The NHS is a juggernaut in the healthcare sector and its strength comes from dedicated healthcare professionals in service. However, even the mightiest have their limits. Funding strains and scarce resources clash with escalating costs and an ageing population. A workforce shortage dilemma looms, burdening overworked staff and compromising care quality, and waiting lists have become a battleground, leaving patients yearning for adequate attention. These are some of the daily challenges at play, testing the resilience of organisations, workers and patients alike. The dire need for a solution to these problems is driving the uptake of next-generation technology for its capacity to improve outcomes and the burden of care. NHS Professionals and non-profit clinical trials specialist Protas know first-hand the transformational power of AI-driven digital transformation, and their leaders shared their experience with the public at Salesforce World Tour 2023.
NHS Professionals is the largest staff bank and business in Europe dedicated to NHS staff. "We serve about the equivalent of 180,000 clinicians in the NHS in a transient manner every week and provide about 46 million hours of care through our workforce," said CEO Nicola McQueen, noting the organisation is undergoing a significant digital transformation to better deploy, interact with and utilise their workforce.
McQueen said one of the biggest challenges is “utilising every hour of care our workforce can provide in a flexible way that suits them”. She noted that another challenge is quickly mobilising and training large numbers of workers with diverse skills, something NHS Professionals learned through the pandemic.
David Callow, CIO at NHS Professionals, said the agility of the Salesforce platform allows them to quickly change and sculpt their service without needing a lot of new code or long waterfall processes. "We are using Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Sales Cloud to deliver a service that treats workers as humans, not as a number in the system, and makes their lives easier," he explained.
With Salesforce, the organisation has moved from a system where workers had to find and book their shifts to a system that proactively pushes relevant shifts to workers based on their patterns and motivations.
Dr Simon Eccles, Chief Health Officer at Salesforce and former Chief Clinical Information Officer at the NHS, said the quantum leap in management capability that NHS Professionals experience with Salesforce is powered by AI technology. "Doctors, nurses, and health professionals must be rostered into complex staff grids. Artificial Intelligence allocates people into the right slots, takes care of their leave, and comes up with the best possible match. So much quicker and with so much less effort that AI will transform care delivery for the better."
Staff retention is key to delivering better services to patients, and McQueen believes that making shifts more flexible will help with that. She said: "As workers want flexible work, they need to keep training and development in relevant areas, and with Salesforce, we can give workers the ability to track their career progress effectively. Having this capability at their fingertips is critical to deliver a good experience to the staff."
Empowerment is another key area where virtual care has a role to play. While the NHS does not market its services, it communicates with citizens to encourage them to attend appointments or screenings. "Salesforce's solutions can help target communications to different citizen groups in more effective ways, for example, by sending different types of reminders to those who always attend, those who need flexibility, and those who do not engage well," said Eccles, noting that providing citizens with clear care pathways and effective communication gives them more control and empowerment, which can help them receive the right care and act as their own advocates. "This patient engagement leads to better health outcomes and reduces the burden on the system," he added.
Protas, the not-for-profit designer of randomised clinical trials, is a success story on the engagement front. Stefan Blixen-Finecke, the company CIO, explained how they are designing clinical trials with efficient use of data and technology tailored to the needs of the trial rather than a generic approach.
The main challenge is that current clinical trials are excessively costly, burdensome for participants, and often fail to generate clear evidence to develop new treatments for common diseases. All of this results in fewer new treatments for common conditions.
"We are building a unified platform on Salesforce technology to manage all aspects of clinical trials from start to finish, tailoring the platform closely to the needs of each trial to improve data quality and user experience," Blixen-Finecke said, noting the partnership Protas-Salesforce is enabling others to run trials more affordably and effectively.
Protas is also implementing quality assurance and quality control during data entry to improve data quality and DevOps practices to enable frequent changes and updates to the platform while maintaining validation and compliance.
Protas and NHS Professionals are paving the way for next-gen digital transformation in the healthcare sector. Their experiences demonstrate that solutions that combine care coordination, citizen engagement, and AI can help reduce the burden of care. When implemented effectively and ethically, these digital technologies have the potential to transform care and improve health outcomes genuinely. The key is providing a more patient-centred and personalised view of care that empowers citizens and clinicians with the right information and tools.
Read next a detailed account of the public sector sessions
delivered at Salesforce World Tour London.