Driving efficiency for med-tech providers through NICE’s HealthTech Connect platform

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidance and advice to drive and enable excellence across the UK’s health and social care system. Using a GDS-aligned agile approach, Sigma collaborated with NICE to help implement their national horizon scanning system, HealthTech Connect; a platform that identifies transformative medical technologies, with potential economic and patient care benefits.

Objectives

NICE needed to validate their own initial research into HealthTech Connect and understand the needs and challenges of potential users. Sigma had an open remit to confirm or challenge NICE’s current plans and assumptions, as well as research, design and build the platform through the GDS-aligned delivery approach of Discovery > Alpha > Beta > Live.

The GDS-aligned delivery model.

Discovery and Alpha

Listening to stakeholders 

To gain valuable insights into stakeholder perspectives on user journeys, workflows, technologies and desired impacts, we encouraged NICE, NHS England and industry bodies to prioritise key goals and describe any suspected challenges of the system. These perspectives were continuously consulted throughout the project, and particularly within collaborative design workshops.

Engaging NICE's users

Working closely with NICE, we identified representative potential users from a range of organisations, including the National Institute for Health Research, the Association of British Healthcare Industries, Academic Health Science Networks, the NHA and small and large medical technology manufacturers. We then conducted 30 user interviews to establish the fundamental triggers, needs and goals of people working with new and emerging medical technologies and to identify any challenges these users currently face.

Screenshot of HealthTech Connect prototype

Mapping out the user journey

Sigma created a User Journey Map to illustrate our interview research, including the inputs and moments of engagement, key system interactions and highlight frustrations with the current process. This allowed us to begin addressing underlying problems and issues, and to formulate solutions which were carried forward into prototyping.

Prototyping a viable HealthTech Connect system

Collaborative prototyping is a core element of Sigma’s co-design approach. We ran three rapid prototyping workshops, and stakeholders (both internal and external to NICE), developers, designers and potential or representative users worked together to produce a model of the proposed system. Following each workshop, we refined the resulting prototype and carried out task-based usability testing with a cross-section of users.

Collaborative working ensured that factors influencing design, UX, functionality, strategic goals and technical feasibility could all be discussed openly and shape the system at an early stage, before development was started.

The Impact of Discovery and Alpha

Our in-depth research revealed a range of additional user needs and perceived barriers to adoption of new medical technology and these findings fundamentally shaped the platform Sigma is now developing. As a result, the approach we are taking aims to lower barriers to entry, offer support to products early in the development cycle and provide an interface to notify NICE and the NHS about more developed products.

Beta and Live

We adopted a fully agile, SCRUM-based approach to the iterative design and development of the platform, through a series of sprints which enabled the Sigma and NICE teams to work together as a single, high-performing team. 

Developing the HealthTech Connect system

Sigma built the system within the Umbraco CMS and used a Test Driven Development (TDD) approach to functional and regression testing, which provided a robust, sustainable model for ongoing development and enhancement of the platform. Umbraco provides an open, scalable platform for the management and publishing of content through a simple, intuitive interface.

Our developers implemented a WCAG AA compliant and responsive website with dynamic, forms-based logic; this will enable medical technology suppliers to quickly and efficiently provide details of their products and services by answering structured, simple questions on the site. As well as this, users are prompted and supported throughout by helpful guidance notes and signposting.

The Impact of Beta & Live

HealthTech Connect officially goes live during Q1 2019. The NICE and NHS England teams will be able to receive, evaluate and process submissions through a single, easy-to-use channel, move those submissions on to the next part of the process and obtain reports on system usage.

Usability testing of the Beta platform has yielded extremely positive feedback, with users commenting that the system is simple, intuitive and provides welcome support throughout the process, building a feeling of comfort and trust.

Everyone at Sigma and NICE is looking forward to seeing how the new system is received once it is officially launched, but from a discovery, design and development perspective, both teams have that the project is recognised as an exemplar for an effective, agile, cross-team delivery model.

Related Work

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