Douglas Maxwell

Douglas Maxwell

Managing Consultant - Agile

The pandemic had a seismic impact on our health and care system, the effects of which are still being felt over three years later. But this is only one aspect of the tremendous challenge to deliver the right level of health and social care, at the right time, to everybody today.

Having worked in the health and care sector for over 15 years delivering national IT and agile digital products and services, I have seen firsthand the empathetic and considerate care given by healthcare professionals. However, I’ve also seen how inefficient and siloed processes, as well as constraints on staff time, service availability and costs can impact negatively on population health and patient outcomes. With the increasing cost of delivering even basic services and the almost tsunamic volume of data being handled across the sector, this is the perfect time to think differently about how we support and improve the delivery of these services.

As an Agile expert working in  CGI’s Agile Digital Services practice, I spent most of  last year working with a North of England Local Authority and its Integrated Care Board partners to improve patient-focused delivery through a Transfer of Care service. This service provides the governance and operational guardrails for multi-agency and multi-disciplinary teams to ensure patients are supported along nationally agreed pathways and is the delivery mechanism for the national hospital discharge policies. To provide some additional context, I should explain that the flow of patients from Emergency Departments and Acute settings into community settings and other appropriate destinations is covered and managed through NHS England’s Discharge to Assess strategy, and the subsequent operational service called the Transfer of Care Hub.

Part of CGI Agile Digital Services’ pragmatic approach is to look at common problems with a different lens. Our hypothesis, as a result of the work I’ve just mentioned, is that Agile Scrum tools and approaches could significantly improve the efficiency of service delivery teams like the Transfer of Care service, as well as supporting more effective communication and collaboration, aiding continuous improvement and helping teams better manage, consume and understand data and metrics.


How could Agile Scrum tools and approaches be applied to our current and future health and care challenges?

There are several ways to apply Agile Scrum approaches to current and future health and care challenges to deliver tangible benefits. The key consideration for these tools is that change is always going to happen, so it’s best to have a clear direction of travel and anticipate this change rather than using static, long-term plans that fail at the outset.

Kanban boards: Kanban boards could help health and care teams track the progress of tasks, manage patient flow, track medication administration, monitor the progress of clinical trials, and identify bottlenecks in the care delivery process. Their power is in their simplicity.

Sprint planning: Sprint planning involves breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks and creating shorter planning cycles. In health and care this type of planning could be used to support more flexibility and agility where plans change according to pressures, budgets and priorities.

Retrospectives: Retrospectives are a tool used in Agile Scrum methodology to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. In health and care, retrospectives could be used to identify and address care delivery issues and improve people’s outcomes, all within a shortened time cycle.

Agile mindset: Adopting an agile mindset means embracing a culture of flexibility, continuous improvement, collaboration and a willingness to learn from failures. Healthcare providers could apply an agile mindset by focusing on person-centered care and continuously seeking to improve care delivery and patient outcomes.

Multidisciplinary teams: Building multidisciplinary teams that work together to solve complex problems could help deliver more effective care and improved outcomes in the health and care sector. This is exactly what the Transfer of Care service seeks to do.


What are the benefits of using Agile Scrum tools and thinking in health and social care?

The application of Agile Scrum tools and thinking could offer a wide range of benefits for health and social care professionals and teams:

  1. Flexibility: Agile Scrum methodology emphasises agility and adaptability, which is particularly important in health and care where patient needs and requirements may change and evolve rapidly.
  2. Collaboration: The Agile Scrum approach encourages collaboration and communication between team members which is essential in health and care, where multidisciplinary teams work together to provide person-centered, coordinated care.
  3. Continuous improvement: Agile Scrum methodology advocates continuous improvement and the delivery of value in increments. While health and care providers already have proven structures in place, this approach pushes improvements continuously, rather than periodically, helping to improve patient outcomes and overall care delivery.
  4. Person-centered care: Agile Scrum approaches emphasise user-centered design and involving end-users in the development process. In health and care, involving patients and their families and caregivers in care planning and delivery could help ensure that care is patient-centered and meets their needs, resulting in improved outcomes.
  5. Transparency: Agile Scrum methodology encourages transparency and visibility of work progress and challenges. Identifying the most critical challenges and addressing them proactively through small iterative improvements could help care providers deliver better care and outcomes.


A cultural shift

Applying Agile Scrum approaches to health and care challenges requires a cultural shift towards flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement, as well as involving end-users in the care delivery process. Incorporating Agile Scrum tools and thinking within the sector could support greater efficiency, near-time and real-time continuous improvement, and could deliver meaningful and incremental value to patients and health and care providers.


What next?

Whether you’re clear on how Agile Scrum practices could be applied in your teams or organisation, or you need further support with your current delivery, or if you’re unsure how to start thinking in an agile way, please get in touch with our Agile Digital Services team. No matter where you are on your Agile journey, we help you to ensure that your patients receive the highest quality care, and that your organisation is continuously improving and adapting to meet their needs.

Visit our health and care page to find out how we are doing things differently to help health and care organisations improve whole system outcomes for everyone.

About this author

Douglas Maxwell

Douglas Maxwell

Managing Consultant - Agile

Douglas is an agile leader and manager within the Agile Digital Services practice in the UK. He is a specialist in developing and delivering products and services within the health, local government and social care sectors. His experience is focused around leading, managing ...