Blog | Response to Matt Hancock’s Health Tech Alliance keynote address

From Intouch with Health CEO, Mike Sanders

“Better technology is vital to have and embracing it is the only way to make the NHS sustainable over the long term.”

This was one of the early proclamations made by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, at his recent keynote address to the Health Tech Alliance on 28 January.

As someone who has spent the best part of my career supporting the NHS to adopt and realise the benefits of digital transformation, I found Mr Hancock’s words refreshing.

I agree entirely that embracing digital is how we future proof the NHS, for both patients and staff.

I agree not only because I lead an organisation that has supported more than 100 NHS hospitals with these types of projects, therefore I know that it works, but because I have been fortunate enough to work closely with teams implementing these changes on the front line and have seen the dramatic and positive change this technology brings to the way they operate.

“One of the Most Digitally Advanced Hospitals in the Country”

I agree because I have experienced first-hand the innovators and go-getters who want to embrace technology in the NHS battling to drive their organisation forward while working directly alongside the people who want to fix it, but just not at the moment.

In his speech, Mr Hancock invited the audience to “come with me to one of the most digitally advanced hospitals in the country, like Milton Keynes or Imperial or Chase Farm in Enfield.

“Where a digital screen calls patients up to their appointments.

“Where staff can access the whole patient record from wherever they are in the building.”

I recognised immediately the type of hospital environment he was depicting.

Intouch with Health has worked with Chase Farm Hospital over the last 12 months to implement a project to digitise the outpatient journey.

Today, Chase Farm is one of the most digitally advanced hospitals in the world, benefiting enormously from one of the most pleasant patient journeys and most efficient ways of working I have known in my time working alongside hospitals, right across the globe.

Flow Manager is now the Control Centre of the Outpatient Journey

Central to this transformation has been a project to digitise the outpatient journey, using bespoke designed software and hardware from Intouch with Health to arrive patients for their appointment, direct them around the hospital, track their location for the duration of their visit and record the outcome of their appointment digitally for increased data accuracy.

Intouch with Health’s Flow Manager is now the control centre of the outpatient journey.

Using Flow Manager via desktop, laptop or tablet, authorised staff and clinicians can instantly see when a patient has arrived for their appointment, view their precise location in the hospital for the duration of their visit and call them forward for their appointment by activating a digital calling screen to display the patient’s name.

At the end of the patient’s appointment, clinicians use the system to access an electronic outcome form, allowing them to accurately record procedure and referral treatment codes, or create a digital flag to request the booking of a follow up appointment.

The Hospital staff also utilise Intouch’s real time business intelligence module “Performance Manager” to monitor target KPIs. This alerts operational staff to any lengthy clinic delays and also highlights any clinics not completing eOutcome forms.

Chase Farm uses digital solutions to manage the outpatient journey from arrival, right through to departure – supporting the Trust’s vision of placing the new hospital at the forefront of pioneering ways of delivering better, safer and more efficient care.

“Leadership is at the Heart of Getting This Right”

Referring back to Mr Hancock’s speech, I agree entirely with his summation that, when it comes to embracing digital change, “leadership is at the heart of getting this right”.

His comment that “if everyone leaves it to the IT department, it will fail” is entirely true.

On the Chase Farm project, strong and dedicated leadership backed by a confident belief that “this will work” was demonstrated from start to finish by Chief Executive, Natalie Forrest. Natalie was supported by Senior Clinical Operations Manager, Amanda Sparkes, alongside a wider project team all briefed, fully involved and keen to see the project succeed.

The project was also Intouch’s first Managed Service project, and I’m pleased that Natalie and her team were able to work very closely alongside a dedicated project manager from Intouch, who spent four days a week working with Chase Farm’s implementation team for the duration of the seven month project.

To echo Mr Hancock’s words, this whole agenda is not about the technology, it’s about the people.

Get the right people on board and the change will happen. It most certainly has at Chase Farm.

The introduction of self-check-in technology for patients has removed the requirement for a main reception that historically created bottlenecks for patients. Costs have been saved by reallocating receptionists to work on more value-added tasks. Patients can now check-in up to one hour before a scheduled appointment by scanning a bar-coded letter, before being directed to a designated waiting area, helping to reduce their anxieties and create a much-improved arrival at hospital.

Flow Manager is now the central dashboard used by clinical staff to identify a patient’s arrival in a given waiting area or sub-reception. Clinicians are then alerted via the dashboard on their laptop and activate that patient’s name on digital calling screens to call them to their clinic room – saving a significant amount of time and improving patient experience.

Removing the Requirement for Paper Outcome Forms

Bespoke electronic outcome forms have replaced paper ones across all outpatient clinics, accessed by clinicians via their desktop immediately after a patient has been seen and allowing them to electronically complete any procedures undertaken, choose an appointment outcome status or request a follow up appointment in just a few clicks – completely removing the requirement for paper forms.

Since introducing electronic outcome forms, Chase Farm has seen a drastic reduction in incomplete outcome forms, and in the three months following the roll-out of digital forms, only four out of 13,000 patient outcomes were logged as incomplete.

Should you need any more convincing on the benefits of embracing technology in the NHS, at Chase Farm:

  • Self-check-in has removed the need to fund 25 new or additional FTE receptionists – a salary saving of over £400,000
  • 100% of outcome forms are now completed electronically, eradicating paper forms entirely
  • Over 80% of outpatients consistently use self check-in to arrive for their appointment
  • Patients say they are being seen “quicker than ever” and “know immediately which room to go to by my name being displayed on the digital screen.”

To echo Mr Hancock’s closing words, the best kind of technology “is the technology you barely notice because it just works.

“It’s what clinicians are crying out for, it’s what patients expect and it’s what will bring the NHS into the 21st century, and together, we’re going to make it happen.”

Will you be a part of the transformation?

Photo credit:

Matt Hancock Keynote Address