Innovator of the Month: Joanna Smith – Chief Information Officer at Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS FT


This month’s DigitalHealth.London Innovator of the Month is Joanna Smith, Chief Information Officer at Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

Since assuming the role in 2013, Joanna has transformed the relationship between the Trust and their Information & Technology Department, enabling an organisational culture that has adopted a range of digital solutions to make a real, positive impact to the lives of patients and staff, as well as improving organisational efficiency.

Here we look at some of the key innovations introduced under Joanna, and share her thoughts on collaboration between the NHS and SMEs:

  1. The provision of free, fast wifi for patients across the Trust enables them to make use of the internet not only to stay in touch with friends and family, but also to stream movies and listen to music – as they would at home. The service has the added benefit of enabling patients recovering from major surgery to get out of bed and move around, all whilst being monitored via telemetry.

    “We had had limited free wifi for some time so the principle was already in place albeit the service wasn’t great or extensive. The upgrade to and expansion of the wireless network was part of a complete overhaul of the entire network (2014-2016) on the basis that we could not hope to introduce transformational new solutions, particularly mobility, without this. The aim of the network upgrade was to deliver a fast, highly resilient, scalable wired and wireless network able to accommodate increasing voice, video and data traffic across all our estate. The decision to continue to provide the free (now high speed) service to patients was easy. We have very sick patients who are often in our hospital for long periods. Getting back to as normal a life as quickly as possible is part of their recovery process, so easy access to family and friends as well as online entertainment is a key part of that.”

  2. The introduction of Skype for Business has made communication easier and more efficient for the Trust’s dispersed workforce, who are now able to minimise the need for travelling between RBHT’s different sites. This is also being used in a small way to improve collaboration with clinicians in other hospitals and in some cases, with patients. The Trust plans to expand this more widely over the coming year, with the use of Skype for check-ups reducing the need for travel to and from routine appointments.

    “The trust’s entrepreneur programme estimate that use of Skype by the Transplant and CF teams have saved in the region of two bed days per patient, and it means patients spend less time waiting for assessments.”

  3. The introduction of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) has enabled remote access to trust services from any device, helping clinicians to serve patients better off site, as well as enabling limited Bring Your Own Device’ for a more mobile clinical workforce.
  4. The roll-out of Medchart, a new electronic prescribing and medicines administration (EPMA) solution completed in June, has reduced the amount of paperwork and administrative burden associated with medicines management, and has improved patient care and service. It has also improved Venous thromboembolism compliance (an important clinical assessment to identify risk of blood clots which, if left untreated, risk potentially serious complications for patients), and has been well received by clinicians and other staff across the Trust.

The list of technology innovations introduced and planned by Joanna is long and impressive, and this has been achieved because of the hard work of Joanna’s team and an openness to collaboration with external organisations. On working with industry, including innovators and SMEs, Joanna had the following to say:

“Having come into the NHS from the private sector, I can see how it may appear quite a challenging process to do business with the NHS. However, it is most definitely worth the effort and in my experience there certainly seem to be a lot of SMEs working with Trusts as opposed to the really big players. At RBHT, from an IT perspective, we have a mix of suppliers from very large to very small and all bring a different value. The key is differentiation and sustainability. Products such as hardware and enterprise software need the security of long term viability, whereas consultancy is often best sourced from smaller niche organisations with real depth and expertise in specific relevant areas.”

For Joanna, it’s all about the patient. She sees the role of technology in the NHS as that of ultimately enabling staff to do great things for patients and families; and she sees the role of her team as supporting that to happen. Joanna’s work was recognised earlier this year by CIO 100, when Joanna was named as one of the top 100 most influential CIOs in the UK.