Taking Healthcare Digital
Amanda Hamilton, Chief Information Officer of leading UK health and social care provider City & County Healthcare Group, talks digitisation and data integration in the future of healthcare
Writer: Phoebe Harper | Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki
“Health tech has such a broad horizon and the potential is unconstrained. The opportunity to use digital platforms, AI, and Big Data is massive and still growing,” opens Amanda Hamilton, Chief Information Officer of City & County Healthcare Group (City & County).
As the UK’s largest care provider, City & County comprise over 200 locations spread across the nation, offering distinct services in Home Care, Complex Care, Extra Care, Learning Disability, Live in Care and Supported Living.
“We provide support for over 25,000 customers and work with many of the local governments and NHS commissioners within the UK,” Hamilton tells us.
Heading up the company’s information division, Hamilton’s interest in tech and computing has shaped her interests from childhood as a self-described “proper nerd”, all the way to her nomination in 2020 as CIO of the Year in the Women in IT Awards.
Indeed, it was the “new frontier” allure of technology in the 1980s that first piqued Hamilton’s interest, a sentiment that remains relevant for her today thanks to the relatively unexplored potential of digital transformation in healthcare.
“The arrival of 5G and commoditised telehealth in the near future makes it an even more exciting space and gives me that same feeling as when I was a kid building my own computers- anything is possible,” she reflects.
This, combined with the altruistic potential of leveraging technology to improve the lives of others, led Hamilton to her ongoing tenure at City & County today.
“I decided to move into health and social care where I genuinely felt technology could do good things for vulnerable people,” she comments.
“I am passionate about women in technology and think balanced view points are key to innovation and progress”
A GROWING SERVICE
Our discussion takes place as City & County continue on a growth journey that is evidenced by the company’s significant expansion over the past five years. So much so, that the group has effectively tripled in size during this period.
“City & County now delivers approximately 350,000 hours of care a week into local communities and this translates into over 2.5 million care visits a month.”
Technologically speaking, at the very crux of enabling this expansion, is digital transformation. Yet in such an interpersonal sector as healthcare, people are the true backbone of operations.
“At the heart of all of this growth and care delivery is a dedicated team of 20,000 truly wonderful people. This includes our amazing care workers, the local support teams, and our corporate central support functions.
“Regardless of where they are located or what department they are in, all of our teams are passionate about care and focused on improving the lives of our customers,” Hamilton comments.
A particular source of pride for Hamilton is the company’s diversified workforce as a primarily female-led business.
“75-80 percent of our workforce are female and so is 50 percent of our Senior Leadership team,” she tells us. With IT in particular widely acknowledged as a male-dominated realm, Hamilton recognises the laudable transformation in this area that the company has enacted.
“Specifically, my IT team has had an increase in female representation over the last four and a half years from no permanent female IT team members when I arrived, to over 49 percent representation today.
“I am passionate about women in technology and think balanced viewpoints are key to innovation and progress.”
IT STARTS WITH DATA
Digital transformation has an integral role to play in allowing the company to expand its national footprint, as seen by the last five years.
“The digital transformation of our care and management processes allows us to scale our operations quickly and safely, maintaining quality of care as a focus and giving us operational grip across a geographically disperse organisation,” Hamilton explains.
For Hamilton, the digital transformation that she envisions and champions within the UK’s healthcare sector begins with the basics.
“It all starts with digital data capture.
“You cannot expect to modernise healthcare if you are not capturing relevant data at the coalface and in the care delivery cycle, but data is only as good as the quality (and often timeliness) of its capture,” she tells us.
A lack of data standards and fragmented systems can complicate this process, hence the need for a simple platform that can be integrated to care systems on a national, and indeed global, level.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important this kind of data interoperability and the digital transformation of healthcare is for the future of patient outcomes and healthcare crisis management.
“The work we have been doing at City & County is certainly aimed at establishing that capability for data capture in the community and turning that information into valuable care insights for our teams and our customers.”
With a robust technological backing, City & County are able to streamline the integration of business acquisitions into their operating processes whilst retaining quality as a core focus.
“The digital platform effectively acts as a standardisation engine that allows us to approach the integration of the acquired business very efficiently,” she comments.
As a highly acquisitive business, City & County has recently expanded their reach, introducing new skills and capabilities to the company’s healthcare family with the purchase of MiHomeCare group, the live-in care business Noble Care and the complex care server Complete Care-Amegreen.
“Moving towards interoperable platforms that allow seamless integration of data will be a huge enabler for integrated care and improved health outcomes.
“Digitising analogue data and processes will unlock modern applications for the management of community and personal health while AI and Big Data can improve decision making and research,” she outlines.
“You cannot expect to modernise healthcare if you are not capturing relevant data at the coal face and in the care delivery cycle”
In the years ahead, expansion remains firmly at the top of City & County’s agenda, particularly within increasing the reach of the Model Branch programme.
“This year we have set a very aggressive target to convert all of our sites to the new platform by June of 2022, giving us the largest single implementation of digital social care planning in the UK with over 25,000 customers receiving care on our digital platform.
“This type of transformation can be a big challenge for the operational and support teams, and it will be a real achievement if we can complete the programme in that time frame. Our average conversion of sites is about c.35 per year and this new target is over double that number this year,” Hamilton informs us.
The physical acquisition of businesses is also set to continue, complimenting City & County’s existing portfolio. In order to do so, further recruitment is essential.
“Another key priority for our business is a focus on improving our recruitment processes and increasing the capabilities of our learning and development teams.
“We will be focused on process improvements this year as well as deploying new digital platforms for learning management and application tracking and employee management.”
Hamilton concludes by returning to the all-important people who are at the very heart of City & County – both those who keep the company running, and the patients that they take such pride in caring for.
“We are a people business and mobilising care workers and getting talent into the business in a sustainable way is such an important part of our business plan,” she surmises.
Symbolising the marriage of technology and health in bettering the lives of others, City & County will continue to deliver the future of healthcare across the UK.