MT Expert: Innovation through collaboration

Quicksilva MD Gayna Hart explains how a group of rival SMEs joined forces to compete with larger suppliers..

Last Updated: 09 Jul 2013

Everyone has an opinion on the NHS Connecting for Health IT programme; it has the scope to revolutionise the healthcare industry. However, whether your view is positive or negative, what you probably haven’t considered is that it’s not just Trusts, GPs and pharmacies that will be affected by the changes. There are thousands of private companies that supply health-related services, and before they can access the NHS Spine, the central records database, they will have to overhaul their IT systems and go through rigorous testing.

Using pharmacies as an example, the transfer and exchange of patient data occurs via the Spine and it is absolutely imperative that all systems accessing the database are fully compliant with the required security and messaging protocols. Once compliant, they can become nominated by patients and have prescriptions processed electronically, which will speed the whole process for all concerned and reduce errors. This may all make perfect sense, but it’s an expensive and time-consuming process.

Quicksilva works with public and private organisations to make the procedure easier for them and reduce their time to market. However, a trend that’s becoming apparent is that SMEs were delaying their Spine connectivity projects. They had to give careful consideration to the costs associated with compliance, and were consequently being eclipsed by larger suppliers who had the funds and manpower to prioritise compliance as a critical business objective.

In response to this we had to think about how these SMEs could feasibly compete. We were in talks with a number of home delivery stoma and continence care companies to see if we could assist with their compliance activities. They were all in the same boat; they knew that they had to become compliant but individually it accounted for a large part of their budget. Recognising that they all had the same problem prompted the idea that perhaps they could take their IT systems through compliance jointly, in order to spread the cost and speed their time to market.

Despite it being an unprecedented form of collaboration, they were all receptive to this idea. It was spearheaded by two evangelists: Trent Direct and Countrywide Supplies. They knew that they had a suitable software application that could be developed for compliance approval, but that it would be financially non-viable to proceed with just two businesses alone. In order to recruit other partners, they invited competitors from across the UK to a series of workshops to discuss the possibility of working together and sharing the cost. There are now ten companies in the consortium: Trent Direct, Countrywide Supplies, Homestyle Positive, Labont, AlphaMed, Jade Euro-Med, and South Yorkshire.

The consortium have entrusted Quicksilva to look after the Spine integration services, ensuring that their individual data is secure. They are now well on the way to becoming compliant and are all pleased with how the collaboration will benefit their businesses. We are now looking to use this approach in other sectors; when it’s a matter of business staying power it’s always worth looking at innovative options – no matter how radical. Because as with this case, it just might work.

Gayna Hart is the managing director of Quicksilva, a software and services provider.

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