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NHSBT: Improved digital services creates time for compassion

Thu 22 Jun 2017

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, discusses the huge time and cost savings enabled by improved digital services at NHSBT...

A ruthless focus on productivity and effective use of digital services has enabled NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), the UK’s blood and organ donation service, to save the NHS about £80m a year.

‘We have done that by creating a very clear sense of what the supply chain is, then using digital services and continuous improvement techniques, we have been able to reduce costs and effort. This has created more time to care,’ explains Ian Trenholm, NHSBT Chief.

A recent example has been an investment in iPads for specialist organ donation nurses. The technology reduces a 70-page paper form to an app which enables those nurses to more easily talk to families about consenting to organ donation. A similar investment is now being made in the blood management system.

‘This isn’t about the IT department building a flashy website. What we do is constantly benchmark and review the performance of each aspect of the supply chain and ask – would a digital service improve safety and efficiency? And if it will we will build a digital service for that area,’ says Trenholm.

The Special Health Authority is currently investing in a £50 million IT programme to move all its data centres and services into the cloud.

‘What that means is if we want to make changes we will be able to make them quickly and we will not be reliant on third-party specialist systems in the way that we used to be,’ says Trenholm.

Digital services enable staff to try something, launch it quickly and assess the performance of individual campaigns. Sometimes this has resulted in unexpected success – for example, an app launch a few years ago, which they had modest expectations for, took off and quickly gained one million users.

NHSBT has also experimented with push messaging and found that it is more effective than television or any other form of advertising to deliver additional donors when they are needed for particular sessions.

The authority is also making effective use of social media to promote the service and has introduced a text-based service which informs people when their donated blood is shipped and where it is being sent.

‘People will retweet that and say, look what I’ve done – that is fantastic free marketing. We find there is an uptick in the booking process at the time that those texts go out. That involved a £40,000 investment in connecting a text machine to our database and it has proved to be the gift that keeps on giving in terms of advertising.

‘We are always thinking up new ways of being more effective and productive,’ says Trenholm.


Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 09.08.10Ian Trenholm will be giving a talk at the Digital Healthcare Show, taking place at London’s ExCeL, 28th – 29th June.

Register here for your complimentary pass.

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