This blog encourages practitioners to pre-empt potential obstacles to digitalisation by engaging in problem diagnostics before embarking on implementation.
The ‘anticipated challenges’ section of our framework presents a series of potential obstacles to digital innovation. Below, we give a range of recommendations to tackle these challenges.
Diagnostics: predict potential challenges and be prepared to tackle them head on!
Our experience evaluating the impact of digital projects tells us that the challenges and risks that come with digitalisation are often not fully accounted for, which can bring obstacles along the way. Some of the most frequent challenges projects encounter in the digital space tend to be around the implementation of data processes such as information guidance, data privacy and IP, or around the adoption of newly developed technologies due to behavioural barriers on the part of both service-users and front-line staff.
Data processes: Information Governance, Data Privacy (GDPR), Procurement & IP
The sharing of information across council boundaries and between health and social care to better integrate services and commissioning is a complex matter as it relies on approvals from multiple parties.
Developing data sharing agreements as part of the project roadmap and avoiding the use of identifiable service data, wherever possible, can help teams navigate DARS issues. Seeking guidance for complying with information governance issues from NHS Digital can provide a significant advantage.
Another positive step in this direction involves recruitment. Ensuring the project has the right members of staff to manage DARS requests at the very outset of the project is crucial, especially since the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, which has exacerbated information governance and data sharing challenges. Managing data access requests can be complex and resource intensive, especially if there are several organisations involved in the project. Accounting for these costs and hiring the right specialists, ideally a project manager for DARS requests and a data analyst, can help avoid delays in delivery. Consent and privacy impact assessments need to be carried out regularly to adapt to the continual change of regulation in the health and social care sector.
Finally, intellectual property regulations can be also tricky to navigate. Collaboration with other entities can result in disagreements about intellectual property. Ownership is a controversial issue in the digital space as innovation can easily breach another entity’s intellectual property.
When purchasing software or services from third parties, it is advisable to require the third party to protect the purchaser against IP issues. Once again, remaining up to date with regulations and seeking guidance from a specialist at different points in times, especially when undertaking complex operations, can help teams avoid pitfalls and keep up with ongoing discussions that take place between NHS Digital, the Government Digital Service and the LGA.
Users/Front line staff attitudes and views: Trust, Accountability, Inclusion and Attitudes
In the early adoption of new services and systems, any issues that confirm fears and mistrust can encourage individuals to stick with the status quo. To overcome these challenges, an understanding of the behavioural barriers to adopting technology from staff and service users is needed. This can be achieved through a thorough engagement process with end-users and front-line staff to build trust through direct experience of digital services.
Teams that decide to co-design their technologies with end-users are much more likely to report good adoption rates, increased digital literacy on the part of their service users as well as other impacts like a reduction in social isolation.
Similarly, when engaging delivery staff, teams are able to embed the technology much quicker in the existing system. Through an understanding what delivery staff needs, it is possible to create the right conditions for the technology to be adopted. For example, enabling care staff to work more flexibly through the use of digitally enabled platforms can be a good way of promoting a newly developed technology.