How can trusts with financial challenges turn up the pace of technological change?
04 October 2016
The Wachter Review is a breath of fresh air for the National Health Service. For most industries technology is a staple board level discussion topic, seen as core to the delivery of the overall business strategy. However, this is currently not the case within the NHS - too often IT only reaches the level of a board discussion when there is a problem or there is a need for more investment. Within the current stringent financial environment that the NHS is operating in investing in technology is frequently not seen as a priority in comparison with the need to continue providing essential care to patients. But this is a false choice. Without properly integrating IT with financial and business strategies organisations are losing the opportunity to gain the most benefit from IT both in terms of improving patient outcomes and making cost savings.
The Wachter Review outlines how technology can be positioned as a partner in enhancing the patient and staff experience whilst at the same time reducing cost. There are 10 key findings and recommendations covering better design of the technology through to effectively embedding the changes within trusts. The report’s emphasis on the need to develop technology that places people at its core through human-centred design and operating model transformation is an important perspective that is often forgotten to the detriment of many IT change programmes within the NHS.
Whilst the Wachter Review is strong in many areas there is one key weakness - it does not detail how organisations can manage the day to day cash flow pressures alongside investing in the future. With 80% of trusts in deficit, everyone is focused on achieving financial balance and, as a result, back-office services, including IT, are facing financial constraint. This approach is acting as a real drag on technological innovation.
How then can organisations innovate on a shoestring budget? PwC teams are trying to take this head-on in the hospital turnaround and transformation projects we are undertaking working alongside trusts to identify technological changes that are both impactful but also affordable. This requires a two-speed approach. The first speed ensures stability and keeps trusts running whilst the second is more of a sprint for new ideas, technologies and methods. This dual process enables technical change that reduces costs, can be introduced at speed but is also evidence based and, most importantly, patient and staff centred.