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Digital Maturity in Healthcare and the NHS

07 May 2024

Digital technology is revolutionising healthcare systems across the world by streamlining processes, widening access and delivering improved patient outcomes.

In the UK, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital services within the NHS, leading to a rise in digital maturity among healthcare providers.

However, this rapid transition also brought to light the challenge of integrating digital initiatives into the broader healthcare system, and the realisation that simply adopting technology does not mean a provider is digitally mature.

In this article, we’ll discuss the many benefits of achieving digital maturity in healthcare systems, including the importance of Digital Maturity Assessments, and ways providers can move forward with their digital maturity strategy.

What is digital maturity?

Digital maturity refers to an organisation’s ability to effectively harness digital technologies to drive innovation, efficiency and growth.

Characteristics of digitally mature organisations include:

  • Clear digital strategies aligned with business goals
  • Culture of innovation, education and agility
  • Strong digital skills across the workforce
  • Robust data-driven decision-making processes
  • Seamless integration of digital tools and technologies into wider operations.

It’s important to note digital maturity is not a static state but rather a continuous journey. Organisations often progress through different stages of digital maturity as they evolve and adapt to changes in technology and society.

The benefits of achieving digital maturity

Achieving digital maturity in healthcare brings a host of benefits that can improve service quality and operational efficiency.

Advanced digital systems, such as shared care records, allow healthcare providers to access patient data quickly and securely. This efficiency can help professionals make better-informed decisions and ultimately improve quality of care and health outcomes.

Patients themselves also benefit from digital tools like portals, mobile apps and remote monitoring platforms that can empower them to take a more active role in managing their own health.Top of Form

Leveraging data analytics and artificial intelligence can help healthcare teams identify high-risk patients, personalise treatment approaches, and derive valuable insights into population health trends.

Ultimately, digital maturity in healthcare empowers both providers and patients alike, reducing workforce pressures, driving improvements in service quality, increasing operational efficiency, and targeting inequalities in patient access and health outcomes.

Digital Maturity Assessments (DMA)

Despite the long-term cost savings, more often than not investment in digital infrastructure is needed and is something to be considered. For this reason, it’s crucial providers are able to assess their existing level of digital maturity to pinpoint service gaps, guide financial decisions, understand growth opportunities, and plan future healthcare delivery effectively.

In July 2022, NHS England launched the Digital Maturity Assessment Programme, which aims to track yearly digital progress in the NHS.

Commissioned by NHS England, the assessment is composed of 50 questions that evaluate providers in seven areas, based on the What Good Looks Like (WGLL) framework.

NHS organisations can now assess their current state of digital maturity against these baseline data benchmarks and identify areas for improvement. This enables providers to prioritise investments and initiatives that will drive them towards a more digitally mature and efficient healthcare system.

What Good Looks Like (WGGL) framework

These are the specific Seven Measures of Success detailed in this digital maturity framework:

  1. Well-led: ICS leadership drives digital transformation with clear strategies and accountability for digital and data initiatives across the system.
  2. Ensures smart foundations: The provider prioritises secure and reliable digital infrastructure with fosters multidisciplinary teams that support digital ambitions, while also adhering to national standards and sustainability goals.
  3. Safe practice: Robust cyber security is implemented across the ICS. This includes full compliance with national standards, proactive risk management, and systematic responses to safety alerts.
  4. Supports people: Frontline staff are equipped with digital literacy training and optimised tools that enable flexible work arrangements and efficient access to information across the ICS.
  5. Empowers citizens: Citizen engagement drives the design of accessible digital services, promoting inclusivity and providing citizens with the tools they need to actively participate in their healthcare journey.
  6. Improves care: Digital solutions are integrated into care pathways to enhance patient services, reduce variations in care quality, and facilitate remote consultations and collaborative care planning.
  7. Healthy populations: Using data-driven insights, the ICS designs and delivers improvements to population health, effectively leveraging collective resources to address health inequalities and enhance outcomes.

Challenges and difficulties

The UK’s health service faces several challenges in achieving digital maturity. Following the latest NHS Digital Maturity Assessment, surveys found that less than 29% of the 42 reviewed ICSs are achieving their digital goals.

The remaining 71% of providers are faced with a multitude of obstacles, ranging from outdated infrastructure to a lack of interoperability between systems.

Inadequate funding often hampers efforts to upgrade technology and implement innovative digital solutions, exacerbating the strain on an already burdened healthcare system.

Addressing these difficulties will require a collaborative effort from policymakers, healthcare providers and technology experts, including:

  • Establishing comprehensive guidelines and standards for the development and implementation of digital solutions
  • Prioritising data security and privacy protocols to ensure the confidentiality of patient information and maintain public confidence in digital services
  • Fostering intersectoral cooperation to identify and tackle potential obstacles
  • Allocating resources for training and support initiatives to enhance the digital skills of healthcare professionals.

In addition to the challenges faced within the healthcare system itself, there's also a crucial need for further patient education and engagement. Many patients may not fully understand the benefits of these new digital tools and services, or how to use them effectively.

How Graphnet can help

Graphnet has more than 30 years of experience in supporting UK healthcare organisations in their pursuit of digital maturity.

Our digital data solutions are designed to be fully integrated with new and existing systems, helping streamline operations and deliver improved patient experiences.

The Graphnet Shared Care Record gives healthcare professionals access to real-time patient information, while our Population Health Management tool produces rich data insights that allow providers to pinpoint and target those most in need of support.

Get in touch today discuss how Graphnet solutions can support your organisation’s digital maturity strategy.