NHS should take inspiration from the business world to improve health services

health programmes
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Peter Wilson, Public Sector Industry Architect at Pegasystems, discusses how the NHS can take inspiration from how private sector organisations are benefiting from digital transformation

As the government plans to inject an extra £5.9 billion into the NHS with a portion directed to new funding for technology to address NHS backlogs, now is the time for healthcare providers to learn from the world of business on how to use technology to speed up COVID-19 recovery.

The question NHS should ask itself is, what would a bank, insurance company or telecom provider do if it had a large and rich cache of customer data like NHS have and, wanted to use it to improve its supply/demand model. The answer lies in good CRM/Campaign Management practices.

What can Health Programmes Learn from the world of “Sales”

I’ve increasingly wondered whether now is the time to recognise that challenge as incredibly similar to one that commercial organisations, such as banks, insurance companies, telcos and utilities et al, face and manage every day i.e. how to find, increase the value of, expand the account of and, retain customers.

Sure, there are always “Customers” that just present themselves, or who follow-up a recommendation, or respond to generic marketing, whether for commercial goods and services or for Health Programmes, but beyond that, driving market share is down to bringing the right sales techniques together, starting with the find part or “Prospecting”

Prospecting is about an organisation getting “Leads” on potential “Customers” and, “Qualifying” whether they are a good fit for their product or service. The idea then is that “Qualified Prospects” stay in a “Sales Funnel” until they’re ready to buy.

Then there is “Up-selling” and “Cross-selling” (the increasing value and account expansion elements), both sales techniques, one where a seller invites the customer to purchase more expensive items, upgrades, or other add-ons to generate more revenue and one identifying products that satisfy additional, complementary needs.

Finally, there is “Customer Retention” which as the name implies refers to the ability of a company to retain its customers over time. High retention levels mean customers tend to return to buy, continue to buy, don’t defect to another product or business, or slip into non-use.

This is where the comparison to Health Programmes gets interesting, because in the commercial world, customer retention starts with the first contact an organisation has with a customer and continues throughout the entire lifetime of their relationship and, relies on a holistic view forming, usually called “Client Lifecycle Management” (CLM). This relates not only to sales but also to the way customers are served, in essence, CLM as a technique is the glue that brings all the other sales techniques together, typically through using sophisticated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software.

Now think about running a Health Programme. First of all, there is still, without doubt, a value associated with the “Customers” and “Prospects” of that programme, that is completely analogous to commercial organisations, where the more service “sold” the greater the value outcome driven by the programme.

How can this work in practice?

The interesting thing for health programmes in following the approach of the private sector is that the NHS already has the data it needs to reduce backlogs, it just needs to apply intelligence and automation to make it happen. A modern technology platform has the ability to bring all the data together which can break down siloes and act as a central hub of information, overall improving the way the NHS operates day today.

In a landscape where there are already many legacy IT systems involved in day-to-day patient interaction, it is essential to have a unifying platform guiding how to respond and sometimes pre-empt patients. While respecting the fundamental points of difference, taking inspiration from businesses about how they use technology to manage sales and keep customers engaged can teach healthcare providers a great deal. More intelligently connecting the citizen experience and outcomes with healthcare professionals, provides an ideal personification of the great customer relationship management (CRM) model, many private sector organisations have in place. Add strong underlying case management and AI to customer lifecycle management and you have the basic tools that underpin the most successful commercial, customer-facing organisations we see operating today.

An impediment to technology change in both the private and public sectors is the dependency on legacy systems. Again, the NHS could lean into a revolution in technology, called wrap and renew, to intelligently automate processes in a low-risk way. In addition, what’s interesting for NHS IT practitioners is that the maturity of low code development means they can tutor people on the front line to automate their own processes securely and effectively.


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