Digital transformation of the NHS

Who, what, how, when, why interview

Driving the digital transformation of the NHS


WHO are you?

Francesca Leithold, Chief Operating Officer at Epro.

WHAT did you do?

We have always had a close working relationship with the ward teams at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust (LNWH). Our clinical correspondence solution has been in place at Ealing NHS Trust for over a decade, and once it merged with Northwick Park, St. Marks and Central Middlesex to become LNWH in 2014, we rolled out the full Epro suite across the Trust to support the pharmacy, inpatient bed management, and document management.

LNWH was the epicentre of the UK outbreak. They faced unique challenges to keep patients and patients safe. At first, they needed to identify COVID-19 patients quickly, differentiate between swabbed and positive patients, and identify ventilated patients and different types of ventilations. They also needed to determine the number of COVID patients per site and ward, display lab results for virology, and have real time reports on COVID patients.  When we got the calls from the LNWH, it became clear very quickly that the healthcare professionals and support staff faced a lack of visibility about who was COVID-19-positive or not, who had been tested, which patients were in critical condition, and who were likely to need ventilators.

Our team here engaged, completely understood their challenge, and within an hour, we had created Alerts to help solve those problems. This immediately enabled the Trust to have greater visibility, protect patients, and make better decisions for ventilator and bed planning.  But we knew there was more we could do. Our not-for-profit ethos really came to the fore, and while other vendors offered things for free, we simply continued our approach: offering some solutions for free, and heavily subsidizing (up to 70%) much of the development costs. The beginning of hundreds of hours of development, configuring, and training began. We re-configured our digital wards offering to represent layout changes due to COVID, and added new wards to hold critical care patients, configuring new views of the data for ward managers and matrons.

We provided several reporting workshops for the data warehouse team to report on their live data, and created additional custom reports for the teams. We also provided additional ad hoc training to all staff - and our support continues throughout the months of the pandemic. Our partnership with LNWH during this time showed how best vendors and NHS Trusts can collaborate. Utilizing our low code environment which is purposefully designed for non-technical people to use, clinicians at LNWH were able to create forms they needed.

HOW did you do it?  

At Epro, our teams work incredibly dedicated hours, and we pride ourselves in a solution which delivers benefit to the NHS. We acted to extend support hours and prioritized calls related to COVID, meaning they got addressed within the hour of being logged.  So, we all jumped into action. Our response was delivered by all parts of Epro, spanning all operational functions. We engaged Support, Development, Q&A, and Professional Services to ensure all Trusts - and LNWH in particular - were supported fully throughout the pandemic. It was truly inspiring to see that we could help make the difference to the Trust in these difficult times.

WHEN did you join your company?  

I joined Epro in 2014, and was drawn to the company because it delivers a solution to the NHS to make patient care safer, faster, and more reliable, every single day. Rather than acting with a commercial drive, we often operate like a not-for-profit, and every employee is with us because we want to make a positive difference to the NHS. When Epro was founded, many hospitals still operated on paper-based processes, and the way patient records were handled within trusts and the lack of suitable IT solutions to support workflows were clearly noticeable. This problem sparked the initial idea for Epro. We’re a small company but definitely punch above our weight and being part of the team has been an absolute inspiration.

WHY are you innovating with this product or service?

Driving the digital transformation of the NHS and providing the solution that enables the NHS to go paperless is one of the most inspiring things we do.

Interoperability, the digitizing of healthcare records, and clinics without case notes are just a few of the benefits we deliver. The reduction in paper-based processes in hospitals (think patient handover between doctors, or medication administration records on wards) and the increase of information availability (looking up the patient record and all past blood results ad hoc while having a patient on the phone) have led to a safer, leaner, and faster NHS.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, there is a need to move away from traditional ways of working, and this is especially important in healthcare. Enabling digital consultations by providing a patient record which is accessible anytime, anywhere in the hospital, is a core element of what we do.

WHERE are you from?

I am originally from Germany and came to the UK in 2014, after finishing my PhD at Munich University. I met people from Bristol while travelling abroad and came to the UK for a visit. One of them introduced me to Epro and the rest is history!