'The digital world seems to be far more open to collaborating'

A panel of healthcare leaders shared how to capture and sustain advances in digital maturity made during COVID-19 at the HETT conference.
By Sara Mageit
11:16 AM
HETT conference

Healthcare experts discussed how leaders of digitally mature hospitals can support the digital process of healthcare systems during the 'Achieving Digital Maturity Across Entire Health and Care Ecosystems' session at the UK Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) conference.

The speakers were: Dr Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer at HIMSS; Ben Maruthappu, CEO at CERA and board member at Imperial NHS trust; Katherine Church, chief digital officer at Surrey Heartlands ICS; Claus Duedal Pedersen, director of the Sentinel Unit at sundhed.dk; John Rayner, regional director EMEA, HIMSS Analytics; and Dr Shankar Sridharan, chief clinical information officer, consultant paediatric cardiologist at Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children NHS FT.

During the session, panellists exchanged lessons to be drawn for the UK from the digital transformation in Denmark. This follows the recent news of Denmark's government announcing that it would introduce digital coronavirus passports. Furthermore, the function of the HIMSS Analytic Continuity of Care Maturity Model was also explained in more detail, as it continues its timely work to support global system-wide digital integration.

Working to each other's strengths

Dr Sridharan explained the advantages of health organisations working to each other's strength: "I think the key thing we've learned over the last few years is that you do it together. And actually incremental things, lots and lots of them together with enthusiasm, to do a better job so that we can use data to make it safer for the patient. We can use data to make clinician's lives more efficient and easier."

"This idea of Great Ormond Street being special or other hospitals being specialist it doesn't hold true anymore, because we have the same problems, we have the same issues.

"What would be good is sharing and working together at pace because what we don't want to do is create a solution in a silo which doesn't spread or have value."

Maruthappu added: "If a given provider in a region is struggling, then the whole system struggles. That's why it's so important we pull together around the patient, to have a comprehensive and consistent digital experience and pathway for patients that can span primary care to specialist services and large trusts, all the way to a social care and community setting."

Understanding and leveraging digital

The panel also spoke about the conveying the meaning and usefulness of digital to the public. Church said: "I found this in the private sector, as much as I have in the NHS is that everybody thinks they understand what digital means.

"It's a completely meaningless term. Digital should be a combination of design data and technology to achieve an outcome. You will not find anybody who will say we shouldn't be working in a more digital way."

However, Church acknowledged that it becomes difficult when healthcare professionals are asked to significantly change the way in which they operate in their day-to-day jobs. "You're asking people to significantly invest in new technologies and new ways of doing things against the background of other priorities.

"It's easy to say we should all be digital. What's much more difficult is to find a plan, a language, a strategy, a structure, a funding model and a return on investment model that brings all of the people together at a system level," added Church.

A roadmap for effective EMR adoption 

During the session, Rayner explained how the Continuity of Care Maturity Model (CCMM) engagement considers the digital maturity of the key hospitals, and general practitioners in primary care, social care providers, mental health providers, and community care providers.

Rayner said: "In doing so, it takes three quite distinct perspectives, in that it examines the clinical perspective, the technology perspective, and the governance perspective.

"It's quite useful to inform strategy, for example. I would certainly encourage any integrated care provider or group of providers to certainly be thinking about using CCMM, to establish that baseline position to get those key strategic pieces in place."

Denmark's digital transformation 

Elaborating on the digital health strategy currently operating in Denmark, Pedersen said: "We have three levels of responsibility in the Danish healthcare system. We have the government, the regions and the municipalities.

"The regions are in charge of the hospital, and the government is in charge of the overall structure of healthcare and to bind all the digital solutions together. Currently, two national organisation lead Denmark's transformation; MedCom, which is the standardisation and infrastructure organisation and sundhed.dk which works on providing digital access to citizens.

Pedersen added: "What we have in Denmark is actually a quite comprehensive and integrated infrastructure where all actors use the national health care network as the place for communication, and exchanging information services. It's all interoperable."

In 2015, an EMRAM survey of all hospitals in Denmark was completed with an average level of 5.6. "That has been achieved without any kind of regulation, it has just been the standard that created that," explained Pedersen.

Closing the digital maturity gap 

During the discussion, the question of breaking the cycle of investments being made predominantly in the leading hospitals was posed to the panel. 

Dr Alessi said: "This is a real issue, because how do you ensure that the knowledge and funding filters down to the areas with poor digital maturity to really help people up? That is the enormous challenge. (...) We'll end up with an enormous gulf if we're not careful."

In response to this question, Dr Sridharan said: "It was a priority for us not to put up another building, but actually to use that money to use digital data and tech to improve our hospital in the care we deliver. 

Stressing the importance of sharing knowledge over costly EPR systems, Dr Sridharan added: "You don't need EPIC in every hospital to be awesome. What we've learned, is that some of what we've done and what we've learned can be applied to any EHR. It was more about how we work together, how we get rid of those wasted steps."

"I think you definitely do need resourcing, it needs to be a priority. But at the same time, the digital world seems to be far more open to collaborating."

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