Rewired 2024 provides an unmissable opportunity to hear how NHS leaders are assessing both the progress and challenges of the digital transformation process. Three members of the programme committee for the Digital Transformation Stage, Nick O’ Reilly, Ramandeep Kaur and Dillan Yogendra, answer questions from Digital Health News on digital transformation and the digital maturity process

The stage will focus on the progress of key technologies, including virtual wards, electronic bed and capacity management and EPR transformation, as well as investigating the evolution of integrated care. 

The first day on the stage at the NEC in Birmingham will kick off with a keynote session looking at the eternal funding constraints facing the NHS, the policy prescriptions for its recovery and the extent to which these factors will impact the upcoming general election. Highlights on the second day include a deeper dive into digital first primary care, as well as a keynote on national leadership, national priorities and funding, featuring Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for transformation at NHSE’s National Transformation Directorate, and Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation. 

Ahead of Rewired 2024, programme committee members Nick O’Reilly, director of digital for Birmingham and Solihull ICB, Ramandeep Kaur, chief clinical information officer at University Hospitals of Northamptonshire and Dillan Yogendra, account director at Silver Buck, answered questions on digital transformation put to them by Digital Health News.  

Digital Health: How can the NHS address the real funding challenges that are blocking completion of the transformation agenda?  

O’Reilly: We need better medium-term planning, not a raft or annual finding that often is released in the second half of the year with spend deadlines of March 31st. We also need to incentivise collaboration and convergence more, building on the opportunities and priorities that ICS joint forward plans set out.  Transformation and innovation often take time to both deliver and then to realise benefits, and the short-term funding or a demand for too many or too fast savings can often lead to lower value in chasing the low hanging fruit rather than the bigger pickings.    

Kaur: It should not create lots of ICS initiatives for projects, but just have a few key elements to focus on, for transformation. 

Virtual wards have been one of the most dynamic aspects of digital transformation. How much evidence is there about the impact they are having on individual trusts or the health service more broadly? 

O’Reilly: I don’t know – which says it all really.   

Kaur: Virtual wards were the magic bullet during Covid, which everyone suddenly created a significant push for and the buy-in was huge. However, not all hospitals got on board with the concept and, in my opinion, there is still so much more work to do, to provide substantial virtual ward care and get some hospitals to follow the virtual ward journey.  

What are the next opportunities for expansion of the NHS App? 

Kaur: I would like to see the NHS app personally have all your care in one place irrespective of where you are admitted for treatment. It should be possible to book appointments, cancel, reschedule, all without needing to ring anywhere and it needs to cater for patients with multiple long-term conditions being cared for by staff who are all using different clinical systems.  

For the national team, how can the workforce on the frontline help make the case for prioritising digital transformation? 

O’Reilly: It is about what makes it easier on the front line, including good case studies of what has worked well, what has not worked as well, how digital is making providing health and care easier, and how it is reducing administrative burdens and improving patient engagement. And, of course, the real front line includes the patients and their families (who are also the electorate and having clear demand and priorities for better health and care from the public can be more compelling than it might be from the workforce). Whatever the outcome of the election the new ministers will be looking for some success stories and what hits their colleagues’ post, email and social media feeds will focus attention.  

Kaur: By having early sight of the planned priorities the centre wants to introduce, so we can be involved and directly shape the future and be empowered to be involved to make a difference.   

Yogendra: I think it’s a case of having clear proof points and evidence to back up why digital transformation is imperative, and will help improve clinical workflows, reduce burnout and ultimately drive improved patient outcomes. Digital advocates and champions of transformation appear to be effective when deployed judiciously, and can help overcome cultural and attitudinal barriers. It’s really important that the workforce buy into the approach, and recognise that digital is the ‘how’ and not the ‘why’ when trying to understand the value of digital transformation. Leaders must provide direction, while supporting and inspiring the workforce to adopt the overall vision.

Rewired 2024 is at the Birmingham NEC, March 12-13. Find out more about the Digital Transformation Stage, explore the programme, and register here.