In 2006 the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement was set up as a national body responsible for helping the English NHS improve the delivery of healthcare.
Nick Gaunt, Chief Information and Knowledge Officer explains: “Most of our time is spent distilling best practices for improvement, innovation and change management, working out what really works in the healthcare setting. Some things work in one part of the NHS but don’t necessarily work in other areas. In order to fulfil this remit we need close co-production and co-design approach with people in the NHS.
"For example, the Institute has conducted work on how time management on wards can be improved so that more time is spent actually caring for patients rather than managing mealtimes, drug rounds and so on. We have developed a set of practices that are validated and relevant for wards. We have also provided practices for operating theatres, district nurses and so on – each time working with a different team.”
This type of work obviously requires a lot of information sharing and document sharing. The Institute used to use email to do this with documents bouncing backwards and forwards between participants. However, as new Web 2.0 tools were developed the Institute tried out different approaches.
For example, the Institute tried a web-centric enterprise content collaboration platform but the vast majority of the teams did not find it intuitive or easy to use. Gaunt says, “there were lots of features that were not being used around scheduling and formal workflow because people only needed to share documents and have brief conversations about them.
This was clearly not a particularly good use of the tool. Furthermore, people were confused about sign on and passwords required which all contributed to a barrier to acceptance.”
The killer blow though, was when this particular vendor changed the licensing terms so that everyone that accessed the system had to pay. Clearly, in terms of casual but widespread use in the NHS that model was not going to work.
Consequently, the Institute began searching for web tools for file-sharing. Both DropBox and YouSendIt were considered but although they worked fine for sharing documents they did not provide audit trails or the ability to comment and review documents.
A product called SkyDox, however, proved to be the perfect fit for what the Institute requires. SkyDox provides cloud enabled secure file sharing and collaboration features such as co-authoring, commenting, version control, live messaging, presence and audit trails for documents. Their collaboration platform focused on content centric collaboration that allowed users to share files and collaborate on them with multiple parties in real time.
Gaunt explains that, “It is easy to use, you invite people to participate via email and only need to use a password the first time you enter the system.” What is more SkyDox offers a free guest use policy, which significantly reduces the cost of provisioning the platform over some other vendors in the space.
Gaunt says that the transition to SkyDox from the previous supplier is now over and proved to be painless – a couple of people are still using that system because they require the excellent project tools that it offers but everyone else has now moved to SkyDox and it has worked very well.
Adoption has happened virally rather than via appointment of formal champions for the system as users can self-provision and share content with guest easily.
Currently adoption has paused as the Institute is in the midst of a transition while it is closed down in its current guise and then merged with other bodies to create a new improvement body. While the merger is happening the platform will continue to be used and once completed and a new operating environment is up and running, SkyDox will no doubt be rolled out to other user groups.
In terms of lessons to pass on Gaunt says that the best thing to do when considering Web 2.0 solutions is to look for an application that meets requirements, but which doesn’t exceed them. This means there is less to confuse people and it is easier for end users to adopt.
For example, Gaunt points out that where GP’s practices are looking to work together, having the traditional consulting groups bring in comprehensive application suites may not be the way to go. It may be better to build on the flexibility of Cloud point solutions to address specific requirements without getting complicated functionality installed or without trying to replace old legacy systems.
Today through its deployment SkyDox is now used by over 60 local NHS organisations to access documents that are being developed by the NHS institute.