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Retaining the innovation pathways shaped by the pandemic

by Chloe Curtis and Shakira Mahadeva

The NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic was rapid and radical. Necessity catapulted many digital innovations into the spotlight, including the increased use of telemedicine and video-conferencing platforms for remote consultations and remote working.

In order to capture, assess and respond to the rapid changes that took place, David Walliker, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH)’s Chief Digital and Partnerships Officer, commissioned TheHill, the digital transformation catalyst embedded within OUH, to explore the breadth and diversity of innovation that took place within OUH during this time.

The OUH COVID-19 response report

TheHill conducted interviews with 55 OUH staff members from across the organisation to understand how their roles changed in response to the pandemic, what new practices were initiated, and their thoughts and ideas for innovation. Although the sample size is small, the team ensured coverage of the widest possible variety of divisions, directorates, sites and roles.

Interviews were analysed to identify common themes and challenges. These are illustrated in the report through anonymised quotes, to capture people’s thoughts and feelings as accurately as possible and ensure that the voices of OUH employees were highlighted throughout. It is a point-in-time record of the thoughts and feelings of employees across the Trust during the pandemic.

The report explains the methodology, findings and lessons learned in more detail. Findings highlight the cultural and organisational as well as technological changes that have occurred specific to individuals, the operation of teams and the attitudes of management. Responding to COVID-19 was a powerful common goal, and a catalyst for rapid change and widespread adoption of technologies.

The report showcases some key areas in which innovation took place, including the rapid deployment of Microsoft Teams for remote collaboration, telemedicine solutions for virtual patient care, and recognition of the power of the Electronic Patient Record. All those interviewed shared the desire to retain this momentum and sustain a culture of innovation in the Trust.

Beyond the report

Creating the report and ensuring that all themes and challenges were represented was a milestone for this project, however the work continues. It is part of the overall OUH SHAPE initiative and further work continues.

Sharing best practice within the Trust and across other NHS Trusts
New technologies and ways of working are of little use if nobody knows how to use them. As well as formal training, supporting staff to learn from one another is a key part of creating a culture of innovation. As part of this, TheHill is organising a series of Learning Sets, which are group workshops where staff are able to share experiences and ideas on a topic. The first of these has already taken place and focused on experiences with remote working, with people sharing their tips on how best to use remote collaboration technologies, and how to conduct virtual and hybrid team meetings. TheHill is also supporting the Department of Primary Care at the University of Oxford with their learning sets on remote consultations.

Capturing ideas for innovation and co-designing improvements to OUH’s innovation pathways
Our conversations and the resulting report highlighted that many people have ideas for innovation in the Trust.As a means for these ideas to be heard, David Walliker, OUH’s Chief Digital and Partnerships Officer, created the Digital Futures email inbox. Since its inception, and initial advertisement in the staff bulletin in July, various ideas have been submitted through this channel, all of which have been followed up for additional context and triaged to identify the most appropriate next steps. TheHill team is also in discussion with the Procurement, Commercial and EPR process owners to co-design new pathways by which innovations can move towards successful implementation.


You can download the TheHill OUH COVID-19 response report here. For more information about TheHill, please subscribe to our newsletter.