Interview: Great Ormond Street’s Mike Bone on how IT can better support front line staff

mike bone headshotMike Bone has worked in healthcare IT for more than 30 years, most recently as Interim ICT Director at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Here he tells Digital by Default News about how procurement changed in his 20 years of working for the NHS, what IT can offer front line staff and why the public sector can trust the security of the cloud.

Michael Bone will be speaking about digital health delivery at a free seminar on Wednesday the 9th of March. Learn more here.

What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by healthcare organisations delivering digital health in the current environment?

I think there are three major issues. The first is about ensuring that we provide the best quality of service to our patients, and that often means making services as efficient as possible. How do we do more with less?

Second is about protecting information. Every day you read about the cyber challenges that private companies have had and, more recently and more frighteningly, the public sector. High on the agenda is making sure that whatever information they have and technology they use is properly protected.

The third item on the agenda is about how we optimise our people resources. Without a doubt the NHS’s best resource is the excellent people that work for it. So how do we best utilise their skills and the enthusiasm that that those people bring to the job?

During your tenure at Great Ormond Street Hospital, how did the use of IT change? What were the greatest challenges you faced there?            

When I arrived, one of the concerns was that people saw the IT department as a barrier to what they wanted to achieve. As a result, the IT team and I worked hard on improving stakeholder engagement to change the perception, so that IT is seen as an enabling service capable of delivering change.

The second thing was about getting a much better view from those who actually operate at the sharp end. We appointed a fairly senior member of the IT team and put some resources under her so that she could go out and spend time with the people doing the work and find out from them what works, what they needed, what we could do to help them do the job. This quickly became a strong motivator for the team as we started to uncover problems we hadn’t been aware of.

How has procurement changed, both in terms of processes and what suppliers can offer? As a buyer, what did you look for in an ICT supplier?

Procurement hasn’t gotten easier. The plethora of complex public sector rules is complex and often delays the time taken to engage with suppliers.

We adopted a policy of holding regular meetings, open to suppliers, so that we could understand what they were able to offer. Once we understood what we needed we used a lot of frameworks agreements because the procurement effort has already been completed and all that remains is to ensure value for money, in line with Trust standing financial instructions, allowing us to move quickly. We found that if we were careful with the paperwork, made sure we got the requirements, quotations and business case figures right with some care and accuracy, we could actually move through the process fairly quickly.

Supplier Management is about the relationship – it’s about how well we as a customer feel treated by the suppliers and how responsive they are to our needs. The suppliers who were most successful during my time at Great Ormond Street were those who added the most value to what we were doing.

Ultimately that’s the challenge, isn’t it? It’s about providing high quality service to the most important people: our patients.

What is your view on the cloud? Have you used it and, if so, what results did you have?

We took our first venture into cloud for the NHS 100,000 Genomic Project. I was looking for a way to deliver a service across many organisations that met all of the security requirements, and a supplier that was innovative and could supply us with a robust, responsive service. Through that process we selected Skyscape Cloud Services.

Although right at the beginning we adopted our own approach, by the time we got to the end of September 2015 there were quite a number of other genetics medicine sites that were coming to look at what we had done. When I left Great Ormond Street at Christmas I felt we had demonstrated that the approach we had taken was scalable, value for money and was able to deliver what the project needed.

Do you believe that PID can be held or processed securely in the cloud? Why or why not?

I believe it is – we’re doing it with the genetics project already.  I don’t think that we’re ready to use global public cloud providers – I’m nervous of that simply because I don’t think it’s possible to generate the level of security required in a global public cloud — but with a public cloud that is specifically designed for public sector workloads, we can ensure security requirements are met and testing is done to ensure that they continue to be met. There is no more risk in processing in this type of cloud than there is using an on premise solution.

Join Mike Bone and Mark Bailey, Government Digital Director of CACI, at a free seminar on Wednesday, the 9th of March. Hosted by Skyscape Cloud Services, the seminar will help you understand how you can use cloud to securely deliver digital health. Learn more and register here.

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