NHS trust expands SharePoint for collaborative process delivery

This post was written by Nick Saalfeld.

Cloud2 is one of the healthcare specialists in the Microsoft Partner Network, and we have talked about their ‘Hadron’ suite of SharePoint deployment methodologies before on this blog. In brief, the logic of Hadron is that:

  • SharePoint is a very powerful product, but with that power comes complexity.
  • The appetite within both NHS and private sector organisations for large-scale solutions is diminished on the grounds of budget, long delivery times and sometimes opaque ROI.
  • Many of the challenges faced by one NHS Trust will be exactly replicated in another.

Cloud2’s main offering is therefore called Hadron 8020, referring to the fact that their healthcare-preconfigured SharePoint offering is 80% ready, with:

  • Rich user-interface-design, easily personalised for clients based on their branding needs.
  • Robust information architecture designed to provide logical places for all internal content.
  • Enhanced search and collaboration functions which put up-to-date information in front of everyone who needs it.
  • Plus healthcare-specific toolkits for e.g. policies, procedures and e-forms.
  • Integrated compliance audit and governance support (CQC, Information Governance protocols from HSCIC, NHS Litigation Authority etc.).

A typical Cloud2 SharePoint installation is deployed in just 8 weeks.

A new deployment by Cloud2 at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust shows why it’s worth revisiting SharePoint in the healthcare context. NSFT provides child and adult mental health services, substance misuse and learning disability services across Norfolk and Suffolk. The Trust treats around 40,000 service users in any given year. It also works in partnership with a network of stakeholders such as  other NHS and third-sector agencies.

NSFT’s situation reflected challenges that practically all trusts face:

  • It was the product of a merger -- as so many trusts now are -- thanks to status changes, fiscal pressures and the reconfiguration agenda. With that comes the requirement to rationalise existing (and often inadequate) IT.
  • Staff were frustrated with the existing intranet, thanks to ineffective navigation, search, document recovery and overall user experience, leading to low take-up. Just under half (46%) rated it ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ for its ability to enable collaboration and 73% felt navigation was difficult.
  • Technology is expected to be a source of efficiency savings, but development budgets are tight.
  • The existing IT infrastructure is challenging. As with many NHS trusts, adoption of the latest cloud technologies is restricted by data security concerns, and the on-premise estate is still the decade-old Windows XP.

This description is no doubt bang in the centre of the NHS IT bell curve. Trusts need to see more results from fast deployments of discrete IT solutions. Cloud2 director, Taran Sohal, says “Reconfiguration, the drive for efficiencies and limitations on the technologies they can use – these are endemic challenges. Plus, as some recent events we’ve run have shown, trusts don’t talk to each other enough to share problems or, better still, solutions.”
The outcome for NSFT was a new intranet deployment, delivered in just 7 weeks. The first phase release went live in January 2013, and included:

  • Enterprise-grade search enhancements.
  • Easy tracking of Key Performance Indicators via summary dashboards.
  • Organisation-wide document and publishing management, including a strong policies and procedures management tool.
  • Tools for team, department and project-based collaboration.
  • An efficient and secure way to share documents and data with external partners and stakeholders.
  • An engaging interface and training resources (online, video and ‘lunch-and-learn’ / ‘train-the-trainer’ trickledown sessions) to ensure competency and take-up.
  • Rationalised infrastructure, content and licensing and governance embedded to every level.

Leigh Welch, Systems Manager at NSFT says, “Hadron has simplified the delivery for us. One of the problems historically has been that it’s hard to get to the end point of SharePoint projects because of a lack of visualisation of what the product is and what it can do- and hence a lack of buy-in. Hadron has given us that head start in that users can get a tangible feel for how it’s going to make their lives easier very early in the project lifecycle.”

However, by putting foresight above firefighting (and with an extensible information architecture), NSFT is extracting ever more value from their investment. Far from being just an intranet, the solution now includes websites for Norfolk Recovery Partnership and the Norfolk and Suffolk Wellbeing services. A ‘Professionals Portal’ is being planned to allow GPs to access targeted content and collaborate with the Trust, as well as being able to make referrals via an integrated referral form.

“We see SharePoint as a strategic platform and a strategic enabler for the Trust”, says Welch. “We’re looking to expand its use through streamlining clinical processes and collaboration via professional and service-user portals. We want a doctor referring to our services to be able to log on to the professional portal; use the information contained there to make an informed diagnosis and then get signposted to the right referral route into our service. Then, our team can use the information supplied in the referral to triage the service user and align to the correct care pathway.” Sohal sees these portals as a clear vision of the future for SharePoint, where users see a simple, friendly interface irrespective of location, device or situation: “As technology evolves and business needs develop, it’s evident that the once clear distinctions between intranets, internet sites and extranets are blurring.”

In a post-implementation survey, user satisfaction with navigation in the new intranet is already up from 27% to 51%; but the real satisfaction lies in a consistent user interface for an ever-increasing raft of genuinely useful and time-saving services; with the participation of users at each step of the way. Welch says, “SharePoint isn’t a technology project – it’s a business change project. The key to buy in is making users’ lives easier. The Hadron process has given us real user stories – people in other organisations who have faced the same challenges as we have; and who are using solutions which we can use too. Being able to visualise that, along with a rapid prototyping process which means you can always see the end point of the process, makes it much easier to sell to clinicians than vague promises and endless development lifecycles.”

Taran adds, “NSFT’s approach is successful because instead of buying into SharePoint, the product, they have bought into SharePoint as a solution – an application of technology to all sorts of NHS challenges, many of which are beyond the traditional intranet. When you know what you want and appreciate the extensibility and breadth of SharePoint in advance, you can get much more bang for your buck, and still without the pain of a deployment from scratch”. The NSFT experience shows that SharePoint’s scalability makes it an ideal platform for rolling out these services incrementally, and that its reputation for big-budget/big-bang is unjustified. It’s entirely workable to identify appropriate challenges and efficiencies in a step-by-step roadmap, and even extract some return on investment at each point along the way.”

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Are you using SharePoint at your organisation? How has it changed the way your organisation operates? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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