Looking past existing service models for true transformation
“Design is everything.
Traditional thinking about digital transformation tries to introduce digital capability into the existing way we deliver health services with the objective of improving what we currently do. This approach inevitably constrains our thinking and limits the opportunity for transformation. The advent of COVID-19 has shown that there is now a need—and an opportunity—to deliver care differently, creating an inflection point in the way digital design and capabilities can enable care. Providers and receivers of care have had to embrace change at pace and in this upheaval lies the opportunity to reimagine and shape the future not just digitally but in creating a completely new strategy. This shifts the opportunity from digital transformation to smarter, user-centred design.
The concept of a smarter hospital focuses not just on the building but its role within an integrated care system. The smarter hospital focuses on the lives of its people—those working in it, receiving care or visiting—the processes that run within the organisation, and its impact on the community and the environment in which it operates. The smarter hospital will need to operate with infection control principles at its heart in order to manage patients who test positive for COVID-19 alongside the rest of the service. The challenges of a novel virus and disease have created a closer link between research and care delivery, offering us the prospect of every patient being in a trial and turning our hospitals into real world learning environments.
Now there is an opportunity to think afresh about the role that our hospitals can play, enabled by digital capability. This is about the hospital at the heart of a local health and care ecosystem as part of a coordinated approach to clinical services, not simply about the estates. These services will often be expected to serve different populations (local, regional and perhaps tertiary) within and beyond the four walls of the hospital.