Agilisys: The ideal partner for ICS SCC implementation

All Integrated Care Boards have been mandated to implement System Control Centres (SCC) by the 1st of December 2022. This is rapid – even in the fast-paced world of integrated care. This deadline gives ICBs just 456 daytime hours to meet the requirements for a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) as set out by NHS England […]

All Integrated Care Boards have been mandated to implement System Control Centres (SCC) by the 1st of December 2022. This is rapid – even in the fast-paced world of integrated care. This deadline gives ICBs just 456 daytime hours to meet the requirements for a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) as set out by NHS England last week.

System Control Centres are expected to be data-driven hubs where close to real-time data can be aggregated, integrated and analysed to provide operational insight across the Health and Care ecosystem. The plan is for these insights to drive critical decision-making regarding demand and capacity across the system; enabling ICS leaders to take a day-to-day and even hour-by-hour approach to tackling the unprecedented levels of demand we all know we will see this winter. The magnitude of the ask reflects the urgency of the situation.

At Agilisys Data and Decisions, we recognise the pressure this will create in an already stretched system. We are currently working with four Integrated Care Systems on data projects across the length and breadth of the country and whilst we can see the benefits an SCC will bring; we also know that the very people who would be critical to making them a reality are already overwhelmed.

Moreover, the current blueprints for SCCs only extend to reporting what has happened; citing benefits such as improved situational awareness and holistic coordination of demand and capacity. Clearly, with limited time, these are in the “achievable” box, but the real benefits will come for those who take this mandate as the impetus needed to create genuinely game-changing SCCs; where clinicians are able to work with insights ahead of time, based on accurate models of system flow and then understand (in real-time) the expected impact of the levers available to them. That’s when the vision for an SCC will move the needle on clinical outcomes (another stated objective of the SCC).

So, what to do and where to place your bets? We think there are three things you should have in mind when formulating your plans.

1. It’s the decisions that matter

Whilst the guidance on the measures you should include is fairly prescriptive, we think this is the wrong way to think about the value of an SCC.

Far too often, we assemble a cracking dataset and then ask ourselves what we want to do with it. Our view on making the most of your data for system transformation is that you need to start with the outcomes you are trying to achieve, map those back to the actions you could take and the decisions you, therefore, need to make.

As an example, unblocking the flow of patients from acute to community care is a complex mission. Which of the myriad interventions you could take, should you? Do you focus at the acute end on levers to improve bed management or do you invest additional resources in social care brokerage functions? Do you look at spinning up a patient flow cell or instead do you look further upstream and try to address demand through the acute front door?

Acknowledging you only have 38 days to spring this up, we would argue that unless you ruthlessly focus on the decisions you need to take and use that as the lens for the design of your SCC, it will fail to drive the improvement in outcomes that sits at the heart of the SCC vision.

To enable the organisations we work with to do this, we use a method called Decision Intelligence. It is predicated on mapping out the most valuable decisions, the levers and influences associated with them, and then focussing your data and analytics effort on the most value-adding areas. This logically means you will drive improvement in the outcomes that matter most.

2. Think about your technology choices carefully and build incrementally

The guidance from NHS England sets out expectations on the indicators you should be tracking and suggests partners should be working across the ecosystem to bring together one view of demand and capacity. To do that, you will need tools and technology capable of bringing together the data without adding further pressure to already overwhelmed data and insight teams. Throwing spreadsheets around by email will not give you the up-to-date information your decision-makers need to positively impact the outcomes required.

The good news is that modern data platforms can be sprung up in a matter of days.

These will give you the nuts and bolts you need to achieve the key steps in the data value chain. We aren’t talking about huge volumes of data or complex processing at this stage. What you need is the tooling to enable you to connect to a variety of data sources, model them and serve insight so people can make decisions – and this needs to happen as quickly as possible. You can do this cost-effectively with an MVP data platform in the cloud. We are already partnered with eight NHS Trusts to develop these platforms using our phased approach – carefully managing costs whilst incrementally building capability sets us apart.

3. The ultimate Critical Success Factor will be your operating model

Again – the guidance sets out a view on the composition of a team to stand up the SCC. It’s very vanilla though and doesn’t dive into some of the key roles you will need in place. How will you get data-sharing approved for this (quickly)? You will need an IG lead who enables sharing. How will you make sure the people making the decisions are adequately skilled to take advantage of the insights you are providing? You will need some sort of training/capability-building approach. How will you quickly build new pipelines from source systems such as your social care case management system up to a unified view of system capacity? You will need data architects and data engineers.

Those are just a few examples of areas you will need to think about to make your SCC a success. There are many more.

Our Agilisys Data and Decisions capability model includes 28 different capabilities. That is not to say an SCC needs them all but what we can bring is a starting point for you to work from. De-selecting or de-prioritising capabilities from an established blueprint is far easier than creating a new blueprint for yourself.

If we have learnt anything from more than 20 years as a public sector focused digital transformation partner, it is that technology only succeeds when you have laid the groundwork for it to do so.