Why pioneering interoperability partnerships should be embedded into the NHS cultural change

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani profile picture

14 December 2020

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani
Co-founder
Locum's Nest


The past year has seen numerous NHS regulating bodies (NHS Improvement, NHS Digital and NHSX) considerably ramp up their attempts in moving the health and care technology market towards becoming a more connected and compatible environment for a modern national healthcare system. This generated a lot of talk within the health and care technology industry around interoperability – the way in which different software platforms communicate data between one another.

Rather than manually transferring data from one platform to another, in this day and age, why shouldn't it be transferred automatically?

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani    Co-founder

This is due to a long history of health and care organisations needing to use several different pieces of software, for several different purposes, but a lot of the data is common, relevant and valuable to be seen and used elsewhere too. Indeed, rather than manually transferring data from one platform to another, in this day and age, why shouldn't it be transferred automatically? Doctors on the wards opening up one platform for notes and having to look in another for blood results, why can't they both be seen in a common area? It saves time and money, increases accuracy through reducing human error and ultimately improves patient care.

On this topic, health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said last week that the COVID-19 pandemic had proved there's bureaucracy in our healthcare system which it could do better without. And as NHS providers director of policy and strategy, Miriam Deakin, rightly commented "for a workforce that is severely overstretched and facing the combined pressures of COVID-19, winter activity and work to clear the treatment backlog, simplifying day-to-day processes can help alleviate the load. We recognise that cultural and behavioural change will be needed to drive these improvements as well as support from a national and local level to ensure change is sustainable."

We've seen many encouraging conversations and developments happening around culture change, mostly oriented around the key topics of diversity, inclusion, compassionate leadership and staff wellbeing.

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani    Co-founder

We've seen many encouraging conversations and developments happening around culture change, mostly oriented around the key topics of diversity, inclusion, compassionate leadership and staff wellbeing. While all these are important and necessary to address, the conversation seems to miss the importance of cutting-edge interoperability arrangements between key NHS software systems. We believe that this is an integral part of any health and care organisation that want to sustainably integrate into the modern NHS culture. For this reason, we have developed Link, the nation's first interoperability hub, for the NHS.

A perfect example is our API link with rostering services provided by Rotageek. Any gap within a rota produced using Rotageek is automatically sent to the Locum's Nest system, via Link and is shared with our 30,000+ strong community of healthcare professionals with one click. Once filled, the information feeds back in and populates the rota. Most importantly, through Link, the hospital is in total control of the integration between the systems! Time saved for temporary staffing and rota teams, increased fill rates for vacant shifts and in turn money saved for the organisation. On top of that, we also have an exciting upcoming integration with Allocate software which means that NHS trusts using Allocate's rostering solution will be able to automatically advertise hard to fill vacancies on the Locum's Nest platform for fulfilment. Once a bank worker has been sourced, the worker information will be seamlessly transferred back to Allocate solutions and booked to the duty. It's a classic win-win.

This is part of our ongoing commitment to sustainable integration and interoperability. Link illustrates the outcome of our interoperability commitments by seamlessly integrating all core systems such as rostering, payroll, agency and bank services into one function and will continue to bring new features as we keep on bridging all technological gaps.

Within interoperability lies the power to re-engineer and upgrade clinical workflow and therefore the tech solution should be designed for such advancements.

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani    Co-founder

We believe this is only the beginning as the NHS and tech providers alike will have to keep working together to see the next generation technology available to staff which integrates information across boundaries. However, looking at creative ways to improve the service's interoperability capabilities should also involve trust senior's leaders working on their organisation's cultural change. Within interoperability lies the power to re-engineer and upgrade clinical workflow and therefore the tech solution should be designed for such advancements.

On this topic, North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's chief information and technology officer, Dr Graham Evans said, "the challenge to achieving real integration and interoperability is 10% technical and 90% everything else – people, process, culture and organisation." It's clear that reaching interoperability maturity isn't just a "tech issue", it requires listening to people's need from top management to front-line staff but also involves cultural and behavioural changes. NHS England and NHS Improvement's head of Flexible Working, Jane Galloway, recently said, "to change the culture requires senior leaders role modelling flexible working and creating an army of champions. It's not enough to talk about e-rostering. The shift won't happen unless there is a culture change".

For all these reasons, we strongly believe your interoperability agenda should be inherently linked to your organisation's cultural change process. Have you thought about your organisation's alignment between culture change and interoperability capability agenda?

To find out more about Locum's Nest visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

About the author

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani profile picture

Dr Ahmed Shahrabani
Co-founder

Doctor and co-founder of Locum’s Nest, the staff bank management app on a mission to solve the UK’s healthcare staffing crisis and recently awarded 'The company delivering the greatest benefit to the NHS' by DigitalHealth.London. Launched in Royal Surrey County Hospital Trust in 2016, Locum’s Nest is now present in over 180 healthcare organisations, with over 20,000 doctors on its platform and matched 120,000 doctors to short staff shifts, delivering 1.1m hours of patient care by non-agency doctors.

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