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Improving patient experience with the NHS App

Although Principle One is better known for our work in the Law Enforcement and National Security sectors, we have been working in the healthcare sector since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, supporting the rapid implementation of new ways of working, new technology platforms and data-driven decision making. The complexity of the system of systems across the healthcare domain has many similarities to that of Law Enforcement and bringing together the hundreds of organisations and healthcare providers makes for a complicated stakeholder landscape. Navigating local decision making, different ways of working and locally developed and deployed IT systems is something that we are well used to, and we have been able to learn from this in bringing our skills and experience to the NHS.

Post-Covid, many UK smartphone users now have the NHS App. There were over 18 million registrations to the App after the Covid pass was introduced in May 2021, and it now has more than 33 million people signed up. The NHS App is fast becoming the ‘digital front door’ for the NHS, bringing together an array of organisations, trusts and providers, many of whom use different systems to collect and manage patient information.

In January 2022, the Home Office’s Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE) was commissioned as a strategic partner to support the rapid onboarding of NHS trusts onto the system through the development of an API aggregator, extending the features that could be provided. Through improving patient experience, reducing the administrative burden on healthcare staff and reducing the cost of sending letters and SMS reminders for appointments, this supports savings in time and money that can be put back into an already stretched system.

Eighteen months on, the API aggregator developed under this commission is currently live in 58 acute trusts across England, with plans to widen the coverage further across the country over the coming months. However, achieving a national roll-out across a fragmented set of organisations and systems can’t be achieved in a single big bang and innovative ideas were needed to get this far and continue the momentum achieved to date.

To do this, ACE brought together a small core team to provide technical and delivery leadership that would integrate into the NHS team and accelerate this delivery. ACE’s key role has been to support consolidation work across existing data from multiple hospital patient admission systems and Patient Engagement Portals (PEPs) and develop a system of APIs to gather and aggregate this data.

Principle One was well placed to rapidly mobilise the resources that were needed to support the programme from its initial inception through the scale needed for national rollout, working with the 8 Vivace community members who are building functionality to integrate with the App. This continues to be one of our largest engagements within the ACE Core team, where we have provided technical leadership, delivery management support and business analysis skills for more than a year.

Adele Donovan joined the project in the summer of 2022, bringing her experience of managing large scale complex deliveries across policing to the challenges faced by the API aggregator programme. As part of the ACE core team, Adele has been instrumental in bringing coherence, a challenge when dealing with so many stakeholders: ‘Bringing together so many suppliers both on a local and national level is always going to bring challenges – ensuring consistency across the UK is a priority when we roll the service out.’

The project has also offered Adele another perspective on user experience: ‘Although I’m used to developing solutions that have to adhere to legislative, information security and data protection regulations in law enforcement, the clinical safety considerations have been something new to think about in my Technical Lead role in the programme. The effect on a patient’s mindset when they receive information at a particular time is a factor that we need to consider when moving elements of patient engagement online.’

New to consulting, Dom Brown joined Adele on the project as a Business Analyst last summer. Over the last few months he has taken on more responsibility in a technical leadership role, which has opened his eyes to the challenges of large-scale technical delivery: ‘It can be difficult to deliver a simple solution that will make a really big difference on day one.

Our role has been to help bring organisations and providers together – a lot of the technology is already there, it is just about putting the different pieces of the jigsaw together and enabling integration to improve the flow of information through secondary care systems. As it was my first consulting role, working in a Principle One team within a team was also really helpful, I could learn from my colleagues and make an impact more rapidly with their support.’

In the long run it is hoped that these improvements will go towards tackling NHS waiting times, making more resources available for those who most need support, and providing a more efficient NHS for the public. For Principle One, this delivery is unlike any others we work on - as Adele says, ‘being able to talk about what we’ve done, and show our friends and family when new features are released, brings the impact of our work much closer to home. They finally have an idea of what I do all day!’


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