Published on: 22nd May 2017
Over the past 9 years, Frank have been fortunate to work with the ever evolving NHS. The pace of the recent service changes and improvements within the NHS has offered us an interesting insight into how digital platforms are becoming more important in keeping stakeholders, staff and the general public informed and also interactive in providing feedback.
Our first experience of this was 4 years ago with the Greater Manchester Healthier Together project, which is considered one of the largest digital consultations in NHS history, who required at the time a digital platform that could support a complex and large consultation.
Since this project we have seen a direct increase in NHS organisations using digital platforms not just as a means for pushing out messaging, but also for gathering data to ensure their platform meets the changing needs of the organisation, and also the target audience.
This can mean that original functionality will need adding to, often quickly, and this can be quite specific to NHS organisations, for example consultation forms, geographical navigation for service delivery, secure portals/extranets for user group collaboration and cross branding integration for partner organisations. This functionality is being used increasingly with NHS digital strategies, particularly where organisations like STPs, LDPs, Vanguards and ICOs are required to carry out mandatory consultation service reviews.
We’ve been working closely with our clients to plan the lifespan of exactly these types of projects, ensuring that the correct functionality is in place at the original scoping and that the platform is developed with future changes in mind. This not only reflects through the user experience, functionality and technical capabilities, but also through the evolution of the brand. For example, if an organisation has developed a platform for an inward facing audience, i.e. Staff/Internal Stakeholders/Colleagues, considerations need to be made around brand look and feel and how these will adapt to that audience.
Improving opportunities for engagement and reducing costs
Another benefit of this flexible platform approach is the ability to deploy complex extranets from a single platform, thus reducing cost, improving opportunities for engagement, and also offering multi-agency collaborative workspaces.
In light of recent security issues within the NHS, and the ransomware virus that affected various Trusts, we are finding that NHS organisations are looking more towards cloud-based extranet solutions that offer protection against any vulnerability of malicious viral/DDOS attacks.
An NHS client of ours, who was affected by the ransomware attack, used a cloud-based extranet solution as a primary communications tool during the period of their IT shutdown, with the added benefit of staff being able to securely access this via their mobile devices.
It has become clear over the last 3 years from working on digital communications projects within the NHS, that static, fixed solutions are becoming less commonplace, and that clients are demanding a flexible, agile solution that grows with their organisation and also delivers relevant functionality.
As the NHS evolves with new care models and revised organisational purposes this is likely to become ever more important.