Dave Harries [00:00:05] Hello, and a very warm welcome to the OneSPARKS podcast. In today's show, we'll be focussing on telecoms and IT strategy within the health care industry, offering key insights on how to implement a seamless communication strategy. In today's episode, we're looking at how health care provider City and County is using technology to get ahead of the industry and how Samsung and Onecom devices and services are helping to support their ambitions. My name is Dave Harries, and with me to explain the ins and outs of this issue, I have two expert guests. Our first guest is Mark Gradner, Onecom's Enterprise Sales Manager. Mark has been in the telecommunications industry for over 20 years, helping support UK businesses realise that telecoms ambitions. Amanda Hamilton is Chief Information Officer at City and County Health Care Group, one of the largest providers of community-based social care services in the U.K.. She's been working in the health care industry for close to 10 years and is an internationally experienced technology leader with a successful track record in delivering strategic change. Welcome Mark and Amanda to the podcast. So City and County Health Care Group is the UK's largest provider of community-based social and home care services, as I mentioned. So Amanda, can I ask how important was it to cement a digital-first strategy to support your 20,000 care workers?
Amanda Hamilton [00:01:31] So for City and County, taking a digital-first strategy was massively important, and it had to do with the scale of care that we provide across the UK, in order to de-risk that care delivery and to manage that and really set the right visibility of what's happening at the coalface, what is happening for our customers. Digital capture of care, right in the home of a vulnerable individual became a key objective for us, driving at the ability for our care workers to make better decisions for the information that we were collecting in the digital platform itself to support decision making and to de-risk that care. That was really, really important for us.
Dave Harries [00:02:10]
And Mark from Onecom's side of the fence, is there anything particularly challenging about digital strategies in this type of industry?
Mark Gradner [00:02:18]
You know, for us we really had to ensure that the hardware we're providing was suitable and fit for purpose to align with City and Counties strategy of digital-first. You know, when we first started with City and County, they had around 500 users that were just office-based staff, and they really had this vision to supply all their care workers with devices to enable to do their job on the software that they were providing. And this, of course, made it so much easier for them to do their jobs.
Dave Harries [00:02:49]
And Amanda, you know, you've obviously got these secure devices and hopefully, it's very resilient connectivity that Onecom provide. So what's the impact? What difference does it make to your workforce and indeed your patients?
Amanda Hamilton [00:03:02]
So I think a couple of the key things come out, data is the answer to that. So the more data we can collect via our care workers about our patients, the better care we can supply. And the device and the networks to do that, we're managing really critical parts of that care, including medication allocation. So if we want to get into a bit of detail on that, a care worker understanding exactly what medication an individual needed inside their home at the right time is delivered through the software on those devices. So the resilience of those devices, the security of those devices, they were key to being able to implement our software and implement that approach to delivering care digitally, but doing that within the confines of our regulatory requirements and doing that in a way that's sensitive to both data protection and GDPR. So choosing a vendor that allowed us to be able to do that with a device set that enabled security and protection of that information was vital for us.
Dave Harries [00:04:01]
And Mark, is that is that a big challenge, you know, getting that security right? Because obviously, security and confidentiality in the healthcare sector is a huge thing, isn't it?
Mark Gradner [00:04:10]
It is. It's massive and it's becoming more and more important as time develops and as you know, care organisations move towards digitisation. Working with City and County, we provided connectivity on the Vodafone network because we felt they were the network of choice due to their strong and robust UK network infrastructure. But similarly, we also partnered with Samsung and supplied robust Samsung Xcover devices. These devices have a military-grade rating, which ultimately means more rugged devices that can be utilised in the field.
Dave Harries [00:04:43]
I want to talk about those devices in a minute, but before we do, I wanted to ask you, Amanda, whether you know, in an industry like health care, which we're talking about today, do some people sort of think, you know, well, why do we have to be digital? You know, I mean, I suppose what I'm saying is, do you ever get any pushback from patients or indeed staff, you know about why all this digital technology?
Amanda Hamilton [00:05:07]
Let's be clear, you know, as a good portion across those twenty thousand care workers, you know, the people that come into care often because it's a vocation, people are committed, they have a very high empathy drive. And what we found was, and there was a lot of trepidation about deploying a digital platform into a workforce who had been primarily across their careers, engaged in paper-based processes. And it was a big hurdle, and the assumption was that it was going to be slow to adopt and slow to move through. But what we found was, because they can actually see the value, because it empowered them as care workers, because it gave them the right information at exactly the right time. Their willingness to change their processes and to adopt a digital platform was a lot higher than we expected. We had a really good example of that, and it'll speak to both. I think the ubiquitous nature of Android operating system, for one, they're quite, you know, if you use an Android operating system on your home phone, then quite easily when I hand you a work phone, it's much easier to navigate. We had a care worker in Scotland who was literally 82 years old, and that's not an exaggeration. She was often providing palliative end-of-life care for individuals that were a good 20 years younger than her, that she'd been an employee of ours for a really long time. And at 82, she was actually one of the early adopters when we rolled the product out. She became a champion of it, and we work with care workers that were 20 30 years younger than her to adopt the platform. That's how intuitive it was. And that actually being driven by her drive for empathy and for delivering care, she was able to sort of unlock aspects of the platform we didn't know about, and she was able to help us drive that adoption forward. So it kind of blew away all of our assumptions.
Dave Harries [00:06:46]
That is a great example. Mark, I mean, you when you hear things like that that must warm the cockles of your heart as a technologist, you know that you can get people with that sort of experience and age to adopt brand new technologies. But I wonder, you know, presumably from what Amanda was saying, part of the challenge is always going to be communication of the aims and intentions of the technology. You know what it's for? Because obviously, as Amanda just said, if people kind of realise that it's to help what they do to improve their vocational ability and all that sort of thing, they're much more likely to be enthusiastic about it, I would guess. I mean, is that your experience?
Mark Gradner [00:07:24]
Yeah, absolutely right. And I think that's why it's all important to find a provider and a partner that you can align your strategy with so that you can work together to allow those users to truly and fully understand the technology that they're using.
Dave Harries [00:07:40]
So we talked just now about the fact that you adopted the Samsung Galaxy Xcover 4S and Xcover 5S models. So I'd quite like to explore that a little bit and just find out a little bit about why you made those choices from both of you, and Amanda you already mentioned the fact that the Android system was very familiar to a lot of people, but presumably, there was more to it than that when you were making these choices.
Amanda Hamilton [00:08:05]
Oh, absolutely. You know, I mean, we have of those 20,000 care workers, I've never failed to be deeply impressed by their commitment to get out and deliver quality care. And that's not just a statement that ethos runs through our organisation. And to give them a device that we knew was going to stand up, that was going to have some rigour about it was going to stand up to the environmental challenges that they face on a day to day basis. I mean, we deliver care in London, where people will often be on a motorised scooter or on a bus or doing whatever they can do to get between the visits to travel to the next visit inside a vulnerable individual's home to deliver that care. Once they're inside that home, they may be in the kitchen, they may be working around heat or water or whatever those other scenarios might be. And in the north end of Scotland, in the middle of winter, we have people that have literally had to get out of their car and march through the snow in order to make it to a patient's home in order to deliver that care. They couldn't have devices that were, shall I say, a budget device. They were definitely going to have to be a device that could stand up to that. And military-grade Xcover 4S that were both affordable for our organisation but provided the right device to stand up to the rigours of being a care worker was absolutely key to that. And it made absolute sense for us to have that as a partnership on the X cover device and the Android operating system to both match the end-user adoption and the functionality of the device.
Dave Harries [00:09:28]
Mark, I like most people, you know, heartbroken, broken phones time to time, you know, drop them or actually run over a phone once, which wasn't very clever. Joking apart, when you're specifying a phone for this sort of thing, presumably you have to know a lot about the conditions, the likely uses that Amanda has just described you, whether it's Scotland or the middle of London or middle of winter, whatever it is. So you have to have a good idea of how a phone is going to be used.
Mark Gradner [00:09:56]
Absolutely right. You know, we have a heritage of working with a lot of care companies. And you know, what's great about working with Samsung is that they have a very, very wide range of devices. These devices are what we classify as enterprise edition devices. What this also means is that we can set up configure the devices upfront, which takes away the pain of City and County, having to use internal resources to do this. So the device is actually set up in a way that users can utilise the applications that City and County want them to use. We also find that within care companies, a lot of them are very rapidly moving towards digitisation and built into this cost is a massive factor as well. And the great thing with these devices is that there are very good price points as well as as well as being very, very robust.
Dave Harries [00:10:49]
And Amanda, before we leave the subject of the actual hardware, the technology. Talk to me a little bit more about the security side of it because obviously, you know, it's all very well not being able to break a phone. But people lose phones, don't they? And or they get stolen, so talk to me about the security aspect of that and how easy is to replace them and that sort of thing.
Amanda Hamilton [00:11:08]
Again, with the number of phones that we deploy out into the organisation with the help of Onecom, through the use of a product set from Samsung like Knox, for example, as the embedded security platform, it really wraps a nice tight security layer around that. When you put an MDM on top of that, a mobile device management platform, then you've got multiple layers of security happening and you can control exactly what they are able to do with those phones and are able to access. That was really important for us in a regulated industry where NHS information governance is contractually a point that we must meet, as well as GDPR again, data protection. And those things are all things that we're measured against by the Care Quality Commission, and we're judged against those so really important for us to hit them. But on a practical standpoint, to protect our patient's information. If someone does lose a phone, leave it behind on a bus, accidentally drop it and not know where. We are very confident in the security that exists on those devices, and a really good example of that is we had a lost phone and that phone was, shall we just say, in a Midlands area. And one of the police departments there was handed the phone and in order to attempt to find who the phone belonged to, they tried to use their technical resources that they have on hand to hack into the phone. And they actually, found the device and then had a request for the device to come back to them. And when they did, we had a ring through from them to go, You know what? We want to give you a little commendation. We were unable to crack into your phone. Your security on those devices is excellent. So for a local police department to actually give you a bit of a pat on the back to go, you know your security's tight on that. We knew that we were leaning really hard on the Knox platform for that, and we're really pleased with the outcome.
Dave Harries [00:12:57]
Yeah, Mark, that's that's a great story, isn't it? You know, if the police can't hack into it, then hopefully nobody else can, either. But, in terms of sort of replacing phones and that sort of thing and getting people back up to speed quickly is that part of the package as it were that you can offer?
Mark Gradner [00:13:13]
Absolutely. So, you know, Onecom offer a full-service wrap where, you know, as I mentioned before, the devices are set up, which means that come pre-configured with Knox. So when the end-user actually turns that device on, they turn it on and City and County can actually have their logo on there. So it's really catered for the end-user and comes set up outside of that out the box, which is fantastic In terms of losing devices, yes, because of that service wrap, we have a process whereby we can then send a courier out. They can swap out the device for another one. It's a really seamless process in terms of being able to allow those users to be on the go all the time with very, very little downtime.
Dave Harries [00:13:54]
And Amanda, last question on the equipment. Sorry, I keep banging on about it, but it's very interesting. If you don't have a signal, you know you're in the highlands of Scotland, you mentioned that, you might not always have great phone signal. Presumably, the information is stored until you do have a signal and then it can be uploaded.
Amanda Hamilton [00:14:11]
Absolutely. The software platform is completely capable of capturing it locally and then moving it up to the cloud into the secure platform on the cloud at the next point of connectivity. So, you know, it allows us to move freely across connected and unconnected areas. And I think that's one of the great things about the Vodafone Network. And the partnership we've got with Onecom is that we've been able to really leverage that and we get the kind of coverage that we absolutely need.
Dave Harries [00:14:34]
So Amanda, I'd like to talk now a little bit more generally about the health care industry and how technology is changing it, hopefully for the better. So, tell me a little bit about that and where you see it now and where you see it going in the future.
Amanda Hamilton [00:14:49]
You know, I think, in particular, the segment of health care in the UK in which I have spent nearly a decade has been a bit of a laggard on adopting what I would call technology solutions. But I think that's true across a lot of the health care aspects within the UK. So GP's are still on very siloed individual GP practise solutions. You've got NHS groups on their own patient records. And I think the trend now is leading towards, you know, particularly with NHS X, which is a particular area of the NHS that's focussing on digital transformation across health care and health and social care. And with that drive, you're looking at this whole drive for what I would call, what is known in the industry as integrated care. This is where a patient actually can understand their own care and everyone involved in their care from cradle all the way to adulthood and beyond. They have a record, and that record of care is based on data and based on a backbone of data standards. And that's where we're going, as a country we're driving at a single backbone of information that relates to that patient's care, that both enhances their care, but speeds up that care makes the NHS itself more efficient, which we all know needs to happen, for its funding for its future, for loads of different aspects of that. So that's a really important part of it. And then when you layer on top of that new technologies coming down the pipeline like 5G that will enable the Internet of things and will actually unlock local monitoring smart homes with vital sign devices in it that can monitor that for vulnerable individuals, sitting on top of that 5G network, making those technologies which are technically available today, but often out of reach from a cost perspective for the infrastructure required to run them. When 5G unlocks that, it will be absolutely revolutionary in health care in the way that telemedicine can start to engage in that. The way that you will be able to use a smartphone or a device in your own home to actually engage with a doctor in a very quick amount of time or with a clinical nurse to be assessed to be monitored. It will change the way GP's actually function and change the way data is captured about patients in the country. And I think that's really exciting. I think it's incredibly innovative and I think it's, you know, it's where I actually get super, super excited about what the future of that looks like. That data piece and what it starts to capture is massive as well. So what it's going to unlock is predictive analysis. It's going to unlock the ability to use data learning models and AI and machine learning, to actually use the captured data at the individual patient level and predict what their outcomes might be. And again, you know, I'll get really super passionate about this. But if you talk about a single individual, and for elderly women, in particular, one of the first reasons why they go into hospital is for a severe urinary tract infection or UTI. In the ways that we know that that's happening for an individual is often that they begin refusing hydration or they're not drinking any fluids. If the opportunity for the data that we capture in their care, if we can track that they're refusing hydration, then we can indicate that as a lead indicator for a UTI and we can prevent that. We can deploy a district nurse, we can engage with the GP, we can get the treatment ahead of the critical point that they enter the hospital.
Dave Harries [00:18:16]
So Mark, Amanda's just painted a really exciting vision of the future of the health care industry, which she's obviously very passionate about. From your point of view as technologists, do you see similar exciting progress? Obviously, not just in healthcare. Appreciate you deal with other industries as well, but you know, in general, do you think the technology is, you know, is moving very fast?
Mark Gradner [00:18:37]
Absolutely. It has done for a number of years and continues to do so. You know, Amanda is very passionate there about 5G and what that can bring to her industry. But it's not just the care industry, it's across all industries. You know, we see in construction, for example, some incredible things taking place with 5G. The challenge I guess we have at the moment is that 5G really is at its infancy at the moment and there is a small uptake. You know, one of the challenges we have with 5G is you have to have a compatible 5G device and they usually are premium devices. However, we are now seeing Samsung, as an example, bring in some low level to medium level fantastic 5G devices. So it is starting to gather pace, and Amanda is absolutely right. It's really, really exciting because, you know, the technologies and the implications that that's going to bring to all industries is just incredible. So we are absolutely just as excited.
Amanda Hamilton [00:19:36]
Yeah, it's about the commoditisation of those. And I think the moment you unlock the hardware and the software and the network, you've got a perfect triangle for leaps, innovated leaps and many industries not just care, but really super excited about where it sits for care.
Mark Gradner [00:19:50]
It is. It is. And, you know, devices these days really are an extension of people's lives as well. So people really expect to get what they get at home in the workplace. And you know, again, like I said, that technology is really speeding up very, very quickly, so we are very excited about what's coming in and around the corner.
Dave Harries [00:20:09]
Amanda, before we finish, I'd really like to know a little bit about the process that you have to go through when you're looking for a technology partner like Onecom. I mean, what advice would you give to people/companies who are just at the beginning of this journey?
Amanda Hamilton [00:20:24]
You know, the interesting thing for me is I came by Onecom as a vendor, as a supplier by accident. They were a supplier into City and County when I joined about five years ago. It's one of those scenarios where I've been doing what I do for a long time. You have vendor and supplier relationships that you kind of leverage across those things. You can often bring different suppliers with you into businesses as you change roles. But Onecom were refreshingly surprising, maybe in some ways. So I got introduced to them and I think key things for me that they really ticked and for me, their boxes that I would sort of apply to any supplier that I was looking for, particularly for critical technology like the mobilisation of our care workers. For me, you know, you have to have a vendor and a supplier that are customer service focus. That's first and foremost to me. Service was so important and Onecom was able to deliver that in the way that some of the larger partners that their resellers for just couldn't offer to us. They, you know, good vendor is sensitive to your business objectives. They understand what it is that you're trying to deliver, and they're bought into that mission with you. They also need to be commercially aligned. You know, it's great to have good customer service and someone that understands what your objectives are and want to help you get there. But actually, if the commercial prices are just not aligned to where your organisation is, it's unhelpful. And luckily for us, Onecom brought all of that for us into a package and they were really ready to go on that journey with us. We scaled really, really quickly across that period of time, and they have been a key partner through that, always adaptive and always agile. And you know, it's not Mark, I don't want you to get a big head out of it by any means. But it is really important to sort of state that for me that we couldn't have achieved this without the right partnerships, in our software packages, in our hardware, on the other side of this, not the mobile hardware, but the stationary and the fixed hardware, but the mobile hardware, in particular, Onecom was just absolutely key to delivering for us.
Dave Harries [00:22:26]
And Mark, without wishing to inflate the size of your head, as Amanda is worried about doing, but clearly, she was full of praise for you there, but joking apart, What? What's your advice? You know, what do you think people should look for in a technology partner? You know, what's your general advice in the industry? What would you say to people who are looking for a partner?
Mark Gradner [00:22:45]
I think, first of all, Amanda, thanks. Thanks for the praise. You know, we have some very, very good people that that work behind the scenes. You know, my advice for anyone that's looking for a partner is, you know, try to find someone who you trust. It's very difficult to find a trusted adviser and partner and someone that will actually work with you alongside what your strategy is and align themselves to that. You know, Amanda touched on the service element as well. We really do go above and beyond to try and ensure that our customers are at the heart of everything we do you. And as soon as you do that, you gain that trust from your customers. And by doing that, you know, you then have an open forum to be able to sit around a table and actually discuss what the strategy is, what it looks like and how that partner can help.
Amanda Hamilton [00:23:35]
And that's not just, I just want to say that is not just marketing spiel. I mean, I genuinely do feel that Onecom has delivered that for us as an organisation, and I would I would happily stand up in a court and attest to that. It has been. It has been really key for us that service part.
Dave Harries [00:23:55]
Well, that's great to hear, and thank you both very much for joining me on the podcast. It's been really, really interesting hearing about technology in the health care industry. You've been listening to the OneSPARKS podcast brought to you by Onecom. I'm Dave Harris, and I've been talking to Mark Gradner, Enterprise Sales Manager at Onecom and Amanda Hamilton, Chief Information Officer at City and County Healthcare Group. I hope you've enjoyed their expert insight into seamless communication within the health care industry. Please see our show notes for a link to our website at www.oneom.co.uk/podcast, where you can find out about everything mentioned in today's episode. If you've enjoyed the podcast, then please subscribe and share with your friends and colleagues. In the meantime, stay safe and thanks for listening.