COVID-19 forcing healthcare to embrace tech

Charterhouse Voice & Data public sector specialists talk the challenges and opportunities of selling technology into healthcare

Posted 27 July 2020 by Christine Horton

While COVID-19 has put many organisations under pressure, it is accelerating digital transformation in parts of healthcare, say public sector specialists at technology provider, Charterhouse Voice & Data.

The health crisis has highlighted the importance of IT within the sector and has elevated the role of CIO within the leadership team, they say.

“CIOs, who represent the digital agenda, are now being introduced to the board within Trusts. They are being given a voice because suddenly people realise the importance of digital,” said Katie Nicholas, public sector account manager at Charterhouse Voice & Data.

“They’re excited because that’s never happened; they’ve always been trying to fight a losing battle. Now, it’s like, ‘right guys, we need this technology, what are you going do?’ They’re driving the agenda, which has just been turned on its head.”

In January 2020, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announced he wanted “to see a digital and tech leader on every board, there’s no excuse.” At the same time, he said that tech was no longer a ‘nice to have’ but vital for the NHS.

“Instead of keeping the lights on and having things just ticking over, CIOs can be really innovative and drive revenues and profit through technology,” said Paul Hughes, director public sector at Charterhouse Voice & Data.

“They can look at ways to drive performance, use different applications for collaboration and remote working – all of these things drive costs down and allow people to work smarter.”

Challenges remain

However, there remains a balance between maintaining legacy systems and the desire for transformation – especially in the NHS, said Hughes.

“You’ve got this old world that still needs nurse call systems and pagers, but now they’re looking at introducing application driven communication and IoT that gives real insight to what’s happening around the hospital,” he explained.

And despite Ministerial assurances, getting the most out of incredibly tight budgets remains an issue. In addition, the NHS especially has to date remained CAPEX-heavy when it comes to IT procurement.

“They get their budget allocation at the start of the year in April and have to say what projects they’re going to do. The issue is that with technology now going obviously to the cloud, it is very much based on an OPEX style of payment, which the NHS are just not used to,” said Nicholas.

“So even just the way that they’re funded stops them from embracing newer technologies because they don’t have the ability to pay monthly. I’m sure it will change, but until at the very top they stop the way they allocate the money, that is going to play a big part.”