Healthy business, healthy mind: Innovation at BMI Healthcare

Of the trendier innovations that grace the technology landscape, it is often the healthcare industry that finds itself implied in the opportunities they pose.

Whether it be the use of wearable technology during surgery, 3D-printed biological materials or digestible sensors, healthcare CIOs are regularly pitched products that get people excited.

But being a CIO also involves the understanding that the most exciting technologies don’t always provide the greatest benefits to the organisation.

Tracey McDermott, CIO of the UK’s largest independent hospital group BMI Healthcare, is certainly of that mold. Whilst acknowledging that dabbling in wow-factor trends is important, McDermott is far more focused on her core IT strategy: technically enabling the organisation.

>See also: Healthcare CIOs don’t trust the government to deliver innovation in the NHS

This strategy largely revolves around upgrading BMI Healthcare’s legacy estate to a more centralised, web-based environment, and led to the rollout of a financial and patient administration system from Oracle PeopleSoft.

‘We have 62 hospitals and clinics that are under the BMI Healthcare umbrella in the UK,’ says Cowley. ‘Fundamentally, all of those got the software, although it was actually 56 hospitals it was rolled out to.’

Prior to deploying PeopleSoft, BMI Healthcare had a local financial and patient administration in every hospital, but each was still administered from central IT.

As well as serving the strategy to centralise operations, the previous systems were also old and very much in need of replacement.

The new solution includes six core financial modules tightly integrated to nine patient administration modules – including theatre management, ward management and pharmacy dispensing – built in-house on Oracle’s PeopleSoft development platform.

‘We wanted both the flexibility and adaptability that PeopleSoft gives us, but also a renowned and well-supported system from a core vendor, which is what we get from the financials part of it,’ Cowley adds.

‘The project delivered on time and on budget, which is obviously very pleasing. And given the size of the rollout across 56 hospitals, we’re very proud of that achievement.’

More than 5,800 staff attended classroom-based training during the course of the project.

This created the challenge of finding the right environments in the hospitals, which was overcome through a combination of existing resources and mobile training units.

BMI Healthcare now has a continuous improvement programme to develop and enhance the product in-house, as well as a programme of smaller projects to develop new modules.

‘One of the big projects we’re now working on, following on from the PeopleSoft project, is to look at what we do for integration into the NHS Choose and Book system,’ says Cowley.

>See also: Going paperless: the clash between IT staff and NHS Trust heads

Choose and Book is an e-booking software application that enables NHS patients to select which hospital they are referred to by their GP, and book a convenient date and time for their appointment.

‘We serve close to half a million patients a year from the NHS and it’s a very important part of our business, alongside the private and insurer funded work that we do,’ Cowley says. ‘The next module with PeopleSoft is looking at how we integrate with the Choose and Book system, and that is under development at the moment.’

In good health

Those 500,000 NHS patients contribute to a total of 1 million outpatient and 276,000 inpatient and day-case visits each year at BMI Healthcare’s hospitals.

With such a vast amount of people to tend to, and a 99% patient satisfaction rating of ‘good, very good or excellent’ to maintain, technology is extremely strategic to the business.

This is reflected in the fact that McDermott sits on the leadership team and is core to the company’s decision-making process.

She leads an IT department and business programme office that totals almost 100 staff, and plays an integral part to the change-management piece of major technology initiatives such as the PeopleSoft deployment.

‘It really was a combined effort by the business, the hospital staff, IT and the rollout team to make this a success,’ she says. ‘The business was really positive, and the support that the business gave the rollout team and the technical team was absolutely critical to the success in terms of change management.’

Oracle is one of four technology vendors that BMI Healthcare counts as primary suppliers, alongside Vodafone, IBM and CSC. A number of outsourced solutions exist, but are focused on specific applications rather than major areas of the IT estate.

Most of all, McDermott is keen to emphasise the close alignment that every technology project at the company has with core business needs.

For that reason, it appears unlikely that BMI Healthcare will ever pioneer an industry-transforming innovation, but it will also not wastefully invest in something that won’t immediately benefit the company.

She claims that technology investment at the organisation can be driven from the ground up – ‘we listen to our consultants and staff as they’re the people who are interacting with the patients’ – as well as the top down. However, in the same breathe, she reinforces the ‘suitability’ of any idea to the business.

‘If we look at our IT strategy, which is about combining best-of-breed off-the-shelf software with our own in-house development, we actually have a very high ability to deliver what the business needs in terms of supporting business processes and being able to develop specific modules that are key to our efficiency,’ says McDermott.

‘With this particular rollout we had the PeopleSoft financial module, but we then developed the patient administration element of that ourselves in line with what our business needed. So our business processes were defined and we developed according to that. We really do have a very flexible platform that enables us to continue to support the business moving forward.’

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...