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September 06, 2023

Developing a connected approach to integrated care : 13 technology considerations for NHS IT buyers

Doctor & nurse in hospital corridor with a senior female wheelchair patient and nurse in background

Dave O’Shaugnessy

Healthcare Solutions Consultant

Think Connected is Avaya’s promise to the NHS, marking a milestone in the development of its workflows for the continual improvement of patient outcomes. But what should NHS IT buyers think about as they look to transform the communications and collaboration of the world’s most ambitious free healthcare system?

Pockets of transformation funding have sprung up sporadically for NHS trusts over the last decade, meaning many could only invest in platforms piecemeal. Still, lots of NHS IT buyers do see the unrealised potential in improving their platforms’ ability to speak to one another, delivering service interoperability. It’s time for them to deploy a strategy in order to fully Think Connected.

Avaya is dedicated to maximising the value and benefit from existing NHS investments by integrating its communication solutions with existing technology. Our intuitive workflows are enhancing the patient experience by ensuring every healthcare professional has ‘next need’ solutions at their fingertips, no matter where they are or who they’re interacting with.

Avaya’s vision is to make the NHS more collaborative across all trusts, departments, and practice areas. We’re committed to enabling healthcare professionals to overcome frustrating pain points, by optimising every communication and collaboration experience for staff and patients alike.

They recognise that NHS trusts require a joined-up approach to technology, but also appreciate that stakeholders need more information about this approach before they can futureproof initiatives at the trust level and integrate with other agencies within the ICS.

Futureproof solutions support collaboration between trusts and other healthcare providers within an ICS

Rather than focusing on isolated pain points, Avaya aims to improve NHS experiences at the local level before scaling these solutions across regions and the ICS. That’s why we’re implementing ‘steppingstone’ transformation plans, connecting patient care across ICSs while benefiting existing trust-wide care systems. It’s all about boosting the NHS’s communications and collaboration maturity—by connecting the dots.

Avaya provides services to 8,000 healthcare organizations around the world; and focuses on deployments of its world-class healthcare solutions at the trust level, then scales them across ICSs, improving outcomes for patients and care providers. Our additional solutions then address communications at the level of place, neighbourhood, and system, fulfilling the digital transformation ambitions of both trusts and ICSs. And we’re working with industry partners and technical consultants to design a more holistic end-to-end solution for ICS communications and collaboration. It’s part of our journey toward a new-look NHS that truly does Think Connected.

We do this by partnering with more than 8,000 channel partners and agents and calling on experience of delivering more than 6 million contact centre seats around the globe in healthcare and across other highly regulated industries.

Every healthcare provider should aspire to an ICS-wide communications and collaboration layer

We live in an experience economy. And putting experiences at the centre of your organisation—for both patient and healthcare professional—matters more than ever.

However, keeping up with the huge demand for enhanced experiences is increasingly difficult—particularly for organisations with large, fragmented estates, like the NHS.

Working with Avaya, the trusted leader in customer experience, enables you to leverage your existing communications and collaboration investments, and add advanced capabilities that deliver enhanced experiences across a patient's experience lifecycle.

We can help you innovate—without disrupting your day-to-day operations—with solutions that address real challenges and meet your short-term objectives and long-term goals.

If implemented effectively within an ICS, Think Connected has the potential to produce seamless, and consistent experiences for both patients and healthcare professionals, across multiple trusts and organisations within a region.

And by connecting the dots and eliminating duplication, confusion, disruption, and delays across regions, this integrated focus within an ICS enhances the patient’s experiences and ultimately health outcomes while maximising buyers’ returns on technology investments.

Case study: Helse Vest Regional Health Authority

Helse Vest manages five healthcare institutions in southwest Norway. With 29,000 employees, it delivers services and technology to hospitals in the region via a centralised IT platform.

But this regional health authority was struggling with incompatible telecom and audiovisual solutions, a lack of reporting capabilities, an ageing telecom infrastructure, and siloed technology within its hospitals.

Worse, Helse Vest had multiple synchronisation issues, including overlapping lunch breaks at different infirmaries, varying reception hours at different polyclinics which were causing scheduling problems for patients, and a lack of automatic call handover between clinics, which was producing gaps in call centre coverage.

In partnership with Avaya, Helse Vest optimised skillsets and eliminated redundant administrative efforts, leading to:

  • greater staff efficiency
  • shorter patient hold times
  • 40% lower call abandonment rates
  • better care coordination workflows, based on comprehensive near-real time contact centre data.

With Avaya’s support, Helse Vest also:

  • introduced extensive automated reporting capabilities
  • converted to an IP-based phone system
  • upgraded its IP infrastructure to a centralised technology platform.

Helse Vest marked a major success for Avaya, demonstrating our ability to empower multi-trust bodies to actualise their vision for national healthcare.

13 technology considerations for buyers

Some NHS IT buyers are naturally averse to change, having grown accustomed to disjointed and disconnected communications and collaboration systems over years, even decades.

But really, they know something must change. So, all there is to do to tip the scales is understand where they’re coming from, recognise their concerns and operational frustrations, and field their questions. Then together we can futureproof their trust-level initiatives—and ultimately synchronise with other agencies spanning the entire ICS.

  1. Deployment modes

    The NHS may seek a range of flexible deployment models: cloud, on-premises, and hybrid. But some vendors simply can’t offer this—and the NHS are often reluctant to deploy services and technologies exclusively in the cloud.

    Why is this important?

    • NHS trusts want the flexibility to adapt their communications and collaboration technology.
    • Then they can scale this technology at pace, in line with demand.
    • They can also deploy patient experience technology in the cloud.
    • Then they can offer additional digital features like EHR integration, WhatsApp messaging, social media messaging, and video collaboration in a modular fashion, limiting any core technology disruption.

    Key question for vendors: Can you deploy your services on-premises, as pure cloud, and as a hybrid?

  2. Availability

    The NHS needs a model of communications and collaboration that’s intensely resilient, able to absorb or mitigate the effects of any disruption imaginable in a healthcare environment. It also needs to be redundant, consisting of multiple backup communication modalities—an imperative consideration in any emergency preparedness planning. Finally, the model must comprise on-premises high-availability services delivering five-nines availability, meaning the system must have the capability to be fully operational 99.999% of the time.

    Why is this important?

    • When it comes to hospitals, the availability of timely and dependable communications services can be seen as a matter of life and death.
    • If systems drop or become unavailable because of cloud failure, lives potentially are at risk.
    • The NHS needs communication and collaboration systems that are both available and reliable at the core of its health deployments.

    Key question for vendor: Are you committed to delivering 99.999% availability for communication services?

  3. Security

    The NHS needs the same security and reliability in its communications and collaboration solutions as those enjoyed by similarly sized government organisations worldwide. Avaya's AXP (Experience Platform) is HIPAA compliant. And while on-premise solutions are more complex when it comes to HIPAA compliance, Avaya has extensive experience delivering such compliance.

    Why is this important?

    • The NHS requires the most exceptional system and solution encryption protection available to comply with GDPR and HIPPA regulations.
    • Only then will hospitals and the services they provide be regarded as extremely secure and reliable by staff and patients alike, giving them positive experiences and filling them with confidence.

    Key question for vendors: Where will any cloud or hybrid cloud data reside?

  4. Existing system interoperability

    A new system must be able to push and pull data from the NHS trust’s current systems, including Electronic Health Records.

    Why is this important?

    • If custom integrated work is needed, time-to-value can exacerbate project costs.
    • EHR is a key step in digitising community healthcare records within integrated care systems—joining up the patient view across all healthcare practitioners.

    Key question for vendors: Do you have out-of-the-box connectors for our current systems and how have you ensured interoperability of digital systems and apps for previous clients?  

  5. Single sign-on

    With single sign-on, staff can use their existing trust credentials to access new systems.

    Why is this important?

    Single sign-on:

    •  minimises security-threats and vulnerabilities by reducing the potential complexity of using multiple applications with unique login credentials
    • Enables and simplifies services such as role-based communications, integrating communication services with patient-facing clinical applications. 
    • facilitates cross-site / cross-location secure access.

    Key question for vendors: Would your solutions be able to integrate with our current credentials system?

  6. Legacy device retirement

    Trusts still using pagers and other legacy alerting and communication devices need modern systems and solutions that will enable legacy devices to be retired when they’re ready to adopt and roll out the next wave of more modern communications and notifications technology.

    Why is this important?

    • With familiar tablet and smartphone devices loaded with easy-to-use apps, employees work better and acclimatise to change faster.
    • Introducing such new technology will also be an opportunity to look to improve and evolve legacy workflows and processes by taking advantage of the more open, more interoperable technologies available today.

    Key question for vendors: Can your system take over the functions presently performed by our pagers, alarms, notification systems?

  7. Workflow automation

    The NHS needs technology to automate many of its existing manual and time-consuming workflows and processes.

    Why is this important?

    • The NHS must be able to automate patient appointment management and on-call alarms or notifications.
    • This is while it addresses many other manual workflows that introduce unnecessary stressors into staff workloads.

    Key question for vendors: Can you integrate with EHRs to facilitate automated patient appointment management?

  8. Remote or WFH capability

    The NHS needs the capacity to enable staff to work remotely or from home without service disruption.

    Why is this important?

    • Facilitating high-quality care even when employees aren’t onsite reduces the need for patients to travel to hospital, improving infection control.
    • WFH personnel benefit from less travel and the associated costs of fuel and parking.

    Key question for vendors: How would you enable staff to communicate and collaborate remotely without hampering productivity?

  9. Mobile experience

    If the NHS can provide staff and patients with key services on mobile devices, it can improve the delivery and accessibility of healthcare services.

    Why is this important?

    • Smart mobile devices that enable staff to access patient data while making a one-touch call to an on-call specialist accelerate these traditionally disparate tasks.

    Key question for vendors: How have you integrated healthcare and communication systems using mobile solutions for previous clients?

  10. Multilingual capability

    The NHS needs healthcare applications that provide their complete set of features and services in as many languages as possible.

    Why is this important?

    • Providing services to all who need them—and in a language they understand—boosts empathy, and makes for a more inclusive and welcoming environment.

    Key question for vendors: How easy would it be for a patient to select their preferred language using your application?

  11. Device and OS agnosticism

    Digital services for staff and patients should be available and deliverable across all access interfaces.

    Why is this important?

    • Services must be delivered identically across all access points, whether via iOS or Android laptops and smart devices, as well as any internet browser.

    Key question for vendors: How will patients access services over various devices, browsers, and operating systems?

  12. Video capability

    The NHS needs the capability for staff and patients to make video calls over their chosen device, which should be integrated with other digital applications.

    Why is this important?

    Integrated video calls:

    • improve engagement
    • enhance collaboration
    • optimise the delivery of healthcare services.

    Key question for vendors: How would staff and patients use your video solution to communicate?

NHS IT buyers: it’s time to Think Connected

For a full list of vendor questions, and to see what Avaya could do for your trust, check out our comprehensive guide to Thinking Connected.

Download the Vision Pack

And to figure out which gaps a vendor might need to plug in your trust, and where you should maximise the use of your existing technology on the path to digital excellence, explore our Innovation Maturity Model.

  • Benchmark your trust against industry standards
  • Visualise its readiness and capacity to hit targets
  • Get comprehensive recommendations to enhance the staff and patient experience

Take the Innovation Maturity Model Assessment

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