Cancer, gastro and mental health the latest to benefit from digital playbooks

Lisa Hollins, Director of Innovation for NHSX, reflects on the power of NHSX’s digital playbooks to help transform care

This is a really exciting week for our team, as we publish three new digital playbooks, focussing on mental health, gastroenterology and cancer specialties. This brings the total playbook library to eight. It’s a culmination of many months of hard work and comes after lengthy engagement with clinical teams in the busiest outpatient specialties telling us how useful it would be to see real life examples of how digital tools can help improve care across the NHS, so we can ensure that patients can benefit from the latest digital developments in their treatment.

The power of digital to enhance and improve patient pathways is well-known and has been particularly highlighted in the COVID-19 pandemic, where so many people have relied on things like virtual consultations or remote monitoring to continue their care whilst shielding. However, as ever, it’s clear that balance and choice for patients are essential as we begin our road to recovery, so we can offer patients the most appropriate option for them, be that using a digital tool, a telephone call, or a face-to-face appointment.

Our first set of digital playbooks, launched in December 2020, have had universally positive feedback from clinical teams in the five outpatient specialities covered: cardiology; respiratory; ophthalmology; musculoskeletal and dermatology. We’ve been fortunate to benefit from fantastic support from relevant Royal Colleges and national membership bodies to host in-depth webinars for each playbook in turn over the past few months, with speakers from across the country bringing case studies to life and fielding questions about implementation challenges, statistical benefits, improvements in patient feedback and more.

Since the first set of playbooks launched in December they have become one of the main sources of advice for NHS professionals on the NHSX website. We are thrilled to embark on this new journey and look forward to planning and hosting a new round of webinars in mental health, gastroenterology and cancer as the year goes on.

Our playbooks form part of our wider programme to support people at home, as well as NHS England and NHS Improvement's work to redesign outpatient pathways and are completely free to access on the NHSX website. We’ve designed each playbook so it can be used in several different ways, following conversations with clinicians as to what would be most useful. Firstly, you can access them by common scenario, such as "I need to monitor patients’ vital signs remotely", which includes examples of digital tools and solutions to help with self-monitoring. Secondly, you can view the step-by-step speciality pathway, setting out relevant examples and digital tools at each stage of patients’ journey. Lastly, you can go straight into the individual case studies themselves. We know that time is precious, so by setting the playbooks up to be as user-friendly as possible, our clinicians can get the information they need without having to spend hours looking for it.

The autumn sees an edit of the five original playbooks, adding new case studies, amending others, and planning the final four additions to our playbook family for 2021: ENT, renal, rheumatology and perioperative care.

We’d like to thank all the organisations who have taken the time to share the amazing work they’re doing with us for the benefit of others, and would love to hear from anyone who has a case study to share on any of the specialties listed (including those not yet published!). Similarly, if you’re a membership organisation who'd like to partner up to help promote these valuable resources as widely as possible, please let us know. Contact and get in touch.