How Develop Consulting helps healthcare clients improve using data

15 March 2023 5 min. read
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Since joining the firm in late 2018, Simon Bricknell has led Develop Consulting’s healthcare wing through some of the most challenging market conditions in modern history. He spoke to on how hospitals can use data to boost their performance, and which lessons the healthcare sector should learn from the Covid-19 pandemic.

You lead Develop Consulting’s healthcare practice. What are some of the topics the team works on?

Our healthcare support covers anything from GPs working in general practice, nurses working in hospitals and all the way through to senior leaders working across integrated care systems. Our healthcare team have many years of combined experience working within the sector and within the areas that we support.

Simon Bricknell, Healthcare Director, Develop Consulting

We understand the system because many have worked within the system previously so have a strong hands-on experience of working within it. Because our team is made up of healthcare and Toyota experience, we can see things from not only the Lean perspective, but also the client perspective of working in those areas. This gives a unique outlook on how we can support our clients to implement the right improvements.

Can you provide us some examples of projects delivered by the team?

One example would be that we designed a national programme to support primary care and general practice This is now being rolled out across a number of regions within NHS England and to date over 3,000 practices have been involved. Within this programme we support front line staff to understand how they can improve their processes to have a knock-on positive effect to patients, staff and the efficiency of the business.

Recently we worked with a partnership in the Midlands to develop a data dashboard to monitor key areas of demand. From this they were able to increase call answering by 95% and reduce the waiting time for these calls from 33 minutes to 11 minutes. Staff turnover was also reduced because of the improvement training and staff reported feeling happier and more confident in their roles.

Other projects we have worked on would be that we help hospitals (acute trusts) of all sizes to understand where non-clinical practice can be improved across areas such as emergency departments, waiting lists, outpatients, ward and discharge planning, which in turn helps to improve patient pathways, patient outcomes, patient experience staff wellbeing and business efficiency. Working across dozens of trusts over the years, we have helped save millions of pounds through hundreds of improvement ideas, using associated risks, timescales, pitfalls, capital investment and service changes.

The healthcare consulting market is diverse and crowded – where lies the focus of Develop Consulting and how does the firm differentiate itself in the market?

We are a niche improvement consultancy that can work from shop floor/ward to boardroom. Our USP is that we work side by side in a partnership relationship with our clients and rather than just providing a report on what needs to be done, we work with the organisation and its staff to actually implement the change and realise the benefit.

We don’t just tell people what to do we help and support them to go through the change. Our ethos is also about transferring our capability so they need less of our support in the future which in turn supports sustainability.

Digitisation is shaping the future of health. What are some of the top tech developments Develop Consulting will work on in the coming years?

Internally we are developing our technology support offerings so that our interaction with the client relies less on us being with them in person to allow them to continue the journey without us being there. This has been accelerated over the last few years on the back of the pandemic and the need to be more agile and to support remote opportunities.

Our clients are getting more tech savvy so we are having to keep up to date with new systems and ways of working so that we incorporate these within our future offerings. Patients are being seen using technology, i.e. video consultations, rather than just always being seen face to face. This is a really exciting time for us and it’s amazing to think what could be achieved by using technology in the future.

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the healthcare industry. What are some of the key lessons the sector should in your experience draw from the pandemic?

From an improvement perspective the pandemic has shown how quickly change can be made to achieve desired results. Historically the health and care system would plan to do something over months if not years before implementing it. With the pandemic it has pushed through some of these changes at a much greater pace which has required a slightly different way of managing these changes. Some of the changes have been great, but some haven’t always had the desired results, and this is where we as an improvement consultancy can support the management of risk and mitigation.

Also how data has been used within the pandemic to show everyone from systems to the pubic evidence to either change behaviour or processes. An example of this would be the ability to see the number of covid cases a day to provide evidence whether we should lock down or introduce restrictions. Likewise hospitalisations, and even death, statistics were used to help influence system changes and public behaviour to ensure that what we were doing wasn’t having a detrimental effect on the NHS.

Healthcare in the last decade has really struggled with having robust data to be used as evidence to inform change. On the back of the pandemic, organisations are much more accepting of the need to improve data quality and how it is used. Develop Consulting has been able to harness this and also work to improve our own capabilities, and have recruited more data analyst expertise to be able to help organisations interpret this data, which is already showing the benefit with our clients.