Digital transformation is not about transferring an analogue approach to a digital one. On the contrary, it is important to let go of existing work methods and functions that hold you back and ask the following questions:
- What problems should the system solve?
- Who is going to use it?
- How can you ensure the system is in step with both your current and future needs?
- How flexible does the system need to be and what do you want to be able to customise?
- What important security aspects need to be considered?
- And above all – what do you want to achieve?
In this guide, we present five areas to keep in mind, which can help you find a solution that is the right one for your business.
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Focus on user-friendliness and flexibility
For a new system to be readily accepted by an organisation, it must be seen as an asset from the very first day. User-friendliness is a key factor and a prerequisite for the system to be used at all. Flexibility and adaptability are two other key factors.
What does a user-friendly system mean?
For the implementation of a new system to be successful, it must be simple to use and intuitive. As soon as the system demands more time than the task itself, it has lost its value. For a healthcare organisation, it is essential that both healthcare professionals and administrative staff can quickly grasp how to use the system. But it is perhaps even more important that it is simple for patients. Many patient groups are still not familiar with using digital tools so, in order to provide equal and inclusive digital healthcare, it is extremely important that the system is perceived as simple and easy to use. Therefore, set high requirements on suppliers regarding how they work with user tests when developing new functions.
What does an adaptable system mean?
In the healthcare sector, many different aspects and needs have to be considered. A single healthcare organisation may have 100-1,000 healthcare processes and many different departments and tailoring the system to meet the needs of both the healthcare service and the patients is key.
If an organisation is going to start working with a new tool and in a new way, the system should not be restricted to specific flows and processes. Most organisations that start working with digital tools want to start on a small scale and then add more functions or flows, after they have been able to test and evaluate the system.
At the same time, it is a big advantage if the organisation itself can make some adaptations and necessary changes to offer the most suited internal work processes and patient experiences. If you can make configurations and customisations yourselves without involving the supplier, you have the freedom to test and adjust the system easily and independently. In this scenario, you will be able to identify your particular needs faster.
Think long-term – Invest in a system that will continue to be secure in the future
In order to reach an informed decision regarding the choice of a software solution, it is important to analyse the needs of your healthcare organisation. At the same time, it’s critical to consider how the expectations and demands of the world and your business may change in the future. To develop a future-proof digital transformation, a SaaS solution is a safe, cost-effective, and flexible option.
What is SaaS?
SaaS (Software as a Service) is a cloud-based software and delivery model that is usually offered as a dynamic licensing model.
5 advantages of a SaaS solution
1. Low-risk investment
With a SaaS solution, you can get started quickly with a minimal start-up cost. Besides, you don’t have to worry about upgrading or maintaining the system and your users can log in from any workstation, as the solution can be accessed by a web browser with no local installation required.
2. Build vs buy
You may sometimes be tempted to purchase, own or even develop your own platform. However, people often forget that this not only requires a huge amount of time and resources, it also prevents them from benefiting from developments contributed by other people. By choosing an industry-tested SaaS solution which is used by other healthcare operators, you can focus on your core activities and offer your patients digital healthcare faster.
3. Continuous development
An experienced SaaS supplier often works with many customers in similar areas of activity who are all contributing to the development of the service. This will give you access to the latest developments and enable you to add new functions as they are integrated into the service. This ensures that you constantly have a system that meets the existing market requirements.
4. Operation and maintenance are included
Since the system supplier takes care of operation and maintenance, you will never have to worry about it; instead, you can focus on providing care for your patients. Upgrades are also managed centrally by the supplier which means that you don’t have to perform time-demanding upgrades at local workstations.
5. A scalable solution
Since SaaS services are often offered as a license-based model where you pay per active user, it is easy to start on a small scale and then grow gradually. This gives you flexibility and the possibility of testing and evaluating the system and the new work methods without having to make a huge investment. If you want to scale up later, more licences can be added as needed.
What should you consider with regard to integration?
Most people working in healthcare have to log in to several different systems every day in order to do their work. It’s no wonder that many people dream of just one system with one login where everything is in the same place. However, in reality, a new system intended to streamline the organisation may mean yet another login and more administration. How can you facilitate your organisation to accept the new system? One way is to ensure that the new system can be integrated with your existing systems.
If you want the possibility to integrate the new solution with other systems, you need to make it clear to the supplier that the tool must be prepared for integrations and must have a high degree of technical interoperability, i.e, can interact with other systems. Such a system offers open APIs which are like keys that allow different systems to communicate with each other.
But remember – integration is not a prerequisite for you to start digitalising your healthcare operations. On the contrary, it could be beneficial to wait until you have used the system for a while so you have the time to test it, measure results, and evaluate the tool. The lessons learned from these experiences will help you understand the needs and the volume and it will be easier for you to know if and when integration is a prerequisite for you to move up to the next level.
Set high requirements on security
Security is a matter that is often discussed in digital health. It is no surprise since information security and privacy protection are important aspects that must be taken into account when healthcare professionals communicate and manage sensitive data digitally. However, at the same time, we must remember that digitalisation opens up many possibilities which contribute to significantly higher security than today’s telephone calls, letters and faxes.
The following five points can contribute to safer digital healthcare:
1. Authentication – identity confirmation
One basic measure for raising security levels for digital health is to ensure that communication between healthcare professionals and patients on the platform is authenticated, for example, by users having to verify their identity prior to a video consultation. Security levels and methods can be adapted to suit different countries and needs but when this is applied, in the UK, doctors usually ask patients to use the NHS login. Authentication means ensuring that the communication is taking place between the right people, something which cannot be checked in an ordinary phone call.
2. Encryption – prevents unauthorised persons from accessing sensitive information
Discussions about healthcare matters frequently include information that is of both a private and sensitive nature and which must not be disclosed to others. In the U.S. consumer privacy index 44% of the respondents said that they withheld personal information due to privacy concerns. To prevent this from happening, we recommend encryption. By encrypting electronically transmitted information in, for example, video calls or messages, only the participating parties can access the information. For others, the information is distorted and impossible to interpret without specific keys.
3. CE labelling – guarantees a certain level of security
A tool or platform that is CE labelled and compliant with the Data Security & Protection toolkit meets basic security, health, and environmental requirements under the EU and UK directives that regulate such matters. Read more about the requirements for getting a product CE labelled on the European Commission’s website.
4. GDPR and the Patient Data Act regulate data storage
All patient data must be stored and handled in accordance with GDPR and the Patient Data Act. This means, for instance, that personal data that does not have to be saved under the Patient Data Act is deleted after an agreed period of time, once the patient’s case is completed. GDPR came into force in May 2018 and replaced the Data Protection Act known as PUL. The rules concerning data storage and privacy were thereby made even more stringent and those who violate these rules risk a sizeable fine. The systems and platforms used for digital healthcare must therefore sort out and anonymise personal data efficiently and securely.
5. Knowledgeable users and easy-to-use tools
Many security issues can be resolved with the help of technology, but at the same time, it is important to bear security in mind at all parts of a chain and in everyday routines. Video calls allow patients and healthcare professionals to communicate wherever they are. However communicating sensitive issues should be planned in advance to ensure the proper protocol is in place to secure patient privacy.
To get started with security routines, the tools must be simple. The staff must be taught how to use them; otherwise, there is a risk they will be abandoned in favour of less secure solutions.
What to consider when purchasing and procuring
Before you jump into buying a tool for digital health, it could be useful to look more closely at how the supplier approaches the delivery process. Does the supplier offer support during the implementation of the new system or do you need to have resources in place yourself for implementation and training? Does the supplier have previous experience of your particular type of healthcare activity?
Large public healthcare organisations who want to digitalise their practices will also have to produce a clear requirement specification for procurement. In order to compile a list of specific requirements, a thorough analysis of their needs must first be conducted. Different organisations have different needs and it is important to identify your must-haves and your good-to-haves.
The checklist below could be useful for any healthcare organisation that needs to draw up a requirements specification for a supplier or as part of a procurement:
- What do you want to achieve and what problems do you expect the service to solve, now and in the future? Can you grow with the system? Keep the main purpose of your procurement in mind, since that constitutes the very essence of your requirements specification.
- What do you want to be able to do with the service and how do you want to communicate with your patients? What do you want to be able to manage? Medical history collection, reporting, or something else?
- How are you planning to use the service? Do you want to work with drop-in practices, booking appointments, or follow-up visits? Think about your various flows and needs.
- What areas of activity will be using your digital services? If you want to digitalise several activities at the same time, you may need to place higher demands on the service’s adaptability.
- Will the service be integrated with your other systems? If you want to be able to integrate the new tool with existing systems such as your EMR, you should make it clear in the requirements specification that you need open APIs.
- Is it important that the service shows your brand to patients or is an app branded by the supplier acceptable? If the former applies, you should request a “White Label” solution which affords apps and web interfaces to be customised according to your graphic profile.
- Do you have specific security requirements? Be precise about your requirements regarding security and the Patient Data Act even though nowadays this can be considered a hygiene factor.
Then give some extra thought to what requirements you want to pass on to the same supplier and consider the possibility of using different suppliers whose focus areas complement each other.
Finally – take a look at what other people have done. Remember that public procurements are by definition public domain and one can learn a lot from other people’s examples.
We’re here for you if you want to discuss more or bounce your ideas!