This week saw the closing date for responding to the Intellect and Department of Health Informatics Directorate’s plan on how they intend to revive the healthcare IT market following the demise of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

At Highland Marketing, we encouraged our clients to respond to the initiative, in order to get their voice heard, be involved in the changes from the outset and ultimately make a difference.

The objective of the plan since its inception last month has been to “foster the right conditions to enable a healthy and vibrant healthcare IT market within England.” The joint plan aims to demonstrate how this can be achieved through a partnership between the NHS informatics “customer” community and the IT “supplier” community.

For the most part IT suppliers agreed with the concepts at the heart of the plan, which include a renewed focus on standards, data sharing and procurement with many claiming that “it couldn’t have been written better themselves.” But of course, the true purpose of this consultation exercise is not only to ensure Intellect/DHID are on the right track but that they haven’t missed anything out.

The most prominent message that has shone through from our clients has been around procurement. As a communications agency that gets very close to our healthcare technology customers we know that this has been an issue for suppliers for sometime. This issue has now resulted in a feeling of utter frustration among vendors that have a great and proven product but don’t have a big balance sheet behind them. Many vendors have been shut out in the cold for too long and the culture of risk and mentality that “if you’re not big enough to sue then you are highly unlikely to win any major contract” has to be changed in order for the innovative, more flexible companies to grow.

Another key theme reiterated by our clients is the distinct lack of focus on evaluation in the joint plan. At present, no one really knows what success looks like in an IT deployment, there is no solid evidence base or real approach to evaluation or benefits realisation in IT programmes and that this plan could be an opportunity to address this.

Overall, the plan appears to have addressed most of the major concerns of healthcare IT providers and the collaborative approach seems to be the way forward. Incorporating the views of end users with those who design and provide systems is crucial and part of the reason why the National Programme for IT has not delivered in its full capacity.

Despite this new plan being “owned” by the DHID, it is essential that this remains a true partnership throughout its lifespan, ensuring that the DHID and Intellect find the right way to keep the NHS community engaged with suppliers in order to create a healthy and vibrant IT market. The DHID and Intellect are being given a huge opportunity to really find out what the NHS needs and how it can be provided, let’s hope they make the most of it.

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