Sunday, April 27

The technology supporting the British National Health Service

I attended one of those C breakfast forums, where the great and good of a particular functional segment get together to share knowledge and best practices. These can be relating to IT, talent management, risk management, offshoring, emerging markets and such issues. They are good places to pick up what others are doing and to learn. This one was for CIOs and was moderated by Michael Portillo. He is a very impressive chap who comes across as very authoritative and has a great sense of humour. One wonders what the UK would have been like if he had become the PM. As he said, he is a man with a great political future. Very funny and punny.

But I heard something that made me wonder about one thing and I decided to blog about it. There were several CIOs and heads of technology from various health authorities and hospitals around the country. And the discussion became so bizarre that I had to literally and vocally challenge them.

Their basic point was, their CEOs had no idea about technology and their hope was that their patients would select hospitals on the basis of their surgical or medical staff expertise. A CIO from a London Local Authority was talking about how they are using technology to provide competitive advantage to make one council better than other. Very good, very impressive and I was applauding inside. But the health authority guys said that this does not apply to them. And this is where and when I challenged them, even though I did not push it that much.

Again, I was just thinking, if these guys did not have the protection of the government, and if I was the CEO/COO/CIO of a private health sector, I would wipe the floor and literally steal every patient and doctor from these dinosaur NHS trusts and provide superior service at an improved value with better motivated staff.

Oh! I am sorry, they are already doing it. Despite the billions of pounds of investment into the NHS, it does not seem to have made a dent in the level of private health insurance at all. And they are working with my tax dollars and providing this kind of less that efficient service.

It is unbelievable that in this day and age, they have no idea about their patients, about service management or customer service management, no thoughts about segmentation or competition of staff. They do not know how modern technologies are working in terms of location analysis. Patients do not choose solely on the basis of doctors' expertise.

That is why they are called as a profession. In other words, a standard level of service from doctors, irrespective of which hospital they are based in, is expected. As long as they are regulated by the GMC, they are all the same.  So why on earth would I go about delving deeper into their qualifications? Surely that's the job of the GMC and the hospital?

They also did not seem to know about customer differentiation, like first time patients, regular patients, referrals, private patients, walk in patients, and so on and so forth. Each type of patient, both current and future, has to have a different customer facing experience. Here's a free idea for them. Put in a room with some large scale video rooms and apply a locational SMS technology unit to attract people who are walking past to come in to see how wonderful the hospital is.

Free publicity, or how about electronic linking with their local authority to further calibrate emergency and pre-emptive medical checks. Come and talk to me in a bank to create a financial product linked to a medical product which we can bundle with a credit card, so that every time you go over 30% of your disposable income on credit card debt, we give you a heart check for 75% of the cost.

Going forward, firms are checking out location devices. So, for example, if you were desirous of a taxi, you text a number and 3 LOCAL taxi numbers are sent back to you after triangulating your position. Or you can track your child based upon where his mobile phone is. Or if you were on the road and a chap falls ill, you can text and get a hospital informed. Or ambulance services will send the patient to a hospital based upon a complex series of rules in which, the quality of the doctor is just one tiny bit.

If it was a company, and I had a choice between an NHS and private firm, I would have sold NHS short. With all the money which is being pumped into the NHS technology bucket, it seems like we have challenges with deployment or usage, or even basic knowledge of what makes humans work and behave. And these guys are supposed to work for us and be doctors?

And looks like they are looking to hire some heavy hitters. Then again, the political parties are simply being stupid (specially that Stephen O'Brien, the Tories' shadow health minister). I mean, I can understand them being all excited but d'oh, if this is the level of discourse, then heaven help us. Is Stephen going to be the minister handling the NHS if they get elected? Then, mate, this problem is going to be yours, and you DO NEED heavy hitters. The country needs heavy hitters in the NHS. Talk about being stupid.

Good heavens!


No comments: