NHS England wants more input from small and medium-size enterprises as it works on redefining the 3millionlives programme.

An announcement on a new direction for the programme, originally due to deliver telehealth and telecare to 3m people by 2017, is due next month.

During the April shake-up of the NHS, NHS England took over responsibility for 3millionlives. One of the first things it did was to scrap the 3millionlives industry group, set up to promote the government’s effort to recruit patients.

It has been replaced by the ‘Integrated Care for 3millionlives Stakeholder Forum’, which NHS England’s head of collaboration for excellence, Rachel Cashman, describes as a step towards getting rid of the silos the programme previously operated in.

“The old industry group was a ‘pay to play’ group,” she added, referring to the significant funding industry organisations had to commit to join.

“We decided that if we were going to put in a new model, that wouldn’t be feasible moving forward.”

Cashman told EHI that after undertaking an initial review of the programme, the organisation decided that 3millionlives needed to become more of a partnership project to support integrated care.

“The new approach has let it open up to SMEs and smaller companies that wouldn’t be able to join the old group. There are some companies that may not have a piece of technology that we expect to have huge utilisation, but their insight and opinion is more useful,” she explained.

The stakeholder forum, which includes NHS commissioners, NHS providers, housing, social care and industry representatives, had its first meeting last week and is looking at how to redefine 3millionlives.

“I’m not sure the definition was ever clearly understood and interpreted, so what we need to do is be clear about what we measure as part of the 3millionlives campaign and when we say 3millionlives, what does that mean,” said Cashman.

“There are a number of different interpretations. If I was asked to collate a number of users there was no definition of how to define that user. So now, by applying a proper risk ratification exercise, we will be able to offer robust measurement.”

NHS England has also asked the stakeholder forum for feedback on how to make 3millionlives fit for purpose.

The result, the next steps and a clearer picture of the definition of 3millionlives will be announced next month at the International Telehealth and Telecare Conference 2013.

“The commitment around the new approach has been unanimously received. We have a number of clinical advocates both nationally and across the country,” she said.

“There were four areas that were overriding themes. One was information governance, commissioning support, measurement of metrics and financial levers, and how do they work. We’ve only now been able to assess where we can take action.”

NHS England has included 3millionlives as part of the organisations’ wider strategy of delivering technology enabled healthcare and has introduced what Cashman calls “a tripartite perspective”.

This involves three strands: clinical leadership, led by Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for long term conditions; system levers, led by Steve Fairman, NHS England’s director of business, improvement and research; and the technical interoperability strand, led by Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s director of strategic systems and technology.

Fairman revealed this month that the struggling pathfinder programme, which was supposed to deliver 100,000 telehealth users by the end of this year, is under review.

This was supposed to be the first step in the 3millionlives project, but Fairman acknowledged to EHI that “a number of the pathfinders lost impetus at the time of organisational change”.

Just one of seven pathfinder sites went to tender for a telehealth project this year – Worcestershire – but recently abandoned the procurement after failing to find a supplier willing to “share risk”.

Cashman could not comment on the status of the pathfinder review, but commented: “we wouldn’t expect these areas that were previously called pathfinders to deliver something, when we feel that they haven’t been given much support during the transformation.”