Compare the NHS IT – simples

Last week EHI Intelligence released the latest version of its Clinical Digital Maturity Index (CDMI), a tool that enables NHS hospitals to benchmark their investment, deployment and uptake of IT systems.

Officially launched back in November, the index will no doubt be an extremely useful mechanism in allowing NHS organisations to compare themselves to their peers and open up opportunities to share best practice and lessons learned, something the NHS has often struggled to do in the past.

Although eHealth Insider (EHI) and NHS England, the two organisations behind the index, claim that it is not designed to create competition, like all league tables the CDMI will undoubtedly increase the desire of the top few whose aspiration it is to reach the number one spot.

Those trusts in the middle may not be as enthused but no doubt local competition between organisations will go some way to stimulate better compliance with IT. Meanwhile, those at the bottom may potentially reject the findings but on the positive side they are likely to privately consider just how far behind they are and the impact it is having on their organisation.

It is clearly a useful tool for the NHS; every member of staff can now access the index. This  will not only increase transparency, that previously only existed in limited areas, but will provide end users, including those without a technical background, the opportunity to see where their organisation ranks.

The CDMI equally encourages suppliers to up their game and I have heard from at least two vendors that they want to start working more closely with a specific NHS organisation to help get them into the top ten. There are many reasons for this but primarily it’s an opportunity for a supplier to highlight a reference site which demonstrates what they are able to deliver to other potential customers.

Anything that encourages suppliers to continue to work in partnership with their customers, beyond the point of go-live to really make a success of a solution, can only be a positive thing. The index also undeniably provides a useful insight for suppliers, who are keen to understand the needs and challenges of NHS organisations, such as the systems they do and don’t have, which areas are working well, where an alternative solution is required, and identifying whether there is a common theme amongst certain types of trusts as to what they are implementing.

The US has been collating this type of information for some time, albeit using a different solution from HIMSS, which uses an aspirational adoption model to track electronic medical record progress on an eight-step scale. Similarly it aims to give chief information officers and decision makers the tools they need to plan their strategy and targets and communicate these to the board in terms of national criteria.

What neither currently do (although EHI Intelligence has plans to) is correlate the maturity of technology systems with patient outcomes. This would truly help to demonstrate the value of investing in IT to improve patient care once and for all. Imagine seeing a clear link between those trusts that have implemented ePrescribing and those with the fewest prescribing errors or those who have vital signs solutions and those who have the lowest mortality ratios.

At the moment, although already providing benefit to healthcare organisations, the reports are predominately a numbers game, the real benefit will be in analysing more clinically focused trends to finally get the evidence needed to show the importance of IT.

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