There is a new option for NHS digital leaders that is turning heads, that will re-energise the health tech landscape, and that will orchestrate digital strategies, writes Lynette Ousby, UK general manager for Alcidion.

Imagine you are the chief digital officer for one of England’s integrated care systems. Your mission is to create a cohesive flow of digital information across the providers in your geographical footprint. And then – rather than having that information just sitting in records – you want to turn it into something proactively useful for every healthcare professional and patient.

Extremely disjointed existing IT across your ICS footprint makes this challenge even harder. One NHS trust might have an ageing patient administration system and a best of breed digital strategy. Surrounding trusts might have implemented an array of electronic patient record systems, each with different levels of capability.

So, as the CDO, are you tempted to just start over with a new system across the region? Many might be.

But this temptation simply to go to market for a big new EPR is now starting to change. Why? Well, there’s another option available to the NHS that will not only enable the flow of information: it will automate clinical plans and pathways, proactively augment clinical decisions and orchestrate digital approaches across regions.

It’s called a smart clinical asset – and with NHS organisations already starting to use it to re-energise their digital programmes, it is about to become the core component of digital strategies across the NHS.

Enter the smart clinical asset

This smart clinical asset is not just a new generation of EPR, or an integration engine, some sort of population health portal, or a slightly better version of what came before. It is far more than any and all of these things and it is about to disrupt the health tech market, not the NHS.

The NHS now needs an alternative to being constrained by archaic healthcare technologies, whilst retaining and extracting value from those systems in which it has invested millions of pounds.

It needs a toolset that will allow it to remove the burden still faced by healthcare professionals who, despite decades of digitisation, still need to spend hours each day remembering to carry out hundreds of routine tasks. And the NHS now needs to be able to rely on its technology to automate and join up care plans and pathways in a manner specific to individual patient needs and conditions.

NHS leaders who want to move to the next level of technology adoption by providing intelligent tools clinicians actually want to use – will now be able to much more easily join together existing systems and overlay them with advanced clinical decision intelligence to create a system of engagement.

They will have the means to relieve the cognitive burden for healthcare professionals through the automation of those things they shouldn’t need to do. They will be able to bring mobility to complement their incumbent systems, and integrate citizen generated data with that from their existing systems in a consolidated clinical asset. They will have a smart and open platform capable of consuming information from other providers. And they will be able to deliver the best from machine learning, natural language processing, electronic observations, electronic prescribing, artificial intelligence, clinical coding, clinical noting, advanced standards, mobility, clinical and patient flow and more.

And rather than starting from scratch, technology leads will be able to draw on the smart clinical asset to unlock significant value and flexibility from existing EPR strategies across the NHS, whilst using it as a core accelerator for best of breed – making far more from existing NHS investments.

So, why might the NHS never procure another EPR?

To tender specifically for an EPR restricts the NHS’ ability to encapsulate the technology that now exists in the market. The remarkable response to Covid-19 has shown a willingness to shake things up. And we now need a sustained way of doing new things.

Healthcare leaders need to look at what is being created, and I’m thankful that many are.

It’s a conversation I have been having with chief digital officers, chief information officers, chief clinical information officers, chief nursing information officers and many frontline staff up and down the country.

Upon learning of emerging platforms like the smart clinical asset that show there is another way to getting enormous value from digital, minds are being changed.

And back to our ICS scenario – some are already starting to abandon their plans to rip and replace existing systems, recognising that they don’t need to start from scratch across their patch.

Instead they have been inspired by the capabilities of the smart clinical asset that can provide the orchestration layer needed to enable the interoperability that their incumbent systems cannot deliver, and to underpin a regional digital strategy that will harness and unleash the longevity and clinical capability of their combined digital armoury.

Miya Precision – the very first smart clinical asset for the NHS – will formally launch as a new approach to supporting digital in July 2020. It will help hospitals at every stage of digital maturity to quickly and safely advance their roadmaps, whilst intelligently making information the genuine asset of clinicians in order to make the right thing to do the easy thing to do.