What is one of the most wicked problems in large organisations seriously adopting digital today? Many digital leaders would say it’s the challenge that Grey IT brings, and then some board members would turn to them and say what is Grey IT?
Digital functions the world over have adopted a multitude of phrases to describe a core issue that manifests in many ways and for many reasons. Grey IT is ultimately the organisation voting with its feet (or its projects) and buying and implementing technology without going through any digital function or digital governance. It’s a problem with its genesis in technology teams not meeting customer demands and the consumerisation of technology. There is an element of being careful what you wish for. In the 1990s technology leaders bemoaned their business functions for not being engaged in digital transformation, often the National Programme for IT and its perceived ‘failure’ within the NHS is accredited to the lack of business engagement; and now here we are a decade later complaining that the business is so engaged in digital solutions that they can deliver this stuff without digital teams getting involved.
The management training catch phrase of the 1980s, “Don’t bring my problems bring me solutions” needs to be turned on its head, when the business has an issue the ask now needs to be; “Come to me with your problem and lets together come to a solution for it.” This will be a first step to avoiding the Grey IT issue getting any worse, but once instigated the digital function now needs to be able to react to all the issues that are brought to the door, quickly, and in an agile manner that truly delivers on defined customer needs.
I propose that Grey IT is often so rife in large public-sector organisations because of two key reasons; a capacity to keep up with the now consumerised technology delivery that is possible and an often-backward view of innovation that comes from the business by digital professionals. The expectation that digital innovation can only come from those within technology rather than those at the cutting edge of business delivery has to be reconsidered by us, the digital leadership of any organisation! Sometimes the customer does truly know best!
We must combat these two root causes of this if we are to remove the negative outcomes of Grey IT’s existence. Technology outside of a decent governance capability is ultimately dangerous for business and healthcare delivery in particular. Grey IT does just that, delivers a layer of technology that does not have any governance to it. The real manifestation of Grey IT in the NHS today is often seen 12 months after the initial project go live, when the bill for the second year of the licence arrives or the need to upgrade becomes obvious and the technology professionals are called to assist. Worse still Grey IT becomes clear the day the system built, supported, procured and run outside of IT doesn’t work anymore, suddenly Grey IT falls back to its base colours, black and white, whose problem is it and who is going to fix it!
My organisation has been on the receiving end of one of the worst outcomes of Grey IT, many years ago we suffered a significant outage in the digital systems that were used in the Pathology Lab. Whilst the solution had been bought through a governed and appropriate manner it had not been taken into the technology team within the trust it had been developed, evolved and supported by keen and enthusiastic users, but a workforce that had moved on, had a higher priority (patient care) or simply had forgotten how to do stuff was left supporting a solution that was on legacy infrastructure. So when a server went pop, a disc array went AWOL and a back-up was missing disaster struck. This is all stuff the good book ITIL teaches digital professionals to avoid, but once the grey mist has descended upon it even the good book couldn’t help! All that the technology team could do in this case was take control of the recovery and work hard to ensure that the right lessons had been learnt and applied to the future.
I think we are looking at a plethora of different types of Grey IT that all need a different solution; Feral IT, Guerrilla IT, Shadow IT and traditional Grey IT.
Feral IT for me starts as a digitally led project often a collaboration, an exciting chance for the digital team and the ‘business’ to work together to come up with a solution. It gains ground as it delivers benefit but slowly drifts away from good governance, often because the project is so successful. Over time though the project will grow and its delivery focus and the team will change, as that happens the digital governance of the organisation can break down and the project is then being delivered outside the parameters of good governance.
The key to making Feral IT work is to ensure that the governance of the project is grounded in the foundations of the digital agenda, organisations are often looking for agility and a start-up culture to enable innovation to happen, but innovation becomes scalable only when a rigour of governance is applied. As digital leaders we should try to encourage the agility that this type of project culture offers, but it is also our role to ensure that the foundations of decision making and corporate risk management are clearly understood. It is tricky in a new decade where digital is a consumerised product, building an understanding of why we the digital function of an organisation needs to be continually part of the decision making in this kind of project can only be achieved with the right style of engagement, one that at least can light a candle next to the consumer style digital capability now available to everyone.
Guerrilla IT is a phrase that best describes the technology project that has been actively hidden from an organisations digital team, a project that has wilfully been created outside of governance for so many possible reasons. Guerrilla warfare was a phrase first coined in 1808 to describe the Spanish resistance to Napoleon, Guerrilla IT is an identified need that a team has understood and has been unable to get help with the delivery of, at this point the business function decides to go ‘rogue’ and deliver it anyway.
In the NHS today Guerrilla IT exists for many reasons but I would suggest the key reason is an inability to make the national solutions that have been delivered work in the way that locality needs them to. When we have Guerrilla IT projects we need to understand why they exist, much of the reason will often be traceable back to the nature of the solution being sought by the business to the problem and the digital functions inability to react in a way that achieves the desired outcome. The use of WhatsApp in the NHS is possibly the best example of a Guerrilla IT project, organisations have been saying for more than five years that this platform should not really be used inside a healthcare environment, and yet every day that I am in Leeds I see and hear of staff using it in ways we have actively said it shouldn’t be used. Why, because it achieves a need, it is easy to use and it’s a consumer product, and in reality, alternatives to its use are very new to the digital fabric of healthcare. The same could be said for ERS, there is a desperate need fro the NHS wide booking system to offer a ‘many to many’ booking capability, hospitals refer to hospitals! And yet it doesn’t and therefore department after department has its own growing digital solution to enable the digital transfer of information about patients moving from hospital to hospital, we have to fix this!
Shadow IT manifests often from the digital team, when disagreement exists in strategic direction, standards to be adopted or simply in the procurement of a system. Digital professionals can be a real pain, we all know best, we all know our subject matter and sometimes this can boil over into a Shadow IT project. A project that is delivered against the wishes of the governed decision and with an intention to compete with a decision made. Shadow IT will often be kicked off with good intentions; a project just in case the agreed and governed solution misses a deadline or as a risk mitigation to functionality delivery, but sometimes the project is started because it is a ‘pet project’ of a leader of the organisation, digital or otherwise. Shadow IT can be a useful mitigation to risk, but needs the same level of governance, risk management and rigour applied, it needs to be managed as a project that has goal of being there just in case and should not be tolerated as a vanity project because someone with the digital function is unhappy with a technology decision that has been taken.
Grey IT becomes the collective term for these issues, all shades of grey, successful in some ways in delivering user defined need but with risks to the business that need to be quantified and mitigated against. Removing Grey IT has already become one of the wicked problems, maybe we should accept that we can’t remove Grey IT from what we do, but we should look to understand where it is, why it is and what the risks are to us. There is also an element now of learning from the collective Grey IT projects and understanding better how to avoid them starting up, and that I think is about understanding the investment decisions that are required to initiate a digital project and the engagement needed to enlighten everyone in decisions being taken.
Investment and the return it brings has to be part of the equation in the answer to the ever-present Grey IT problem. Investment in infrastructure for healthcare needs to have a digital element in the same way as the investment decision would call for electricity, heating and light. In 2015 KPMG Ireland called out the need for the fourth ‘utility’ for the building of the National Children’s hospital in Dublin to be digital, it wasn’t, and we now see a furore in the media as the whole digital backbone of a brand new hospital is going over budget because its digital element was expected by decision makers to be run as a Grey IT project. Misunderstanding or on purpose I am still not sure but I do know that the digital team across the project, the ‘centre’ and the department were clear that the hospital had to be a digital hospital and yet the return on that investment was not judged to be worthwhile capturing properly and openly, IT costs money, when will we learn!
We are asked to consider the Return on Investment (ROI) that digital makes when we build a case for spend, perhaps the key to removing the plight that is Grey IT from digital health care could be to start to consider a different set of terms more strongly, what if we considered the Value on Investment (VOI) instead? Let’s not pretend anymore that investment in digital in healthcare anywhere in the world will ever return money back to anyone’s budget, capacity and demand are so ‘topsey turvey’ right now that no amount of digital innovation will return investment, what it will do though is increase efficiency to bring us closer to the demand need, increase quality to bring us closer to the required need and bring a new interest back to the daily roles to deliver a new enthusiasm for what we do. If we all consider the VOI together then just maybe no one would want to set up their own little Grey IT project anymore because we would all be heading towards the same increased value curve.
So we move from ROI to VOI and start to build the case for change in a different way, we still are missing a piece of the colourful puzzle that will be laid over the top of Grey IT though. Return on Reputation (ROR) was a phrase I first heard uttered by Ted Rubin a digital marketing expert and social media evangelist, Ted suggests that the way to building reputation is by building the network of believers and doing this by being ‘nice’. Quite an American ‘thing’ to want to do I guess but there is something in this I think. Digital functions all over the NHS have not adopted any form of ‘Del Monte’ attitude, we are quick to say no, we are quick to say get in line we have a prioritisation process you know! When we do this without listening, we do two things, we set the preference for our customers to understand that its quicker to ‘go elsewhere’ and that we are not part of the team, we are ‘another’ corporate function, maybe even an overhead, with our own benefit blocking agenda. If we adopt Ted’s principles then we should be more open to listen, more transparent in what we will do once we have listened and allow the ‘business’ to work with us to decide what to do first, second and third. The return we would all then get from this is an improvement in the reputation we have.
Grey IT is here now and no matter how big your One IT (insert other corporate programme name here!) is that you are instigating to remove it you won’t without attitude and aptitude change in the digital functions of healthcare. Change is hard to make happen but we have to make it happen, as a journey we are on not as a demand dictated to the system we can become one transformation function for the NHS.
Bring out the problems, let’s work together to create new ideas to solve them and then lets seek the right way of describing the investment and the way we are all going to deliver this together, let’s create joint solutions to problems we consider to be joint as well.
Somehow let’s make digital first be a way of working together that is about innovating for the future not simply concentrating on tomorrow.
NB If you ever see Ted Rubin on an agenda at an event you are at, go and see him speak, one of the most inspiring speakers I have ever had the joy of seeing, he changed my outlook and I still quote him years later, ‘just be nice!’
When arguably the largest digital health vendor in the world starts to consider how they move to a new terminology for what they deliver we need to prick up our ears and at least understand what the noise is about; a Community Health Record (CHR) is now the direction of travel for EPIC one of the worlds largest digital health care organisations. In the same period the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has begun to add some flesh to the digital vision he published earlier in the year, particularly around the state of the GP System in the UK and the desperate need for interoperability of the systems, ie. enabling the creation of a CHR in the NHS on a national scale.
I remember a pre-NPfIT world where the NHS had a choice of GP Systems from a vibrant market, and even when you were with a single vendor there was often a plethora of systems with a multitude of functionality levels available to you; who remembers EMIS LV, GV, PCS and Web all being on the market at the same time. SeeTec, Microtest, TPP, InPS, Torex and iSOFT all with the ability to deliver new exciting functionality and at the same time support legacy and green screen solutions. The move that we all took as NPfIT to rationalise the market was meant to modernise what was available, was meant to support innovation and create a new market place one where a CHR would be delivered. It didn’t it created a duopoly that has stifled innovation removed any kind of ‘start-up’ culture within the market place and disempowered much of the ‘family business’ loyalty that existed between vendor and GP. The GP element of a CHR can now only be delivered by moving to a single supplier base across a region and even then only through the movement of information in ‘old technology ways’ in the most part. What were we thinking!
Matt Hancock Secretary of State said the week before Christmas,:
“Too often the IT used by GPs in the NHS – like other NHS technology – is out of date: it frustrates staff and patients alike, and doesn’t work well with other NHS systems. This must change.”
The move from the mega-vendors in this space to try to create systems that span acute, community and primary care will not alter this paradigm and we need to take care as a joined up health and social care system to not start to drink the cool-aid again. EPIC now ‘offering’ a CHR is not the solution to a GP market place that has shrunk in size and is currently slow to consider how interoperability can be achieved outside the walls of their own systems.
In the same week that the Secretary of State made these comments Sarah Wilkinson the Chief Executive Officer added,
“The next generation of IT services for primary care must give more patients easy access to all key aspects of their medical record and provide the highest quality technology for use by GPs. The suppliers must also comply with our technology standards to ensure that we can integrate patient records across primary care, secondary care and social care.”
The simple fact that our national body for digital followed up the Secretary of State’s comment with this is a good sign, an ask for vendors to integrate across the care setting that make up the NHS against an agreed and publicised set of standards is what NHS IT teams have been asking for since the demise of NPfIT. Enabling patient ‘easy access’ cannot be done at a national level, that has been proven when the centre’s attempt at Health Space and Microsoft’s cancelled Health Vault solution. What can be done though are elements of patient access; security layers, a unified front end and entry point, promotion of the solution, standardised sets of data and ways in which this is presented and access to national data sets and information; but access to local information is best managed at a local level!
The work done in Southampton and now in Leeds and now many other places is showing that elements of an open Person Held Record (openPHR) can be achieved with connectivity, standards and a reliance on the expected parts that are best done once nationally.
The EPIC Systems CEO Judy Faulkner told a meeting ahead of EPIC leaders just ahead of Christmas that
“If you want to keep patients well and you want to get paid, you’re going to have to have a comprehensive health record. You’ll need to use software as your central nervous system, and that’s how you standardise and manage your organisation.”
These words echo some of the content of the new direction published by the Secretary of State and his team.
As a digital leader I have always pushed back though on the statement that IT will help standardise the organisation. That needs to be a clinical pull for standard work not a technology led necessity. In Ireland in late 2014 the Department of Health pinned parts of the Electronic Health Record Case for Change on the standardisation that could be achieved through the implementation of technology. The CCIO community in Ireland understood what was meant here but still pushed back, they had built the understanding that clinical led change was the right way forward and insisted that change would come about only through collaboration and with digital as a foundation for standardisation. This is why it took two years from procurement of the Cerner Millennium system to go live in the first maternity hospital of the EHR system, the clinical team wanted to ensure that the standard work that the system helped them deliver was based on clinical best practice not how the software works.
Judy Faulkner told Healthcare IT News in December 2018,
“Because healthcare is now focusing on keeping people well rather than reacting to illness, we are focusing on factors outside the traditional walls.”
This makes sense, the delivery of Population Health is the new knowledge basis for what we as healthcare professionals (Note not digital leaders) need to focus upon, here in Leeds we need to deliver this as a city, as a citizen platform for good health and social care to exist. We need to protect our clinical, medical and healthcare professionals from a deluge of data and somehow find the right way to present the right data at the right time, not all the data some of the time. A move to ‘data is there for the asking, not the taking’ is what Ewan Davies chief executive of Inidus called out in his new year predictions recently, with permission and with the right tools the CEO of EPIC could be right, digital systems really could start to offer the delivery of healthcare the ability to consider how it can deliver healthcare ‘outside the traditional walls.
To kick off 2019 Simon Eccles, national CCIO for Health and Care revealed his predictions for 2019 to Digital Health;
“I believe we’ll see a renewed vigour in digital health technology and I hope an end to the acceptance of ‘not-good-enough’ tech in the NHS, with NHS Boards across the country taking action to support their staff with good technology. 2019 will see the launch of the first NHS Interoperability Standards, with clear timescales for their adoption, and we’ll see the NHS App being taken up which will start to show us the true potential of the empowered consumer in health.”
However Ewan Davis the chief executive of Inidus had a less positive slant to add on the direction needed in his predictions for 2019;
“Progress with interoperability will slow as vested interests and the sheer difficulty of making it work swamp efforts to get beyond the first few use cases and there will be growing recognition that we need a different approach to create the data fluidly we need.”
I believe the way to abort this gloomy direction will be moving to a learning from local approach, one where we come together as healthcare leaders and share what has been delivered and how, the Care Connect work in Bristol, GP Connect work in Leeds, Record Locator go live in various locations and an ask from One London to truly move forward with meaningful FIHR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) profiles all begin to truly ring a bell for interoperability to happen in earnest. Whether its new entrants into the GP market that deliver this or a renewed local relationship with the suppliers that exist now to my mind it doesn’t matter. What I do know though is that by working together the system can remove the frustration that our Secretary of State describes and offer a joined-up system that has digital at its foundation and data fluidity as its life force.
I am proud of being a digital leader but I think that in 2019, to truly deliver what EPIC have described as a CHR then we all need to become healthcare workers with digital expertise in the same way as a brain surgeon is a healthcare worker with surgical (and so much more) expertise!
Do you remember that school report moment, that evaluation and review of the academic year, the fear of what your teachers would say, or not say when your parents went to meet them? A year of hard work distilled to a 45 minute meeting with a bunch of teachers who, in some cases, were probably trying to provide feedback to maybe as many as 100 kids who had various degrees of motivation and ambition. It must have been a hard task for them and it was often a nerve wrecking experience for the pupil!
Key phrases from my school reports: ‘creative writing doesn’t always mean making it up as you go along!’; ‘Please follow the rules of emergency air supply on an aeroplane, secure your own work before turning to help others’; ‘Less communicating and more concentrating will bring more academic rewards, but will make the class a dull class’; ‘Richard’s passion for campanology outweighs any I have ever seen in any teenager’. The last one holds a dear memory for me as a retort from my Dad, who exclaimed he knew I liked camping but thought I wasn’t the only one in school in scouts!
So, a year into the role in sunny Leeds, a year in to concentrating in a new way on what a digital fabric can do for health and care across Leeds and I thought it would be good to try to put together my own school report. A progressive ‘school’ like Leeds would allow the pupils to put together their own review as long as it could be challenged in a fair and productive manner by teachers and peers, so here goes.
First subject to be graded has to be Delivery. I think the #LeedsDigitalWay deserves a B- for delivery in the last 12 months.
Delivery Grade – B-
The first 100 days saw a sea change in the way the team worked. The objectives of what we wanted to do were made clear and the team began to evolve. The ‘simple’ action of getting board approval to invest in the PPM+ solution as the Electronic Health Record (EHR) for Leeds until at least 2022 has seen a new concentration on the process for delivery. Leeds has delivered against an agile methodology for over five years but now delivers on a monthly release schedule; new functionality defined by the clinical team lands into live each month. A new focus on the release function and now the way that test, development and integration work together has brought about some immediately noticeable changes, largely the enthusiasm and engagement that the clinical team has for the solution has improved significantly.
Deliverables such as the A&E dashboard, flu reporting, tasks and jobs inside the EHR, the implementation of Forward, the delivery of the eRespect form, Nursing eObervations, single sign-on for all and even simple changes like the opening of the internet to ‘real’ use has seen a continuation of the acceptance that digital is a hugely important part of what a hospital needs in place every single day.
Scan for Safety and the mobile EHR solution are fast becoming a way of life in Leeds. Not new gizmos but a way to enable the understanding of patient flow and a way of capturing information without fingers being needed on a keyboard. Scan for Safety also is an illustration of LTHT-wide partnership working and what can be achieved when a delivery is led not by IT but by clinicians and key impacted departments.
The delivery of new infrastructure for PACS, Digital Pathology and the new Genomics service all considered to be that unfortunate term, ‘back office’ deliverables, but all crucial to the acceptable running of the digital fabric of the trust are well underway with a limited resource to make them happen.
A slow but steady reform of the way service management is delivered has started to take shape as has a new way of thinking for Information and Intelligence (I&I). The organisational change elements are now in place to enable a function within the I&I capability to focus ‘just’ on data within PPM+, something LTHT has been trying to make happen for some time.
Why the dropped marks in this area? Expectations have been set really very high and whilst the resource to deliver has been changed in its structure it hasn’t changed in its capacity in any dramatic manner. A phrase I think should be avoided has been used too often: ‘do more for less’. Outages have occurred on three occasions, all managed well with no patient impact but in all three cases these outages could have been avoided. On the positive side, key lessons have been learnt and business continuity lessons and disaster recovery plans are now well honed.
When in Ireland I was once challenged by a senior member of the team to spend a few months in the garden shed away from the team and the email. The meaning behind the comment was I was pushing at a speed that the team needed a rest from. I think I drop marks for not learning that lesson as well as I could have. We are going at a pace in LTHT that will tire the team out if I am not super careful in 2019 and therefore I do need to look around and be sure that the delivery ambition we have is met by the resource we can apply.
Culture Grade – B
Building the team I want to work in is always important to me in any leadership role that I have had. Putting in place weekly updates (Can you give me two minutes) and hitting these for 52 weeks in a row has been an important way to show the width of the team how we can act as one. The creation of the #LeedsDigitalWay and the associated goals, vision statement and key strategic plans have not been created in isolation by the senior management team but, following the ethos of the Leeds Way, these have been done through crowd sourcing and via the wonderful ‘Very Clear Ideas’ process.
I feel the team is engaged, not entirely, but better than many would be in the ideals of what we are here to deliver. That is largely because the LTHT culture, the Leeds Way, gives me a jump off point that I can simply add to, but this has to be seen as a great benefit.
The whole team has had the opportunity to come together four times in 2017/18 as a digital team of leaders in the digital health environment. The meeting is not mandated (nor will it ever be) and has seen a steady increase in numbers for each gathering. One of the best moments of the year was the morning after the third All Staff Meeting being stopped by another early riser member of staff to be told they had put the next meeting in the diary already and would be telling all their colleagues how important the meeting was for working in the team – superb, immediate and honest feedback.
It is often joked that only those ‘great places to work’ organisations get IT and Communications right all the time. We have tried to get the level of communications right but in a recent staff survey the team wished for more, so now we move to consider all the different styles of communications we have and how they impact upon the culture.
To me the Leeds Way is our culture and our values with a digital ‘sheen’ applied to it. We have come some way in 12 months but I can see the gaps that we need to improve on.
The reason for some of the ‘dropped marks’? We are going through organisational change and are desperately trying to get that right at every juncture, but we haven’t always been as successfully as I would like us to be. As soon as we create an open culture which we have done then we have to have the capacity to listen and act on opinions that are made clear to us, we are trying to get that right but we are not quite there yet, could do better may be the school report language best used here.
I think we have been able to pick up extra marks though for team development opportunities. In 2018, we were able to be part of content delivered by HIMSS, KLAS, HSJ, CHIME, Digital Health and BCS. We have opened opportunities for staff to apply for the Digital Academy, a hugely important leap for us, and had 10 interns join the team, many of whom have stayed on in some way. Exciting learning prospects for all of us continue to be available across the team and will remain a high priority for us in 2019.
Engagement Grade – B+
The awareness of the LTHT digital journey at a national and international level has doubled in the last 12 months. We have been successful in ensuring that when somebody wants to understand how to deliver an EHR in the NHS then Leeds is one of the top five places they think of. Being able to take part in the Arch Collaborative and achieve the Net Experience score that we did showed the engagement the large proportion of our clinical staff feel for the systems we have deployed.
Leeds’ success has been represented on three continents this year and is synonymous with clinical engagement, an open attitude to delivery, an inclusive ability to resourcing and a willingness to share. If I were to write my own obituary these would be words I would want to see and therefor I think the B+ is justified.
We have been able to bring leaders from across the health and social care system to Leeds to show them how the front line of digital health is really working and I would like to think that has impacted on policy in some small way.
The reason for the dropped marks is, despite the geographic location working for us (Leeds is after all the home of over 20% of the health informatics staff of the NHS), we have yet to truly make the most of Leeds the place. With so many organisations in Leeds that focus on digital health, our own position in that eco-system still needs to be eked out.
Innovation & Technology Grade – C-
Next year I have to focus more on this. We have so many ideas and so many amazing offers of help to make those ideas come to life but time and resource has run away with us too many times. We have been able to get the infrastructure for Single Sign On in place and the migration has largely gone well. Piloting the linking of devices to this infrastructure, not just the software side, is a remarkable feat I think.
I would have loved us to have our first implementation of cloud in place in 2018 but we are still a little way away from that. We have well formed plans for AI access to some specific solutions which I believe will be transformational, but again they will be early next year.
The speed of the systems we have and the reliability of the solutions they are hosted on has improved ten-fold, but user expectation outstrips our current capability to keep up. The work done to make the regional integration capability ‘bomb proof’ is outstanding but took us longer than we thought.
We know how we want to innovate and even who with, but in some cases we have come unstuck as we try to find ways to create relationships. For us, the way we have worked with Forward in 2018 has been a real test of how an NHS organisation can create a true partnership with a new innovative company and really build benefit. Being able to ‘gift’ the content of the Axe the Fax toolkit to Silver Buck for them to industrialise and make available to the wider NHS is another great example of an innovative approach with a new partner.
If ever there was a category with the immortal school report words, ‘must try harder’, it would be this area. I need to consider how to deploy more resource here to give us more chance at being truly ground breaking in this arena in 2019.
Collaboration Grade – C+
Achieving the Local Health and Care record Exemplar (LHCRE) status was clearly done only by collaboration across Yorkshire and Humber and was a big moment in 2018 for all of the team. Collaboration across the city area on the Leeds Care Record remains a highlight of the job and being able to represent Leeds as the platform with my fellow Proclaimer is something that enthuses me every time we get the opportunity to do it.
The dropped marks though here are because I know we have not played the part we should play in the West Yorkshire collaborative to the same degree. Something that next year I will prioritise is ensuring that the blueprinting work we do can be shared first and as a priority with colleagues across West Yorkshire. I know that we have the basis for a great relationship and one that will enable a better platform for patient care if we can find the right projects to collaborate on.
In the school report it was those summary words that always cut to the chase the most, the form teacher comment on the future challenges for the student and the head of year views on focus for the coming year.
I think if these words were being written about me after this year they would go something like this:
A successful start to the new school. Needs to keep a closer eye on the detail and avoid getting distracted by some of the wider picture, even though it is important to still see this and bring it back to the ‘school’ – we need to have all of our own foundations in place before truly looking to help so many others on the journey. The class (the Digital and Informatics Team) needs the focus to be slightly more on them than it has been on some occasions in the year. The key challenge for the next year is to keep moving at the current pace but with the whole class on the same journey. This will be difficult to achieve with the expectations that have been set but is entirely doable with the skills available.
… and if that was the summary I would sleep well at night.
I love technology and how it has transformed the way we live today; so sitting in a Matt Haig event last week in sunny Leeds I began to feel like an interloper, an enemy of the ‘people’, like at any moment I would be found out and the audience would rise up against me and swing me from ‘the wall’ very much Handmaid’s Tale-esque.
Matt’s opening comments were very much about the speed of life today and the impact it has on us all. There is no denying what the speed that not just digital brings but the speed of change more generally. We now witness fast paced change in the political scene, the way in which social media impacts upon us all, even the instant gratification of things like Uber, Amazon Prime and Deliveroo, the effect these have on our lives is unrealised day to day.
We spend very little time simply waiting for something without distraction. A friend, an avid Twitter poster, recently commented that he was on the family summer holiday and camping. There were queues everywhere and little mobile signal, so people were actually talking to each other, although the irony wasn’t lost on others, that he was still posting this on Twitter!
Mental health (or rather a lack of it) is the biggest killer of men under 50 years of age! We call the collective for illnesses in this pandemic ‘health’ even though this is a misnomer that we hide behind. People die through a lack of understanding, a lack of support, a lack of diagnosis; they don’t die because they have ‘mental health’, that’s what we need to strive for, we want people to be mentally healthy!
No one would think you should only get treatment for a physical illness if you’re on the point of death
The political mighty have taken it upon themselves to remove sugary drinks from most of the market place to attempt to remove the obesity issue threatening the kids of today. Yet what has the same intelligencer done about the support for the mental health of the same children? Very little yet! Anti-depressants are the fastest growing prescription drug in boys aged 11 to 14 in 2018, this figure floored me!
The pressure on the young of today outweighs anything anyone my age would have ever felt. Matt pointed out in his talk that when we were kids the need to fit in, the need to hide from the bully or even the annoying friendly chap, ceased to be there at four o’clock because we could go home and close our bedroom doors with only our parents and siblings to handle. Now the school and the peer groups’, friendly and unfriendly, follow children home. Social media brings us ever closer, so close that time away, time alone, is becoming the most treasured position. That unique opportunity we chased used to be connectivity and sharing, now it’s time unplugged and chance to breathe without so much connectivity a chance to just be.
When you interact with the next generation now how does it make you feel? What is the generation gap when it comes to mental health I wonder? A member of Matt’s audience asked about the definition and difference between nervousness and anxiety. He quickly compared the difference being the equivalent to hungry and starvation! For me nearing 45 years old, I thought that was quite an amazing way of considering the difference in how the younger generation will define the impacts on mental health – worlds apart. How many people under the age of 30 will exclaim that they are stressed, and how often will the ‘elderly statesman’ retort that they have nothing to be stressed about.
The way we consider mental health of people in the UK needs a fresh pair of eyes. We need to get to impacts and causes somehow.
My boss in Ireland used to talk eloquently about the health care system being a system of the sick not a health care system because it doesn’t do (isn’t able to do) prevention. The ‘shift left’ change to health care much talked up all over Europe now needs to be applied to the mental health of the people of the UK more than ever before. Matt gave a great example of Fiji in the mid-1990s, when they started to air US TV shows, ahead of doing this there were no eating disorders in Fiji. Anxiety was almost unheard of, but within five years, eating disorders grew to the ‘norms’ of the US and anxiety was at one point described as a pandemic. There are no official studies linking the two events, and as I have said already the world is changing at a high speed, but, it does make you pause for thought.
But there has to be hope, doesn’t there? When do we become aware of what makes us better? When do we apply that to the next generation of young people, harmed by the pressure the system applies to them to such a degree that society becomes malformed and somehow changes in how it treats the disease are never quite impactful. We have now accepted the term mental health as a phrase that is ok to use as an everyday description for a reason for school exclusion.
Matt asked the audience to ‘hear their own advice’, ‘it’s ok to be well one bit at a time’, ‘you can be a bit better’. We need a new acceptance, it’s ok to be at work with a cold, just don’t give it to me, and therefore it needs to be ok and supported to be at work or involved in activities with some mental health issues. How do we accept, understand and support mental health illness in the work place, in the school system, in the street in the same way as the common cold I wonder?
We have to do something, the speed of life isn’t going to slow down, I don’t want the speed of digital innovation to slow, which means it will continue to have an impact on our lives. I took another great little anecdote from Matt: digital and social is like ice cream! We can have a bit of what we love, and I love dearly chocolate and vanilla in the same bowl, but staying in bed on Saturday morning for four hours with a bath of chocolate and vanilla would not do any of us any good, the same goes for digital and social media I guess.
If we move our world forward just five years we need to be able to give ourselves some assurance that the digital world we create does good without causing harm. In my professional area we talk of patient centred design and portable data owned by the citizen but we also need to consider inclusivity and the bias associated to what digital brings. I am still excited for the future, our awareness is improving and I hope that this means we can get it right, evolve in a direction that is safe but also considerate of the wider impacts. Just maybe digital can be part of the cure not the problem.
Originally edited and published by www.digitalhealth.net reproduced here ahead of the Digital & Informatics Team at Leeds away day in July. Partnerships applies just as much to the team as it does to the age old ‘vendor’ relationship.
What do you need from the perfect dance partner? Someone with the same ear for a rhythm as you, someone that doesn’t tower over you, someone with strength and grace in awkward situations, someone who can stand up to a change in beat, or someone who will help when you miss a beat. All descriptions that a healthcare CIO needs to apply to building the perfect relationship with their commercial digital partners.
As an analogy does the search for the perfect ‘strictly’ partner help when picking the digital delivery partner, lets us look and see by considering the different ‘dances’ we have on offer:
Argentine Tango; is characterized by its hold embrace and complex leg and foot movements. It is an improvisational social dance that is truly a dance of leading and following.
Represented by a digital delivery partner that follows your every move no matter how complex the delivery is that you are trying to achieve. This type of partner, in the new agile environment of what is asked of digital in healthcare, needs to be able to improvise within a plan and deliver at a high speed, in a structured and planned manner. The risk with this kind of partner is that you as the digital leader either have to be leading the ‘dance’ at all times or if the partner wants to lead in this style of delivery they will be driving your organisation to their beat which comes with risk as your organisational goals and the digital benefits you are striving to achieve will have to be closely aligned to your partners throughout the relationship.
Ballroom Dancing; is a form of partnered dance that has pre-defined steps following strict tempo music, such as waltz, quickstep and foxtrot.
If your digital partner fits to this analogy then you have created a very structured but perhaps rigid partnership. Both you and your delivery partner know what is needed of you every step of the way; you are working closely on delivering against contractual elements that are clearly defined and well understood or at least a delivery plan that you have both worked hard on to ensure has wins for both parties included. The area of concern here would be the ability to react and work off plan together may take time. Creating the next steps in the new ways of working will not always meet the needs of a modern business change project, whilst that could be described as a failing the original plan will be delivered. This is ok if it is all that you need and therefore working in this way will be perfect for you both.
Contemporary dance; is not a specific dance form, but is a collection of methods and techniques developed from modern and post-modern dance
This style of partnership requires a true relationship to have been developed, one where a high level of trust has been put in place, after all you are about to embark on a journey that some will think is a little odd. Few digital delivery partnerships have been able to achieve the level of trust to work in this way, however if it can be put in place it will bring a surprising amount of success for both parties, a relationship that can be reaction driven and therefore drive an agile response to problems can be achieved through working in this way. The level of sceptism from the ‘audience’ though will be high for the success of the partnership and it is likely the partnership will be under constant observation from a governance point of view to test its validity as an ‘art form’. Conversations about delivery of digital in a post-modern world have been raised over the last couple of years a number of times, this way of working with partners perhaps is the way to see this come to a place where we, as digital leaders, can truly understand how this would work and indeed even what it means.
Jive; is a social dance that can be practiced to a broad range of popular music, making it highly versatile, which adds to its appeal. It is easy to learn and has simple footwork, making it accessible for beginners, but it is tricky to master.
Jive as an analogy for delivery partnership is perhaps best used for those quick partnerships that are only in place for the term of a single delivery focus. The partnership is easy enough to learn and create and is driven by the tempo of the delivery. No lasting commitment needs to be made to the partnership if all that is required is a successful and sharp delivery, but if this is to be maintained longer term and the pace of delivery kept up then a strict set of performance metrics need to be put in place to ensure the pace can be maintained longer term by both partners. A jive relationship will be tiring for all partners, a new level of contractual sustenance will need to be created to enable the relationship not to ‘flag’ as it gets tired of the pace.
Salsa; is in 4/4 time in two bar phrases with a pause on the 4th and 8th beats, which gives a quick-quick-slow rhythm. In classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught, but in practice it is an improvised dance.
Salsa can be described as a sales driven digital relationship. The initial excitement of the contract being signed and the new relationship created will give those early deliverables a focus; a shared impetus to deliver almost jive like, however without collective improvisation as the relationship matures the speed of delivery will slow down. This can be beneficial in creating quick wins and then moving to a more considered and managed relationship as long as the slowdown in delivery does not hit a stop. Improvisation of the relationship in after sales behaviour can ensure that this relationship continues to evolve and is successful.
Tap Dance; is an example of a non-partnered dance that is generally choreographed, with one or more participating dancers.
Going solo to deliver but in tandem with others is perhaps the best way to utilise this as a learning example. Maybe the Local Health and Care Record Exemplars (LHCRE) are a good example of five tap dances being performed around the country. Each of the cohorts will now be trying to create their own tap dance, the original choreography being provided by NHS England and the beat and shoes provided by NHS Digital and others. Each LHCRE cohort will be able to have an element of choice in the type of shoe and outfit they decide to wear but when the dance is the performance the music and choreography will have to be the same for the System of Systems approach to deliver across the country.
We need to be awake to the style of partner we are choosing for the dance, we need to be able to live with different ‘dance styles’ as part of our eco-system of partnerships as the same style will not work for each project nor each partner we choose. True success will come when we have picked the right partner for each type of dance we need to deliver and we know how to move seamlessly from style to style.
Grab your partners by the toe, let’s go do the Dozy Do, or as the legend that is Sir Bruce would say, Keep Dancing!
First published on www.digitalhealth.net
When you are on holiday do you play that ‘why?’ and ‘what if…’ game? For example in the USA on a recent holiday we were chatting about why foods are called different things in different countries. A quick poolside thumb poll had the list below as differences between the UK and USA, and we are sure there are more:
The only excuse we could come up with for why this happened was timing. These food stuffs were perhaps discovered at around the same time across the world and therefore no name was ever right or wrong, just more timely and geographically rich. The experience of being in a different country and seeing these new words for the same things adds a little nature of the exotic, particularly when the country speaks the same language (kind of).
But these differences speak to the single largest challenge that faces our digital health menu today: the challenge of interoperability and integration. When we talk about the delivery of a new healthcare paradigm we speak of the delivery of integrated care, a care delivery experience that places the patient at the centre and has no boundaries. But to achieve this requires information to mean the same thing to all those involved in its delivery. Where this isn’t possible we put in place a perpetually repeating health system; one where learning the parameters of a situation, of an illness, of a prescribed cure are repeated at each gateway to a different healthcare system. We don’t want an exotic patient experience we want an efficient and safe experience.
The journalist Geoffrey Williams once said, “You can’t understand one language until you understand at least two.” Goethe went even further claiming, “He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own.” Moving healthcare delivery to a system-wide approach is the goal of over 50 (locally driven) digital initiatives in the NHS alone. The goal of an integrated health and care record is to provide access to, and translation of, multiple care languages. The pressure facing healthcare systems across the world today will only be resolved through integrated approaches that enable health and social care to work together to manage the front and back door to every major acute hospital in the system. A busy Accident and Emergency Department is no longer the problem that the acute hospital can resolve on its own, it is a system-wide issue that the geography has to resolve together. Access to information will unlock this resolution, but first we need to enable the way we refer to the healthcare to be shared.
For the last two decades sharing information between care settings has been a digital goal. In the late 1990s Hampshire became ‘famous’ for the delivery of an exemplar record sharing environment, linking access to information recorded in the ‘Exeter System’ to information in GP systems, to aid the delivery of healthcare regardless of the setting. The largest issue that stunted growth of this early pilot though was the quality of the data and the ability to index the information. The need for a common identifier across health systems was raised and the NHS Number mandated by a target date. It’s a shame that this would not be the last time the NHS number was mandated by a target date…
Jumping forward to 2017, the Irish health system delivered a unique EU-wide identifier for the delivery of healthcare to its citizens. Huge effort was put into delivering this in an agile manner at a limited cost, and today the number exists and is available but its actual implementation in healthcare delivery itself remains very patchy. We can also look at an example in Leeds today too. Having spoken to other healthcare jurisdictions, the Leeds Care Record has become well known throughout Europe as an example of local systems working together to achieve something quite remarkable. The Leeds Care Record is a platform that enables integration at a level beyond almost anywhere else in the NHS. Over 35 systems are able to share information in a controlled, secure and legitimate fashion. 111 GPs also benefit from having access to what is recorded about their patients’ hospital visit. They also share key elements of the GP record with the healthcare delivery system throughout the geography. And that word is where the Leeds Care Record does fail; it works for the geography of Leeds and so this isn’t integration, this is interoperability. In Leeds, information is shared through the same platform but the reference points for the delivery of care remain in the same ‘language’ of the originating care setting. The reliance is on the interpreter and their own understanding of the information.
Culture plays a huge part in how we create an interoperable health care system which digital supports. In his book Culture, Terry Eagleton tries to define what culture means to organisations. He has four areas that he believes are most relevant to creating the right culture: values, customs, beliefs and symbolic practices. None of these particularly speaks to a standardised way of operating and therefore, if we believe in culture being how we make things happen in an organisation, then interoperability will always be an area we strive to achieve.
In the same book Eagleton, who is from Ireland, notes that the postbox, an original integration tool, donates civilisation. However the fact that Ireland has painted its mailboxes the famous Ireland green denotes a culture, a difference to others. In Leeds we have many gold postboxes, a legacy of the London Olympics, when gold medal winners had the postbox closest to their home town painted gold as an honour. Again, culture flouting a standard.
As quickly as we can, we need to begin to agree nationally (and why not even globally) if we are to achieve integrated or interoperable healthcare systems. The standards to do this exist in so many ways already. Digital health doesn’t need changes to be made at the mega-vendor level, the systems need to adopt the standards and then innovate to exist in a ‘system of systems’ approach.
Maybe we need to use Eagleton’s four cultural reference points as starting points to creating a joint understanding of where we need to get to.
Values: The value of having integrated care has been made clear for decades. Digital leaders are still at the begging bowl though, seeking funding to deliver the necessary platforms that are required to enable information sharing. Information is now becoming more complex, faster in the way it changes and more encompassing of the healthcare experience and value needs to be placed on the innovation needed to achieve a truly interoperable healthcare system.
Customs: Local customs need to be protected but somehow we need to move from the clinical system paradigm. You know the one, where the clinician you have engaged loves the idea of a single system across the hospital, they feel it’s a great idea, but their additional one special system still needs to be protected as well. This has become known as the ‘one plus one’ clinical system and in a hospital it means we have one system, plus one for every adventurous clinician in the hospital.
Beliefs: We need the healthcare system to stand up for the belief it has in the delivery of integrated care. That belief will drive the ultimate understanding of what a system of systems digital solution can provide.
Symbolic practices: Perhaps in the NHS this is about to happen with the launch of the Local Health and Care Record Exemplars funding and a platform to enable lessons to be learned, standards to be tested at local levels (of five million population) and a real drive from the centre and from the ‘spokes’ to truly achieve this.
There has to be a hook to the original Bevan statement about the creation of the NHS, “Healthcare free at the point of contact”, so now we need data ‘free’ at the point of contact and this can only be achieved if we all have the same reference points.
Now, can I get some fries, I mean chips, I mean crisps, I mean home fries…
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.
First published to CIO.CO.UK
Just when you thought every conversation would be about Trump this summer someone decided to press a big button that didn’t say Brexit on it, it said ‘stick it to the man’ and very few people thought that meant leave Europe! Or certainly after the event that is what it feels like. As I have caught up with colleagues, friends and peers I have only found two people who are proud to have voted leave, admittedly one was resplendent in union jack cuff links and belt buckle so maybe shouldn’t count due to crimes against fashion! So much has been written from within the UK about what it could mean for this role we all love, the CIO role post Brexit will change, we have no doubt about that. I am no longer living or working in the UK, whilst only 50 minutes with Ryanair away Ireland is very much a different country, and I love it for that.
The morning of the 24th of June will be one that the modern CIO will remember for years and years to come. It has become the where were you moment of the ‘teenies’, so many people describe the story of turning to their partner and saying, crikey it happened, we are leaving Europe and the look and squeak of complete and utter astonishment from the other person whose twitter feed hadn’t woken them up first. I wonder if Boris and Farage were as shocked as the rest of the globe was.
The google search for how to get an Irish passport over that day is said to have been the most common search in Dublin and then the need to continue the conversation with digital leaders throughout Dublin really began to happen. It has now become the conversation at every meeting of CIOs and IT professionals in this bustling digital city and not having an opinion or a new piece of gossip about the impact is simply not allowed!
The good it will do for Dublin in the short to medium term seems to be huge as more and more companies are said to be looking to have a location in the city, after all it is English speaking, in the EU and with the Euro, not to mention the amazing digital eco-system that has sprung up already. But will it be for the good of the wider Ireland? My own opinion is possibly not; there is a huge risk that Dublin becomes more and more like the London of Harry Enfield’s imagination, where Dublin is the place ‘with’ and much of Ireland becomes the place of aspirations, and that I think could be an Irish outcome of Brexit without very carefully national leadership.
The immediate impact on a CIO delivering digital solutions to health in Ireland has been significant. For example data sharing agreements for the island of Ireland will need to be looked at from a different point of view once article 50 is triggered. The delivery of health care if you are a patient living on the boarder suddenly could be a very different prospect for a non-EU Northern Ireland. The technology to support this will need to have a very different plan to that being considered pre-Brexit.
The 8th of June saw the Republic of Ireland announce an EU member state first, a Health Cloud First policy. Brexit now will mean that a wider consideration of where data goes from a disaster recovery point of view needs to be had, if data is leaving the EU what does that mean and what will the UK data agreements be with a USA. More open and free movement of data between Uncle Sam and the May state is quite a scary prospect to manage with the privacy concerned of Ireland. Certainly a Brexiting UK with May at the helm is already building up a worrying record of a willingness to downgrade digital privacy considerations.
The advisory and consultancy firms that Ireland’s health sector has been working with as it moves towards its full Electronic Health Record programme moved from conversations about NHS expertise and knowledge to different countries overnight, suddenly Canadian knowledge and experience is de rigueur amongst the partners seeking to impress the eHealth Ireland function. Why though, is it because an NHS post Brexit would be less willing to share or simply because the sheer amount of work to now do in the NHS will be simply too big to offer up guidance to Ireland. Personally I don’t believe it is anything to do with the NHS really and more to do with the large consultancy firms trying to stop the conversation being ‘just’ about Brexit and wanting it to remain on topic.
The Brexit promise to the NHS of 350 million a week more in funding was withdrawn by the morning of the vote, the NHS is heading to a deficit that is eye watering and will impact upon the priorities of a minister for health who never really jumped one way or the other when it came to Brexit. In Ireland we have a minister who is insisting that the country needs a ten year plan, or at least a five year plan to reform the health system. The optimism in health in Ireland in a post Brexit world is quite significant, the number of Irish citizens working for the NHS is huge and Brexit just became another leaver to try to persuade them to return home. Around 5,000 of the health staff of Ireland are English though, the thought of not being able to do the job here in Ireland is a nightmare scenario but one that now needs to be on the risk register.
The one thing that as a CIO with a penchant for social media I did come to realise more and more during the run up to Brexit was the concept of a the social media influence bubble. So few people ever seemed to be talking about voting to leave and yet somebody somewhere clearly did make that choice. The dawning thought as social media became awash with despair was that the influence that the social media format has on you is way more to do with the bubble that you are in than a truly independent view of the world. A great many have complained they simply couldn’t get good media facts and knowledge to build up an opinion; maybe there is something in the fact that we are now using social media as a news outlet that hugely influenced that. Brexiters were compared somewhat to an extreme political view, racist with lack of global view. And yet in a post Brexit world clearly that simply cannot be true!
A recent Irish Times article rather tongue in cheek suggested a coming together of Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland as an EU state. Whilst done in a mischievous way it grew legs and in less than 24 hours people were discussing this as if it were a real possibility. The desperation to find a way to maintain some of the status quo in the digital world we are trying to live within is having a huge impact on what we think of as the art of the possible. The conversation now needs to shift, away from desperate plans like the ‘Scotireland’ and move towards what needs to be done to make each of our areas of concern work in a new world. Every EU state now needs to have a digital consideration of Brexit and build policy and solutions on how to make this work, the EU of a shared digital future has changed forever and each one of us now has a part to play in understanding what it will look like next.
As something of a post script to this piece, there is a town in county Tipperary called Twomileborris, the name Borris is generally thought to be a Norman word for stronghold or district, maybe, just maybe the work of Boris to deliver a Brexited UK could end up creating an even stronger digital stronghold for Dublin, and with the right considerations and policies the whole of Ireland, certainly the opportunity seems to be stronger than the threat. I had three adoption offers and the passport application process explained to me in detail within 24 hours of Brexit, I hope that means I am going to be in Ireland for some time to come, but I really do hope that the CIO fraternity of the UK can make Brexit work for digital, the whole of the EU still needs it to, in or out!
The eHealth Ireland Eco-System was a year old last week, a great achievement for the team to go from the germ of an idea to the formation of a self-supporting Eco-System that has seen the meeting of many ideas and organisations that have been able to be another hand on the tiller, steering the eHealth Ireland agenda.
As part of the birthday celebration meeting we have invited a different keynote speaker from a background outside of health, Niall Harbison, founder of Lovin’ Dublin, inspired the audience with his vision for an integrated Health system. Niall opened his presentation with a slide stating “The world is changing so fast” he brought the audience through a whistle stop tour of what it means to be in Social and Digital Media today in 2016 with a great emphasis on being mobile first.
Niall told us that over 90% of traffic is now via mobile. He spoke strongly on the importance of engaging with our stakeholders through different social media platforms such and commended us on our use of Twitter Hours and our transparency agenda for developing relationships.
Niall spoke about how we all need to be content masters. It’s up to all of us to inform our stakeholders in a way that interests them about what we are doing. It was refreshing to hear Niall speak about what he believed would be the future of health. He spoke about what it was like to not be clinically informed but that he would like to be able to see a future with telemedicine, where he can see a doctor when it suited him, where it suited him and be able to get his prescription sent to him electronically. Niall spoke about how he had great respect for all involved in health and their movement to digital.
He spoke about Apple and how even they, being a multi billion dollar innovation dynasty, have difficulties in mastering this market. The fact that we are trying to digitize something so large and disparate is a challenge and how its often much easier to start with nothing, he likened it to “herding cats”.
This is why he believed that the health innovations would actually emerge from countries where there is nothing currently there. Where they can adopt technologies and build new solutionsquicker. He also pointed to the fact that we can’t believe our stakeholders don’t want or expect this service or will not be able to use it and spoke of the quick adoption by taxi drivers of technologies such as UBER and Hailo and how people would have presumed that taxi drivers would never have adopted that technology
Niall spoke about where health was and asked us to consider what it would be like to pitch Health delivery as it is today in Ireland to Warren Buffet as a business idea, what investment did we think we would secure. If we can’t secure the idea of delivering health as it is done today then just maybe the answer could be a digital revolution was the noise left ringing in many peoples ears.
Niall finished on reiterating his first slide “The world is changing so fast. When will it happen to health?” and an inspirational quote from Michael Jordan;
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”
When experts from a wider digital field listen and speak to health audiences it always brings a refreshing and different challenge to what we think and do. Imagine being able to reform health at the speed of an organisation like Lovin’ Dublin has been able to form and become a house hold name. All through my own career I have pushed hard to ensure that we can learn as much as possible from other business arenas in health, after all the facts and figures from various studies point to health globally being way behind other businesses so there is clearly going to be something new to learn.
The eHealth Ireland agenda is not unique, but, it is now moving at a rate that requires a different type of support to see it succeed, one straight out of the innovation and new thinking kit back. In the words of Bob Wachter at a recent Kings Fund event,
The purpose of digitisation is not to digitise, but to improve quality, safety, efficiency and the patient experience of healthcare.
With that ringing in our ears we are ready for the next year!
A year ago we were invited to be involved in the Future Health summit for the first time. We built a house as the theme for the event, from blue print to decoration eHealth experts from across the EU used the story of creating a new build as an analogy to describe how eHealth Ireland could build on the foundations it was putting in place to create an eHealth system that could deliver a digital fabric for health in Ireland.
A year later and we have a different theme this year. The eHealth Festival has been pulled together, imagine the process of moving from foundations to a woven digital fabric throughout the country and the complexity of doing this, we have landed on an analogy for this too, putting on the mega festivals across the world, Coachella, Glastonbury and Electric Picnic. Surely a task with a long term view, a success criteria that includes immediate success and bringing joy to millions of people. The team are working hard to put on the festival all day on Thursday.
The eHealth Festival is a truly global affair, taking lessons and experiences of digital health from across the globe and applying them to the plans for Ireland. The first stages will be to consider what it takes to find the right festival site and theme, applied to the delivery of eHealth this section will focus very much on how to set the vision for the future as thoroughly as possible. A number of key speakers with NHS experiences will provide us insight into how engagement was gained at a plethora of sites with very different focuses ranging from a wide ocal geography coming together to adopt a standards based approach to the adoption of an open source model across a major cities record sharing approach and on to a major London hospitals insistence to get it right and not ‘simply’ follow the model brought to bear before.
Every guest speaker has been set a number of music festival themed challenges over the day too, ranging from the slightly different event photograph to a whole series of theme songs being picked; some of the music could get loud! Picking the theme songs has been an important part for each of the presentations as it will reflect the theme of where the presentation goes, so listen out for that.
In keeping with the way eHealth Ireland has evolved over the last year there will be some focus on the way we engage on technology in health as well. One of our partners Think Visual will be able to provide a different insight into how to engage clinicians and patients in a different way, using pictures and visuals to create a journey for them to join us on. This promises to be an exciting look into the art of the possible in this area.
Our focus has been on health care and a somewhat traditional version of health care over the last twelve months, the ability to deliver a new paradigm of research capacity with digital health must not be forgotten, nor must the citizen choice in how this occurs. With this in mind we have a speaker with a huge amount of experience making a health charity digitally capable, the lessons we can take from this I am sure will set the agenda for us in this space.
As with last year we have tried hard with the theme and the brieif to speakers to keep the ‘sales pitch’ presentations away, at the eHealth Festival it would be like the Darkness reforming! But, we need to create relationships with the vendor community over the next year that is a for sure! So in keeping with the festival theme the vendor community will be putting on the record label A&R man guise and trying to encourage us to understand why their label is the one of choice, why they are the Factory Records of the 1990s and not the SAW of the 1980s.
To round off the day we have a speaker by very popular demand, an expert in information governance, information security and getting the handling of data right. Asking a lady from Liverpool to speak on the theme of securing a festival is always going to be a little dangerous so expect some fun to round the day off.
As with any great festival there will be a few secret unannounced shows too by way of a couple of announcements that should set a tone that is exciting for the next twelve months, initiatives with internal and external focuses.
All that really will remain to say is… Put Your Hands Up For Detroit – All will be revealed!