Executive Director of Strategy at Digital Health Care Wales
Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) is the national delivery body for data and digital services in NHS Wales. It has a pivotal role in helping to drive transformation in health and care. It manages national data centres, the IT and digital services in every GP practice in Wales, core national hospital systems for administration, test requests and results, the Welsh Clinical Portal and various other services.
Ifan Evans is the recently appointed Executive Director for Strategy and joined the organisation in April. He leads on organisational planning and performance, strategic transformation and change, developing partner relationships, and heads up four of the largest digital transformation programmes. “Previously, I was the Director for Technology, Digital and Transformation in the Health and Social Care Group in the Welsh Government, where I led on national policy and strategic investment funding for digital and technology. One of the things I have been most struck by in my first six weeks at DHCW is the energy and ambition here.”
The core missions at Digital Healthcare Wales
It was after working with senior management in DHCW while responding to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that Evans was inspired to join the organisation. “It’s a small organisation in growth mode, doing impressive things quickly,” said Evans. “I thought the way things were developed and delivered in response to the pandemic, especially the close working between DHCW, other NHS Wales organisations and local government in Wales, was absolutely brilliant.”
There are five key strategic missions at Digital Health and Care Wales. “The first is to provide a platform for digital transformation,” said Evans. “We manage data centres on behalf of NHS Wales; we lead on cybersecurity and resilience; we deliver the national network architecture – that's the digital platform that we need for all the different services that are delivered across Wales.”
The second mission is on data, framed as maximising the value of a shared single health and care record across Wales.
“Data and information mean everything to health and care professionals, so we have worked really hard over a long time to ensure we have a comprehensive digital record for every patient in Wales, which can be viewed across every setting and every organisation,” said Evans.
These two missions are the foundation for delivering digital services. “Our third core mission is delivering excellent digital and technology services on top of the data and the infrastructure platform that we have.” The fourth mission is driving value and innovation, which Evans sees as a way for the organisation to test itself. Are the data being collected and the digital services which professionals use actually improving health and wellbeing outcomes for patients and the public; and driving innovation in the way that health and care services are delivered?
The final mission for Digital Health and Care Wales is to be a trusted partner. “This underpins everything we do. We want people to work with us, and alongside us, to deliver world-class digital and data products which drive transformation in heath and care.”
The digital strategy at Digital Health and Care Wales
Evans sees advantages in the way Wales is structured and its relatively small scale. “It’s interesting that when you go to digital health conferences, it tends to be larger countries who lead on describing challenges and smaller countries who present examples of good practice and innovative solutions. I think it helps that in NHS Wales we are relatively consolidated. We have seven health boards responsible for all health services in their region; they are integrated, from public health through primary and secondary care to specialist services.”
A Healthier Wales is the health and care strategy for Wales, published in 2018. “A Healthier Wales has been reinforced in many ways by the COVID-19 pandemic response. There was stronger national direction, digital and data were the main enablers, and all the emphasis was on prevention and on delivering services outside hospital, into communities and homes.” Wales is now using the strategy to frame its approach to recovery and transformation, reinforcing the emphasis on a ‘whole system approach’, and on ‘new models of seamless health and social care’ which are coordinated around the needs of the individual.
Evans is clear that digital data and technology will play a major part in driving these changes, helping health boards deliver earlier detection and diagnostics and more personalised interventions, which focus on improving wellbeing and patient reported outcomes.
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Concentrating on continuing to reduce future morbidity and mortality, and really giving people healthy life years, remains our key strategic focus.