Seven measures for successful digital transformation

National CIO Sonia Patel sets out NHSX’s new What Good Looks Like framework for digital transformation of the NHS and explains why it puts people, clinicians and patients at its heart.

The last 12 months has seen rapid uptake and adoption of digital technologies across the health and care system as ways of working changed in response to the pandemic. No longer is there any doubt that the future of the NHS and social care will require greater digital transformation to improve services, support staff and save lives.

This harnessing of digital at speed has shown just what the NHS is capable of. At NHSX we are equipping local leaders to continue to drive transformation in their own organisations by providing clear guidance for health and care leaders to digitise, connect and transform services safely and securely.

The digital maturity of organisations across the country remains varied. At NHSX we want to support every local health and care organisation to digitally transform so that no patient or member of healthcare staff is left behind, and digital progress continues. We have already shifted our funding focus away from the very best organisations to those who need extra support to digitise, with nearly 60 Trusts on our Digital Aspirants programme.

I personally know from my experiences as a frontline CIO the key enabler is the collaboration between local leadership and frontline staff, ensuring both groups are engaged and go on the journey together.

I saw this first hand on a recent visit to Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust where they have developed a culture of understanding and trust with clinical and operational staff which has forged a foundation where digital transformation has been able to flourish whilst also keeping focused on ensuring brilliant basics.

We're already undertaking exciting work with NHS Providers and Health Education England to support organisational leadership of digital. The Digital Boards programme, sponsored by NHSX, has engaged over 840 NHS board leaders over the course of the last year. It aims to build board-level understanding of the potential and implications of the digital agenda and increase the confidence and capability of boards to harness the opportunities it provides.

Today, we've published our What Good Looks Like framework, setting out for the first time our common vision for good digital practice.

At the heart of this vision are people: leaders of local organisations, staff on the front line of our health and care services, and the citizens they care for, are together the beneficiaries and owners of digital transformation - and they must be at the centre of our efforts going forward.

Working in collaboration

The development of the What Good Looks Like framework has been a process of co-creation with input and feedback from trust chairs, chief executives, people officers, representatives of organisations including NHS Providers and Health Education England, and NHS England and NHS Improvement colleagues working in primary care, mental health, social care and the Greener NHS Programme.

The aim of What Good Looks Like is to support all frontline leaders in their digital transformation. Going forward, we will provide resources to equip staff to deliver their digital transformation journey. This will include an assessment framework for organisations to measure their level of digital maturity. It will help identify gaps and prioritise areas for local improvement. Assessments will be repeatable so progress can be tracked year-on-year.

We will also provide frontline support in the form of digital expertise and an online knowledge base which will include blueprints, standards, templates, real-life examples and best practice. Our goal is to ensure that frontline leaders have the right information, tools and support to digitally transform services and provide better care.

Our What Good Looks Like framework has seven success measures which are applicable to all care settings

  1. Well led: Boards are equipped to lead digital transformation and collaboration. They own and drive the digital transformation journey
  2. Smart foundations: Digital, data and infrastructure operating environments are reliable, modern, secure, sustainable and resilient.
  3. Safe practice: Organisations maintain standards for safe care and routinely review digital and data systems to ensure they are safe, robust, secure, sustainable and resilient.
  4. Supported people: The workforce are digitally literate and are able to work optimally with data and technology.
  5. Empower citizens: Citizens are at the centre of service design and can access and contribute to their healthcare information, taking an active role in their health and wellbeing.
  6. Improve care: Health and care practitioners use digital and data to improve health and wellbeing, transform care pathways and deliver innovative and sustainable care models.
  7. Healthy populations: Organisations encourage development and adoption of new ICS-led, population-based, digitally-driven models of care.

I think it's really important to learn within systems and across systems, and embrace the opportunities that exist with some of our exemplar, more digitally mature organisations. The ethos of shared learning underpins all of our support to frontline digitisation, and will be a key component of the support offered through What Good Looks Like going forward.