness settles down and you don’t need to go in to the centre.

The time of your procedure and your short stay in hospital draws ever nearer. Rather than have to attend the hospital for a pre-op meeting you have decided to share your own collected data with your key contact in the week leading up to your visit and have a brief video conference with the clinician. All is looking well and the clinician does not need to see you face to face. Although you are a little anxious, the hospital has arranged for you to be part of a secure group on a social media site and you are able to communicate with patients from around the world who have been through a similar experience, and this goes some way to settling your fears.

On the day of your attendance at hospital you check in comfortably with very little fuss. You are provided with a secure tablet PC that is linked to the hospital’s WiFi, and all of your notes and updates will be on this device during your stay so that you have the comfort of seeing them as well as them always being with you during your stay. It’s your choice throughout your stay as to who you additionally share the information with, electronically. You elect to send all information to your own personal record and some of the key facts to your primary care centre. You also decide to email your nearest and dearest a summary of each day to help them feel less worried about your time in the hospital’s care.

After the procedure you are out of hospital very quickly. Your after care is already arranged and as you hand back the hospital tablet computer with your information on you can already see it has arrived both in your own personal record and at the primary care centre.

The social care provision you require in the first few days is arranged on line and again, as the patient, you have decided what information to share and with who. The social care clinician visiting you at home asks if they can view your record in more detail and you grant them access there and then. The information they are able to get from this satisfies any initial concerns they had and they are able to discharge you within three visits.

How much of a stretch of the imagination do you feel this is?

The technology is there to facilitate this. It has been available the last five years at least if not longer. The big change is perhaps twofold; investment in the aspects of technology to drive this (including training and development) and the change in how care is delivered at a business and service level. Healthcare provision and change related to it is often compared to changing the direction of a sea bound oil tanker, but, if the description of this kind of benefit can be brought to a wider audience (and bought into) by clinician and patient alike maybe this could be an innovation we can make reality, its certainly describes a system that puts the patient at the centre and yet is only just beyond our own reach. A tangible view, just over the horizon of eHealth in action.

Some countries across Europe are starting to put in place the building blocks to enable this change: in Scotland, a change to the commissioning model, facilitating health boards across all care delivery to allow the holistic delivery of care and here in Ireland, the HSE’s own integrated care programme and reform programmes beginning the concepts of change, the creation of the Individual Health Identifier and concepts like ‘money follows the patient’ will all start to enable this dream to become reality.

Technology and a business change programme truly can break down the physical walls of the care institutions of the country and allow care to flow around the patient in a manner as transparent as H2O.  Our 2020 vision sees health without walls made possible by digital.

 

 

Seven degrees of connectivity (or less).

First published by the NDRC as part of the #HealthTech event in the summer of 2016.

Ireland is the most personally connected country in the world. Or at least I am starting to believe that from the evidence I have seen over the last 18 months. I have been told on so many occasions that what we have in Ireland is the first real example of a global village mentality and in particular for technologists. I have been involved in a number of different forums to support start-ups and big ideas for health technology in the last few months and really I do now believe in the concept of connectivity being one of Ireland’s biggest assets.

The Hollywood concept of “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” seems to apply even more in the world of the health technology start up in Ireland. If you don’t know someone who knows someone now, you soon will do! The willingness to help, to get the idea off the ground and at least the ability to bring it into the healthcare system is there.

One of the most reinforcing moments of my 20 year career in health technology happened a couple of weekends ago at the launch of the NDRC Health Tech event. Eleven teams were formed on the Friday around some amazing ideas for how technology can improve the delivery of healthcare in Ireland. As well as the idea generators in the room there were a number of volunteers from across many different sectors there to help turn the ideas into a real proposal that can be taken forward to be considered by the health system. The level of knowledge and commitment in the room around a number of great ideas was simply huge. The possibilities for health range, from the ability to provide assistance for Parkinson sufferers to walk with confidence again to an app that allows a mental health patient to step into the centre of the care they are involved in, to a new way of processing lab results nearer the patient and they are just three of eleven amazing ideas. However the magic is as much to do with the people in the room as it is to do with the ideas. Seventy people in a ‘competition’ and yet every one of them rooting for each other, connected in a new way to deliver a support network for new technology based ideas to change the way in which health is delivered. Teams of people working hard to support each other over that first weekend regardless of background, basis of knowledge or years of experience, all these amazing people are now connected to each other in a new way.

Slowly but surely a revolution is happening! The social media response to the RTE programme ‘Keeping Ireland Alive’ has started to open up the concept that the Irish healthcare system is not the issue with the delivery of care to the people of Ireland. The Irish healthcare system is full of heroes and connections to be made to transform the way in which care can be delivered. Truly the system is one going through a digital revolution a change that is having an impact on so much of the way in which care is delivered. The second of the Keeping Ireland Alive programmes had a telling digital moment as a senior clinician opened the paper records of the patient in front of him and exclaimed, as usual I can’t read the notes. Realisation that Ireland is running its healthcare system in the same paper based way that it has for the last 30 years is giving a strong impetus to the digital health agenda within the Future of Health objectives, no bad thing for the great technology organisations of Ireland.

With the type of innovations and connections made by the start-ups at the NDRC Health Tech event the problem the clinician faces can be fixed, removing yet another issue from the delivery of healthcare in Ireland is the desire of so many committed people. The NDRC is just one of many environments now supporting Irish companies movement in the health technology arena; the Health Innovation Hub, Portershed in Galway, ARCH, Insight, Health XL and the HSE’s very own eHealth Connects programme are now all there to support organisations in finding the connection and turning the bright idea into reality.

All this human networked connectivity can really bring about a change to healthcare delivery if we can harness it in the right way. The rallying call for Ireland from here though is simply get involved and help build a better healthcare system.

Health Leadership (UK & Ireland, the coming together!)

In November and December I was lucky enough to spend time with the IT leadership of the UK and Ireland, I collated the responses to a series of questions for an interview that HIMSS would then publish in two parts, here is the whole thing to give you a feel for how close the concepts of cross country collaboration are really coming along.

Some of the blog is written in the third person, it just felt a little odd interviewing your self without doing that, I hope you don’t mind.

Digital leadership in health in 2017 will have two crucial elements to handle, how to keep the ‘ship’ stable in times of change and how to deliver innovation in large, public sector organisations. In November the UK and Irish leaders of healthcare technology were face to face at a number of events that had these traditional pillars as the themes. Whilst they all accepted these had been at the heart of their focus for a few years now they still observed that 2017 would see a still further push to get these right or potentially fail to deliver for health in the countries they are responsible for.

The events where these leaders came together were, the Irish Innovation Showcase where Will Smart provided a key note that caused a pause in the IT leadership as they stopped to understand if they had the strategy right; the HIMSS Executive Leadership Summit where Andrew Griffiths provided an opening comment that got the whole crowd energised; Richard Corbridge then provided an opening statement with George Crookes at the Scottish Annual Digital Health and Care Conference that entertained and delivered a key message on the future and then finally Sean Donaghy who opened the first Island of Ireland collaborative Eco-System.

During this period of time HIMSS caught up with each of these leaders to get their views on what 2017 holds for digital in health and what they thought of the statements being made by each other and how they could support each other into the new year.

We went first to Will Smart at the Innovation Showcase. Will, what do you believe is the key to innovation in healthcare in 2016?

“Strong collaboration between leaders, healthcare professionals and patients is of fundamental importance. We need to move away from a paternalistic view of healthcare to one which truly embraces engagement and co working. As well as fostering the trust that is vital to the data sharing innovations that put cutting edge insight in the hands of clinicians, collaboration has the potential to create a culture which encourages, accelerates and inspires technological excellence.

That is why, through our NHS Innovation Accelerator and Global Digital Exemplar initiatives, we are supporting the most technologically innovative people and acute trusts to help them connect with partners, make networks and accelerate their innovations. We want to enable these pioneers to inspire others by showing how information technology can deliver both improved patient outcomes and enhanced business effectiveness.

Our patient centred agenda, combined with this type of collaborative support and leadership gives us a once in a lifetime chance to innovatively set technology to work for a system that’s focused on patients and led by clinicians.”

The concept of no longer being able to stand still have become key to the delivery of healthcare, will digital innovation be the route to avoiding this do you think?

“Absolutely. The NHS is under real pressure. Not only is the occurrence of expensive to treat conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and mental illness rising rapidly but we are all living longer and therefore need more care over the course of lives than ever before. So, to continue to deliver great care we must make our service as efficient as possible.

Innovation in information and technology is a critical part of almost all Sustainability and Transformation plans because it has immense potential ensure efficiency while making dramatic improvements to health and care provision, quality and outcomes.

Our planned new digital products and services will make health and care more accessible, more convenient and more effective for patients. As a result, patients will have more power to make better, more informed choices about their care which will also ultimately be more cost effective. Insight we can gain through shared information will also help us improve efficiency by ensuring that the right kind of care and treatment is given at the right time, from the start.

Standing still is not an option for the health and care system. Information and technology innovation has huge potential to help us provide more, and higher quality, care from the resources available to us at a time of increasing demand and this is an opportunity we must seize.”

Next to give us his views was Richard Corbridge from Ireland, Richard, this was Ireland’s first innovation week, what prompted Ireland to put such an event on? “First and foremost it was to bring the idea of Digital Health into the eye of the public. We have had over 3,200 individuals booked into the events in one week, all our events have been free and have garnered a significant level of interest from the people of Ireland. If the patient, the tax payer, wants to see digital in their health system to make it safer and more efficient then maybe an understanding of the level of investment that can be made can be got to. Secondly though the week of events has created a ‘platform’ to enable innovation in the Irish healthcare space to really begin to happen, and perhaps more importantly be supported, Ireland has an engaged clinical team, it is now starting to make the connections between clinicians and the technology leaders of the country.”

What do you see the blocker to innovation in healthcare being? “In Ireland it can be sheer resources, funding and time being the hardest to come by. More generally in healthcare I would say it is the concept of building the jumbo jet as it flies down the runway, as digital leaders we have to keep so many moving parts on the go, the temptation is to focus on these and we can’t, we have to keep an eye on the future. There is a story of a bridge built in Honduras I have been using in presentations recently, an amazing bridge, started in 1989, by the time it had finished due to environmental changes the river it was spanning had moved. We have to be mindful of this happening to our plans and enable innovation and new technologies to influence them.” We then caught up with Andrew from Wales at the HIMSS ELS; you spoke of ‘not checking the Daffodils too often’ which went down well as an analogy, can you explain what you meant? “First to explain the analogy, aside from playing to the Welsh stereotypes, if you keep digging up a plant in the garden because it’s not growing, the very act of checking everyday ensures the plant never grows. There can be a tendency in health IT to give up too quickly and declare the project a failure, spending all our energies on checking and explaining, when what’s needed are steady nerves, encouragement and the will to succeed.The most troublesome periods in any implementation can be the early days, people are not used to the system, support can take longer as training becomes practical knowledge and the IT hasn’t settled down. Inevitably the first period is also when most changes are happening and every change is an opportunity for a problem. Admittedly there are times when the plant is a weed and needs to be killed off quickly but in my experience more often it’s a plant that needs nurturing. If we “fail fast” at every perceived problem we might never achieve anything, some of the great achievements have needed great perseverance.” As digital leaders what do you think the key strategy for leading in these times of most unpredictable change can be? “I’m not sure there’s a simple answer to this and if there is, please someone tell me. However my thoughts for what they’re worth are that: we need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve and recognise that in achieving our goals “digital” is not an end in itself but the means to something greater.

We need to keep that vision in our heads and keep doing things that gradually get us there. That will inevitably mean spotting opportunities that occur and changing the plans so that we can take the opportunity. It would be great to be able to stop the world, design it, then start again but the reality is that we have to make running repairs that are actually leading to a complete rebuild. We need to be developing great people who know the right things to do because they share the vision. Finally, somehow we need to summonses the courage to create certainty for others so that they, unburdened, can confidently get on with the doing.”

George was the next of the group we were able to speak to, the idea of the UK and Irish digital healthcare leaders being able to share more seems new, what do you think can happen if this is enabled?

“The days when we not only had to own the problem but also own the solution are over. It was wasteful in terms of time and money and we do not have the luxury of either! The benefits of sharing thoughts and ideas as well as good practices, lessons learned and solutions is mutually beneficial. The challenges our health and care systems face are the same, the largest part of any technology supported solution is generic. So, it is not rocket science to suggest that collaboration is the correct path to follow.”

The annual digital health and care conference in Scotland had a great selection of speakers, Richard spoke about different ways to engage stakeholders, how do you see that influencing the way we deliver digital health in 2017?

“The need to involve stakeholders from all communities of interest is fundamental to securing sustainable and scalable solutions to the wicked problems we face. The perceived effort it takes to engage the public can be reduced and the outcomes magnified by using innovative methods to support the process. The need to use multiple digital channels for engagement is going to become the norm going forward and will transform how we plan, develop and deliver services.”

The ability for countries to come together is highlighted through these leaders willingness to share, perhaps no more so will this make an immediate patient difference than between the Northern Ireland healthcare system and the healthcare delivery of the Republic of Ireland. Sean Donoghue opened the first whole Ireland Eco-System meeting in this same week with a rallying cry for collaboration on the delivery of standards and the ability to share key lessons learnt.

Sean, seeing the start of an Irish cross country collaboration at the Eco-System this week, do you see this model evolving across the EU?

“Inevitably it will, the key issue is whether it is driven forward by public and private health systems, or whether systems and leaders have to be pulled reluctantly to the table. Collaboration across systems is a key support to better sharing of citizen information and best digital care practice in to support better health and wellbeing across the EU. 

We have that need right now, with a large land border that citizens of this island cross as part of their daily lives, including for health and social care. Too much of the approach up until now has had the feel of ‘make do and mend’, and that will not support our citizens to get the best from their own efforts and from health & social care resources. We have fantastic potential to build a shared digital fabric that can remove some of the worst impact of a land border on the experience of our citizens, and we’re determined to realise that potential. That means taking action now on shared citizen identification, and on shared standards.”

All of the leaders we have spoken to in the last week place the patient and clinician at the centre of the digital revolution, how does the Eco-System meeting do this and how do you ensure this is maintained beyond this initial coming together?

“The driver for sharing is the needs of citizens; that is very well recognised by health & social care staff, who voice their frustration at the barriers to communication, and thus to better care.

The Ecosystem meeting provides a place to check in, to celebrate successes, to remind us of what remains to be done, and to provide a public space for health and care systems and those who supply digital solutions to set out the agenda for further work. It is a visible and important signal of our intent to work together.

Sustaining this approach requires commitment from leaders, and of course, visible progress. The commitment is there, and the early signs of progress are encouraging. I am confident there is much more to come to inspire collaboration as the default way of working.”

In two weeks these five digital leaders have moved forward an agenda of collaboration, sharing and evolution in healthcare perhaps more than the UK and Ireland has seen in the last five years. The spirit of working together in times of change would often be described as the spirit of England, but, this collaboration shows that in digital health it has become a spirit of the five nations!

All of the leaders commented on the amount of change in 2016 being unprecedented, however they all spoke of ways in which they had built a strategy to cope, maybe what change will do is foster a degree of collaboration that the global healthcare system has not seen before. We asked a final question of the two leaders from the island of Ireland, what was their own predication for 2017 in digital health; the Republic of Ireland’s CIO said, ‘We will see the ability to deliver complicated care information digitally to the patients of Ireland and allow patients the ability to add information to their care record in such a way as to enable it to be useful to clinical staff.’

Sean’s final comment perhaps is a shining example of how this group are starting to think when it comes to the transformation of healthcare; “The most exciting development is the sharing of information with citizens, and building shared workflow to provide more flexible, tailored care. I expect tangible progress with all of my colleagues on this in 2017.”

Richard Corbridge finished off a number of the presentations over this period of time with what is becoming almost a trademark phrase of his, Imagine A World, the conversations with these five digital leaders allow us to imagine a world where the much promised future can actually become a thing of reality, where integrated care can be delivered through a digital platform and patients will feel that the care they receive is within their own context, a huge leap forward for how these countries enable innovation in the health care system.

Do eHealth agendas ‘need’ politics…

First published in HIMSS UK Journal in September of 2016.

 

The delivery of health is driven by politics by necessity. No matter where in the world you are the delivery of health and wellbeing to a population is an election winning and losing manifesto. We understand that the delivery of digital health could be as disruptive in its application as any other business arena globally and yet, maybe because of these intrinsic political links, eHealth has not been able to ‘just do it’ at the pace of say the tourism agenda or even the ever increasing connected cities agendas.

The Bob Wachter report, ‘Making IT work in Health’, was published in the UK in early September. Politics allegedly, is said to have even delayed its publication, an essential report that the NHS needed, a report that global health systems considering how to make the giant digital leap needed.

Why does health have to work to a political agenda and time line? As IT professionals it is frustrating. Innovation needs to be allowed to happen in an agile manner. In Ireland we are deploying solutions that are over 10 years old, we continue to deploy them because they have been backed politically but the digital landscape has moved on three generations since the inception of some of these solutions, and to be absolutely fair the solution, whilst ten years old, still makes the beneficial difference the healthcare system originally wanted to gain.

I tell a story when presenting at the moment, a second hand, legitimately stolen story I have to admit. In 1969, the ‘people’ of Hong Kong decided that they needed to create a business district. They came together and placed a mandate to develop the business district regardless of political persuasion, economic climate or technology change. Today the business district of Hong Kong is one of the most thriving globally. It is as shining example of what innovation, connected people and a clear, unambiguous and a-political mandate can achieve.

I am proud to be working in Ireland on the health care of a nation. Earlier this year our minister for health proposed that Ireland needed to move away from annual planning, annual stretch targets and annual budgets. He asked for a mandate to create a cross party commissioned group that would consider the future health of Ireland and report back to the people of Ireland what the options, and indeed solutions would be. How exciting. At last the health system of Ireland could have a plan that is longer than some repeat prescriptions!

By allowing health to be disruptive and creative, then it can consider how to catch up with other international business from a digital innovation point of view. We often ‘roll out’ the banking analogy. Citizens are happy to use mobile banking by and large, the expectation to get a real life letter from the bank has almost gone away and the bank manager is no longer recognisable on the high street as a person of status. Banking changed quickly, maybe because technology was enabled to be disruptive, not just because of the investment but because of the change in attitude and even the aptitude of the customers themselves.

Will any country ever be brave and allow a system to just do it. If clinicians and patients are engaged and want ‘IT’ then why not?

The suggestion is definitely not to do this without governance or engagement but to take away the political might, to empower the system, which is far more intelligently capable in this arena than the political system after all, to make the difference happen in clinical and technology settings! Attempts have been made in many jurisdictions to empower the public. The NHS tried the Healthspace experiment in the late 1990s and Estonia is mentioned in every EU eHealth meeting as a rising star of patient empowerment through access to information. The Danish health system is as close as it gets to a ‘Block Chain’ like health information system in 2016, where the patient truly has a level of control over the information about them. If we can make this happen then we should be able to find a way to enable the eHealth orchestration to step out from the political agenda somehow.

There is an additional moment of caution here though, which needs to be learnt and applied. The suggestion we make here is, yes to enable the politicians to take a step away and allow the agenda to deliver against a defined and agreed benefit set, it is not, and I can’t stress this enough, an ask to bring in a large group of people who do not know how health works and ask them to deliver large complex digital change agendas to health. Health is not just another business ready for change it is unique and that feared and fabled word, ‘special’!

Under the auspices of the then prime minister Tony Blair, health in the UK was labelled as a business that was ready to made like ‘Easy Jet’. Almost weekly a politician globally will reference the need to ‘Uber-ise’ the health system. I wish we could simply do that but health is huge, interlinked, has powerful and learned users that need to be taken on this journey of change. Uber-ing health would cause more of a fall out than the go-live of Uber in any city that has been globally seen so far.

Relationships with other government departments, wider politicians, parties and vendors obviously will need to continue to grow, and often politics will need to have a part to play in these burgeoning relationships. Perhaps this is the area where our digital agenda could benefit more from a political involvement. Whether it’s Mark Britnel from KPMG, David Beloff from Deloitte, Neil Jordan from Microsoft, Kaveh Safavi from Accenture or Robert Wah from CSC, Ireland has access to a wealth of advice and guidance from partners and prospective partners second to none globally. The knowledge in years alone from just the names above is so impressive, and yet there seems to be a fear from the political and civil service system to engage with these brains, which is a shame.  Partnerships with the these organisations are already in place, and of course each of them is hoping to get a larger bite of the Irish ‘cherry’, but whilst this is their end goal they have been very willing to share, to help us learn lessons and apply new ways of working and thinking. Ireland partnering with this kind of intelligence at all sorts of levels is exactly how it will implement an eHealth agenda and get it right first time.

So, if we persuade the politicians of the world to work with us to set a longitudinal ambition for eHealth, if we can persuade the same politicians to help each eHealth team agree the governance, the way in which they can be involved and the parameters and limitations of their involvement then, can we simply get on with it? Against an informed and educated back drop I really do think we can.

The avoidance of vendor led grey IT would be an area to watch. If we take away the political detailed mandate there is a risk that vendors could become a great deal more powerful in local micro-systems. National integration can be achieved without political ownership, through true engagement of clinicians and patients a final location for digital health can be agreed and reached. It can be agreed without clinicians becoming programmers as well I think. It’s entirely admirable the engagement that many other jurisdictions now have with clinicians. Initiatives like Code for Health and more widely acceptable open source solutions are great where clinicians want to get his involved but are not a prerequisite to clinical engagement or to eHealth being able to move away from short term political direction.

I do need to bring this back to Ireland though. As has been reported in the media, Ireland has an EHR business case it now believes in. The health system itself has approved it as a business case, clinicians, patients and the leadership of the system has made it clear that the 10 year direction in this business case is the right way for Ireland. The issue now though is down to the affordability, and that will always be a political prioritisation piece. A public health system such as Ireland’s can’t ask patients to pay for the IT it uses as a direct cost, although we know that the cost of an EHR in Ireland would be seventeen euro a year per patient. And that’s where the political elements has to remain, they have to be the pay master and therefore they have to be able to take credit and risk for delivery.

If Ireland can agree the 10 year journey, if Ireland can continue to deliver the digital fabric it is doing, with the simple support of an engaged minister’s office and political team then we truly could be the first country in the world to do this effectively in a timely fashion and with the patient at the centre.

A great result is coming our way, and this will be down to the efforts of the full system of support, civil servants, public servants, ministers, clinicians, patients and vendors – a true partnership as a facilitator for success.

The right questions…

First published in HIMSS UK in November 2016.

Answers to questions can change the world, of course they can! When I fly I so rarely check a suit-case in that I had forgotten the words that you are asked before every flight until this year’s summer holiday. Did you pack this case yourself, are any of these (dramatic wave over picture) items in the case, could this case have been tampered with?

Western, male, childish human behaviour always, always makes me want to answer different to how the desk operator expects at this point, but I don’t, I behave and move along the line. But this summer holiday season these questions did get me thinking about the parallels to healthcare. Are the questions the right questions, are they based on enough background information, are they asked at the right time and does anyone really consider what the answer could be?

In Ireland we have three projects known as Light House projects, specific disease areas of focus where we have applied investment that has delivered learning and solutions for the healthcare system. Interesting in the context of question asking in particular is the Bipolar Light House project; one of its early deliverables is a solution that allows the person suffering with the disorder to record their feelings daily. In time and with the patient’s awareness the questions will be prompted by other data, for example has the person been outside today, exercised, and interacted with others. The question and the context of the question is just as important as the answer in these circumstance! And yet current ‘best practice’ is to ask at each consultation, how have you felt over the last month?

And to match the current best practice we also have human nature, where the obvious answer in Ireland in particular is, ‘Grand, thanks’.

Cause no fuss, almost regardless of disease type is the patient ethos when it comes to the sharing of information, and perhaps even more so in complex mental health areas. If a patient wants to share information then it is our role, maybe even our main reason for being in the digital health industry in the future to enable this to happen.

Are the questions the right questions to ask, clinical practice knows because of the wealth of knowledge that clinicians have what the right questions are and how they need to be asked. This is fundamentally why we need clinicians involved in the design, build and test of every system deployed into our healthcare system. Seeking clinical support from the design phase onwards is not a simple task though, design comes with personal perspective and opinion and therefore getting to a point of consensus is always going to be difficult. Maybe then the arbitration vote on the design of an information system that is asking questions should be the patient, to truly deliver contextualised care where the right questions drive a type of care that is infinitely safer, more efficient and makes the care delivery feel like the fast lane for baggage check in and the first class lounge at the airport!

Questions in health need to be based on enough background information to make a difference to the care that the patient is going to receive in a short space of time in the initial consultation. Systems need to inspire the right question.

The airport questions have to be asked at the right time, in health we need to consider are our questions asked at the right time and by the right people. One of the most common perceived benefits to an EHR in an acute hospital is to remove the need to keep asking the patient the same questions over and over again, not just because, lets face it, it doesn’t instil confidence in the patient or the delivery of care but because it is simply inefficient and unsafe. But really an EHR in an acute hospital can do so much more than fix this issue when it comes to asking the right questions.

As Ireland prepares to go live with it’s first EHR in the maternity hospitals of the country we can see a huge enthusiasm amongst clinicians because the system is going to prompt them, based on data, to ask questions against early warning algorithms. The questions will be prompted because the patient is at the centre of a new type of ‘network’ where devices that measure are plugged into data and where the two spheres of influence, the measure and the data, can come together to inform the intelligence of the clinicians so much more than simple observational charts allow us to do today. That’s is why we, the health technologists, got into this business really, the connectivity of technology that allows us to create an Internet of Things that has the patient at the centre, maybe a new name for IoT in health, the Internet of the Patient, IotP!

If you did decide to answer the airport questions differently to the expected answer what would happen? I would hazard a guess a serious double take would be the first thing as the clerk behind the desk has probably never had anyone answer in any way other than to confirm the answers they expected to hear.

But when formulating the questions does anyone really consider what the answer could be? Imagine if a patient answered differently to expected, how much would it throw the care process. In 2006 I was seriously ill in hospital, no one knew why, no matter what questions were asked the team couldn’t get to bottom of it, so they put me in ICU and wired me up to every possible machine, turned down the lights and observed, when the questions fail observation and time are the only keys to unveiling the true nature of disease and illness. Questions answered can come from so many different quarters, in my case the fact I had travelled overseas was the key to unlocking what was wrong, but that took a more casual conversation than how are you feeling and could only be got to once I was stabilised. Somehow the ability to unlock that information needs to be a new focus for health if we are to deliver contextualised care. However the care that needs to be taken in unlocking the data and delivering it to the clinician needs to be significant, as Frank Buytendijk, a Gartner researcher has been describing for several years this could be considered to be ‘crossing the scary line’. The impact on care that data can have is phenomenal, but, two key actions need to be considered, firstly can the clinician handle the volume of data and second what privacy elements is the patient willing to give up to enable the clinician to have this information.

Imagine if we could give an answer that could cause a different question to be formulated! In so many other sectors digital information has already enabled business disruption to occur. If we can get to the point in health care where the question of the patient could actually move from how have you been for the last month to one where the clinician and patient already have the core data shared between them, the conversation can then move away from how to why and then to prevention. A clinician recently told me that the outpatient appoint for him, a psychiatrist, was as much a reminder to review the notes of key patients as it was an actual face to face appointment, with the right systems delivering the right information to all parties then that can become a shared responsibility and the mantra from the UK of no decision about me without me can be taken up even more strongly.

Next time I check a bag in at the airport I think I will have a little more time for the person asking the question, really they have an important job to do in simply asking the most simple of questions.

 

CIO as a conductor…

First published in CIO Magazine in August 2016. A collaboration with Elaine Naughton in the  writing and development of this idea, a huge thanks to Elaine for this.

In the excellent Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, he describes a discussion between Jobs and Steve Wozniak where Jobs is explaining to Woz that the role he plays in Apple is that of an orchestra’s conductor, here to get the best out of the team, to ensure that they play in harmony and deliver to the listener the most inventive and yet classically rich vision of the original design. This conversation is said to have taken place after a strong ‘debate’ just before the launch of the iMac itself, Woz described by Isaacson had just exclaimed to Jobs that he was neither designer nor engineer and therefore did not really warrant or justify the recognition he was getting as the ‘re-saviour’ of Apple.

Is the creativity of the conductor the real line to success in IT leadership? After all the ‘band plays on’, or at least tries to, whether there is a conductor or not. Even as early as 1998 Jobs was describing, I think, what the modern CIO now needs to be, although maybe we now need an evolved model from conductor to DJ or rock and roll front man.

Why does the analogy and the model need to evolve? Well, in times gone by, the IT leader would have sought out the best in class people he needed. Much like creating an orchestra of around 30 talented artists, the Leader had to be the best that the orchestra could afford and then the conductor had to make them fit into the team, not always an easy job. The ‘prima donna’ persona of the highest calibre technologists is not always easy to integrate into a high-performing team after all. This then, perhaps, is where the evolved model comes in.

The leader of a rock band enables the band to “jam” develops a structure and order to remain in time, and chooses a rift as well as creating a tune as they play. Maybe this roll can be best described as the start-up innovator of the music scene. A band always needs a front man – someone with a vision for the sound they want to achieve and the charisma and charm to wow an audience, the band may play on if the front man leaves, but rarely as successfully; what would U2 be without Bono? or the Rolling Stones without Jagger? Queen without Freddie? Perhaps the best real world example of the rock star digital leader is Larry Ellison of Oracle, truly a front man if ever there was one to be seen in digital leadership. The owner, founder, creator and beating heart of the Oracle empire, whilst no longer leader in name still very much the charismatic front man of the brand and indeed, band!

An orchestra, on the other hand, follows a very strict plan and each of the upwards of 30 members (over 50 for a symphonic orchestra) knows exactly what they need to play and when, whether it is solo or synchronised with their team (by virtue of the score). Only the conductor knows the full score and reads all lines simultaneously, knowing who to call on and who to bring in exactly when they are needed for the orchestra to continue playing in harmony and in time, and for soloists to have their moment to shine. A digital leader in the style of the conductor does just this. The danger here though, is if only they know the full picture, keeping everyone focussed takes a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm. Many public sector digital leaders are of this style (often by necessity) as the full picture is in reality always being altered and reconfigured a small amount by the political leaders and paymasters.

The conductor’s role is an art form and a talent, while being a very technical job. Take the conductor from this and time signatures slip, the musicians become discordant and eventually chaos ensues. Just as with Jobs and his temporary departure from Apple, as conductor of that orchestra he was never truly replaced and therefore for a time the music was not what the audience needed to hear. The creativity, in the sense of innovation of the music, belongs to the composer rather than the orchestra or conductor; with this in mind maybe we need to see the digital leader as composer and conductor more often!

A DJ, unlike the conductor or rock band front man, can take the best work of a much wider variety of stars, mould them together until they find the right mix and then play it for the audience. The DJ doesn’t have to integrate the full character of the artist just that moment of excellence where the beat fits or as the very wonderful NetFlix original puts it, ‘When the Get Down arrives’! A modern successful digital leader then is going to be a DJ! If we consider the ‘gig economy’ to be the future in digital then this kind of character and behaviour is likely to become even more prevalent when building successful teams. The magpie-type ability to bring all the best bits together for one moment of excellence that then can be repeated.

We believe the skills of a DJ are also key traits of a transformational leader: someone who motivates and energises their employees to get behind a transformation strategy, creates something that has been written about many times before, the creation of a fan base if you will!

The styles of these three analogies allow us to consider the nature of digital leadership. There is a mix of two key styles here, one is transactional the other transformational. The conductor is transactional, planning, organising and controlling. The DJ is transformational challenging and changing organisational culture, coaching and developing people, creating a climate of trust, establishing a long-term vision. The front man perhaps mixes both styles dependent on the need of the audience or band members, an ambidextrous style that is agile and responsive as startups require to be.

The analogy can continue in a number of ways beyond just the parts of the mix. A DJ brings with them the theme and the end point they are trying to get to, much like a high performing digital leader needs to, they start with the end in mind. Also, the DJ needs to be aware of the change in trends, evaluate them and consider how to adopt them into their fabric, so much learning of how this is done from both professions; I would love a temporary job swap!

The Jobs autobiography also describes the moment that Woz and Jobs first met from Woz’s point of view, “We first met in 1971 during my college years, while he was in high school. A friend said, ‘you should meet Steve Jobs, because he likes electronics and he also plays pranks,’ so he introduced us”

Jobs and Woz learnt they had so much in common, and yet were so different. The wonderful “Small Data” book by Martin Lindstrom references a Harvard Business Review article by de Swaan Arons, van den Driest and Weed called “The Ultimate Marketing Machine”. The article suggested that there are three types of people needed to make a marketing company successful, they are:

Think people – Who focus on data and analytics

Do people – Who have responsibility for content, design and production development

Feel people – Who are all about consumer engagement and interaction

I wonder if the modern digital organisation can apply this exact same logic as has been done here for the marketing team. The types of people the IT leader needs to bring together are defined less by their technology specialty and more by the person type they act when they are in a delivery focused team. Back to Jobs and the Apple empire, the success of the original swathe of ‘i’ products has always been put down to two elements, one, Jobs own meticulous eye for detail and two, the design standards of the team under Sir Jonathan Ive. If we overlay the commentary from the article in the Harvard Business Review referenced above and the conclusions that Lindstrom himself makes on this article we start to see that the way this team has been successful is by ‘minding the small things’ by being a team that is led by a digital orchestrator but exists as a team that can deliver empathy together, to the benefit that is trying to be attained.

A modern, successful leader needs to be a strategist, a “front-man (or woman)” AND be able to conduct a complex set of teams in a harmonious way – or at least empower capable section leaders (upper strings, lower strings, woodwind, brass, percussion) to do so on his or her behalf.

The theories of Lindstrom in Small Data will blow your mind, you regularly turn a page and laugh at the conclusion he has made and how it applies so completely not just to modern marketing ways of working but to how the right digital function needs to deliver. Whether as leaders we are badged as CIOs, CDOs, Conductors or DJs we don’t care, we just want to be able to make IT work.

 

 

 

…… as a post script we really do care! Two IT leaders were involved in the creation of this article, one of us wishes they had taken the path of enlightenment and become the superstar DJ of their dreams the other is progressing from playing second fiddle in a growing orchestra to becoming a conductor and leader of a great band.

 

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