Martin McPeake, senior ICT operations manager at South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, discusses the organisation’s workplace modernisation journey, which was fast tracked during the COVID-19 pandemic
The South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust is leading the way in adopting digital solutions to empower its workforce and drive efficiencies
A: The South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust is one of six organisations in Northern Ireland.
These bodies manage and administer hospitals, health centres, residential homes, and day centres, as well as other health and social care facilities.
We’ve been working on a remote access IT policy strategy at the trust since 2014 when we rolled out VMware Horizon to give our frontline healthcare workers secure access to their desktops, files and applications from any location and device.
And we’ve seen really-positive uptake of this, especially among our community care workers and onsite clinicians, who are equipped with iPads and Chromebooks which they can use to access digital records securely and in real time through a mobile connection rather than WiFi.
We know that mobile computing can play a crucial part in unlocking the potential of the trust’s data and ultimately, improving working practices and the quality of care we can provide
We’ve also long supported a corporate owned for personal use (COPE) IT mobile strategy as part of this, recognising that the workforce feels more confident in using mobile devices if personal use is allowed.
We know that mobile computing can play a crucial part in unlocking the potential of the trust’s data and ultimately, improving working practices and the quality of care we can provide.
A remote-access IT policy is also crucial as the NHS transitions to paperless and moves away from electronic patient records.
At the trust, we recognised this transition was not going to happen overnight, so it was important to have a robust strategy in place to encourage a cultural shift to digital systems within the organisation.
This had to be a strategy that focused on the end-user experience that was mobile first.
A remote-access IT policy is crucial as the NHS transitions to paperless systems
A: When the pandemic hit, we realised that besides ramping up efforts in the intensive care department, our IT teams had to improve work-from-home capabilities to provide our whole workforce (both frontline and back office) with greater flexibility during this critical time.
To ensure a smooth transition for our workforce from hospital to remote working, and support business continuity, our IT department made VMware Horizon available to back-office employees, including HR, finance, and administrative staff.
This enabled them to use their personal PCs while working from home, but with the exact same desktop experience as they would in the hospital.
In January 2020, our IT department decided to roll out VMware's Workspace ONE Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), which has enabled the team to unify the management of Windows 10 PCs and employee mobile devices throughout the organisation.
When the pandemic hit our hospitals, we were able to respond and adapt our operations accordingly to suit the remote working needs of our employees
And this has been a game changer. So, when the pandemic hit our hospitals in March that year, we were able to respond and adapt our operations accordingly to suit the remote working needs of our employees.
A: In recent months, our remote workers have embraced new ways of collaboration with the use of new teamwork solutions and videoconferencing, such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, and FaceTime.
This has boosted employee morale and empowered them to develop new ways to provide healthcare remotely.
But the wider use and adoption of new technology is never easy, particularly for a medical workforce that works around-the-clock and has no time to raise a help desk ticket or attend formal IT training.
With this in mind, the trust implemented two initiatives.
Firstly, we appointed ‘digital champions’ to help bridge the gap between IT and clinical practice.
This is a group of volunteer clinicians throughout the trust who help drive adoption of new technologies across the organisation, which helped relieve pressure on the IT department in critical times during the pandemic.
We also introduced an ‘ASK-IT programme’, where the IT team visit our wards in identifiable T-shirts and offer ad-hoc IT support to clinicians, from troubleshooting to general enquiries.
This programme gives a face to the IT department as remote PC support is now standard.
‘Digital champions’ help to bridge the gap between IT and clinical practice
A: At the trust, we have seen significant improvements since the introduction of a remote access IT policy, including better employee satisfaction and productivity.
We will continue to innovate and we are redesigning our entire IT strategy to so that it remains industry leading.
The wider use and adoption of new technology is never easy, particularly for a medical workforce that works around-the-clock and has no time to raise a help desk ticket or attend formal IT training
Fundamentally, the trust understands that having the flexibility to rapidly adapt to a changing environment is an imperative, even post-pandemic.
And, to this end, our IT department — in co-ordination with HR and other relevant key stakeholders — is modernising working practices to help achieve our vision of a workplace that is hybrid by design.
A: Our focus in the next year will be streamlining our IT operations and ensuring we are able to scale them as we hire new employees and add new devices to the network.
We will work to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to our technology investments.
The trust is always looking to take advantage of any solutions that fit our business requirements to support our employees and further improve our user experience.