Ahead of his appearance at TFM 2019 this September, Sam Shah, director of digital development at NHSX, detailed the issues of data, privacy and safety that emerge with digitising 22,000 individual healthcare organisations
In February, health and social care secretary (and outspoken technological evangelist) Matt Hancock announced a new initiative to spearhead the NHS’s digital strategy. The unit, NHSX, has a range of responsibilities, including improving user experience for both clinicians and patients, alongside developing open standards and scouting the next breed of emerging technologies.
As an experienced director and practising primary care clinician, the initiative’s director of digital development Sam Shah certainly has a resume to match the scale of the task, and is someone who speaks lucidly and regularly about the challenges facing the NHS’s digital development.
“The number one priority at the moment is focusing on some of the programs that will help improve access to services for patients,” Shah explained.
“And another part of the goal is around working with industry partners to develop partnerships and relationships. The other is really horizon scanning as to how we might tackle and solve some of our problems in a different way.”
No ordinary enterprise
Spanning the whole of England and comprising 23,000 organisations, the NHS is a bewilderingly complex system – and one that is growing all the time. Due to its scale, diversity, and necessarily safety-conscious approach, executing the digital transformation goals of this “federation” (as Shah refers to it) is a different proposition compared to your average enterprise.
“Digital transformation, to me, is really about transformation in the health system that can effectively achieve something different, with the best outcome for the patient,” he said.
“Because patient safety is the first priority and because we’re not one entity, it’s very hard to take an enterprise-based approach. We have so many organisations providing clinical care, that it can be difficult to make all our changes work in the best way possible for patients, in a way that is right for how they currently live their lives.”