Mark Hutchinson knew he was taking on a big challenge when he joined Gloucestershire NHS Trust in 2018. IT infrastructure was in desperate need of modernization. Six-year-old PCs without anti-virus protection and 16-year-old networking equipment were commonplace. At the same time, IT budgets were limited as the Trust addressed significant financial debt.
Proven Ability to Drive Change
Appointing Hutchinson as chief digital and information officer was a smart move. With two decades of experience in the NHS, he’s proven his ability to bring about significant transformation. He set up the first telemedicine service in England. Then, he set up Salford Royal NHS Trust’s electronic patient records system in 2013, earning it recognition as the NHS’s most digitally mature hospital.
“When I arrived at Gloucestershire NHS Trust, we had a myriad of problems,” Hutchinson said. “We quickly put in place an ambitious five-year plan to address the digital deficit and bring about improvements for our clinicians and patients.”
Justifying Digital Investments
With the Trust under financial strain, technology investments underwent close scrutiny.
“Healthcare is getting more expensive over time, and hospitals need to treat more people. So when it comes to spending, the focus is quite rightly on patient care. Every time we invest in digital solutions, it’s seen in the context of the cost of a doctor or nurse on a ward. So, it’s really important to engage with clinicians and to engage with the board to ensure a shared understanding of how these investments will create tangible improvements in patient care—from both a quality perspective and also the financial benefit it will bring,” he said.
A key part of Hutchinson’s strategy was rolling out an electronic patient records system. Clinicians can now securely access patient records from anywhere and from any device. This innovation gives staff more time to focus on patient care.
“I think this job is the best in the hospital,” he said. “I have powerful digital tools that have the capability to make care better for every patient every day. For so many people working in a hospital, their day is consumed with patient care. To be somebody who can focus on imagining a different future and then make it happen for the clinical teams is really exciting.”
COVID-19 Accelerates Change
Like healthcare organizations across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic increased pressure. And hospitals rallied to the cause.
“The pandemic has been a phenomenally, powerful agent for change. In some cases, we did nine months of work in nine days in order to get people working from home, for example, enabling clinicians to be at home providing care to patients, who are also at home,” Hutchinson said. “Digital solutions that would have taken us years to persuade people to use are now commonplace. It’s really brought about change at a much faster pace than ever before.”
The organization also has a culture of constant improvement and innovation. Examples include its Quality Improvement Academy and recruiting talent from outside the industry to bring new perspectives. Hutchinson also believes successful transformation comes down to leadership.
“Constantly encouraging teams to look for ways in which they can improve the service they provide is really important. In an organization of 8,000 people, if everybody just spends a small proportion of their week looking for small improvements, we can make really big changes together,” he said.
When asked about the secret to leading big, successful digital transformation initiatives, Hutchinson points to three factors.
“You need technical solutions that you are really confident in. You need clinicians who are willing to champion change. And you need enthusiastic people in your digital team who will really push and drive the best solutions possible,” he said.