Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust

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Birmingham Trust shows how to avoid going ‘information crazy’ in a crisis

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust used software tools to centralise relevant data in its Covid-19 response

A crisis can send an organisation ‘information crazy’, as its employees and the people it serves want to know more about what’s happening and what they have to do. When this is on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic it intensifies, with a myriad of factors for the organisation to control and hundreds of questions that the public wants answered. Things become more difficult when employees have to scatter from their offices, making it more difficult for them to find the information they need.

It can create a cycle in which the demand increases to deliver information quickly, leading to shortcomings in its quality, which increases the demand further. Going information crazy can make things worse.

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been facing up to the problem during the pandemic with the rapid development of solutions to centralise its information and provide more streamlined channels of access. Steven Pollard, its head of information and business intelligence, outlined its reaction to the pandemic at UKAuthority’s recent Digital Health and Social Care virtual conference.

“We asked what we could do differently, with a focus on changing the experience of partners, suppliers and customers,” he said.

Hub features

The team reacted quickly in creating an internal information hub on the trust’s response to Covid-19, with a single database for storing and processing the data and reporting, fed by over 15 newly created web forms that were available for all types of devices. It was accompanied by a capacity of automated emails and notifications to staff of what they had to do, and personal areas on the hub in which they could monitor their tasks and task and progress.

It retained a history of all the data to make it possible to plot business intelligence reports with summaries from service to trust level, which are displayed on a series of dashboards with role based permissions for sharing, editing and adding comments.

This has been used in different phases of the pandemic. For the outbreak it has covered factors such as the redeployment of staff to cope with the pandemic, details of employees who were infected, reports on buildings affected by the outbreak, risk assessments and reports on stocks of personal protective equipment.

Now the recovery has begun it is taking in recovery assessments, details of safe environments, staff swabbing and the increasing number of requests for data for research purposes. There has also been a need for daily returns to NHS England and Public Health England, which Pollard said would have been very challenging if the trust had not centralised the data.

The system has been heavily used since early March, with about 9,000 automated emails, 15,000 web form submissions, the generation of about 300,000 items of data and 50,000 visits to the dashboard. Pollard estimated that it has saved his team 20% of its time, equating to around £200,000, and thousands of hours across the organisation.

Pollard added that the response from users has been positive, as they have had to spend less time chasing information and had more to get on with their jobs.

Right tech capability

“How did we do this?” he asked. “We started with the right technology in place. We’ve had a scalable, virtual infrastructure managed by our team to spin up solutions quickly, the latest versions of software, code light development tools which require less time, and a multi-disciplined team of developers, BI managers, project managers who were all used to roll out the solutions.”

In addition, the team had support from the top of the organisation, and a number of technology partners, including NDL Software, who Pollard said are responsive and focused on what their communities need.

“It shows that if you put in the right platforms you can work far more efficiently,” he said.

His perspective was reinforced by Tom Wright, Head of Digital Engagement at NDL Software. The company works with a community of public sector organisations to share best practice and innovation, so that NHS Trusts and organisations with similar challenges can learn from what others have achieved, utilise templates and quickly adapt existing solutions to their own requirements. It provides tools within a digital transformation suite that are helping deploy solutions rapidly and meet the increasing demands on our front-line services. Its technology digitises processes, via online forms and mobile working apps, and frees up vast amounts of time by automating administrative tasks. Wright said: “We have been working with Steven and the team in Birmingham for a year now, helping with their digital journey. Having the right solutions in place has enabled the team to respond quickly, effectively and in a way that is truly scalable during a time of crisis. This ensures that all operations were able to cope with unprecedented demand, and that they could do so safely while delivering the best possible care for patients and staff. As Trusts across the country consider the role of digital transformation within their recovery strategy, the solutions, knowledge and experience in Birmingham can be taken forward and shared for the public good.”
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