GDEs: Harnessing technology's potential

Source: NHE March/April 2019

Gareth Thomas, clinical co-chair of the Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) blueprinting steering group, consultant in intensive care medicine and anaesthesia, and chief clinical information officer, discusses the publication of the first wave of GDE blueprints and how CCIOs, CIOs and other implementation and frontline teams can benefit from their content.

NHS England’s GDEs are helping NHS trusts to drive digital improvements more quickly and cost effectively through the creation of blueprints. The recently published long-term plan highlights the importance of a world-class digital NHS, enabling it to deliver better healthcare for patients while increasing efficiency. GDE trusts are already leading that technological change, working towards becoming world-class digitised health and care organisations.

GDE blueprints are step-by-step guides for health systems providers and NHS organisations that can be tailored to suit their own local needs and requirements. They’re designed to help NHS trusts deliver digital technology that makes it easier, quicker, and cheaper to replicate proven innovations than in the past.             

NHS organisations are being encouraged to learn from the GDEs who are working in partnership with “fast follower” trusts so that they can benefit from that knowledge and expertise. Sharing best practice for the benefit of all is the watchword here.

Blueprints cover a range of clinical pathways, technical capabilities, digital care settings, and subject areas that have been selected following consultation with the wider digital community. There are blueprints that detail the use of software to detect the risk of patients contracting sepsis, with others developing a paperless A&E department or introducing e-prescribing across an organisation to improve safety. This approach helps improve quality of care, clinical outcomes, and patient and staff experiences.

Blueprints have already provided some great examples of how modern technology that supports staff and patients has the potential to save lives, fitting in with health secretary Matt Hancock’s overall goal to create a preventative, predictive, and world-leading health service fit for the future.

Having worked closely on the GDE programme, I feel passionately about these blueprints and the value they can bring in delivering digital transformation to improve patient care. By sharing their experiences, GDEs will help speed up the scale and pace of that change across other NHS organisations.

So, what does it all mean for patients?

Blueprints are already working for them. Early recognition and treatment of sepsis using digital tools at Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust can save up to 200 lives a year. Thanks to e-sepsis, a clinical decision support tool, screening is now at 100% in the emergency department and wards. Antibiotic administration for patients with sepsis within an hour has increased to 90% in emergency and 60% on wards, with septic shock mortality in the under-45s falling from 60% to 7.69%.

At Gateshead Health NHS Trust, pathology tests – such as blood tests – are now being turned around in 25 minutes since the trust moved from a paper-based system to an electronic order communications system. This has improved safety and governance around ordering tests and managing results.

Staff are benefitting from blueprints too. Over 4,000 mental health staff at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust are now able to access electronic patient records securely from anywhere, transforming care delivery. This has supported clinical staff to innovate practice and access systems and information remotely.

There are 34 blueprints available now covering a range of dimensions and interests, including different care settings, care pathways, and digital capabilities, helping to deliver improved outcomes and experience of care for patients and staff.

Further blueprints will be added over the coming months. We encourage CCIOs, CIOs, and other implementation and frontline teams to learn from the work already done before embarking on future digital projects.


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