Alloy Software Helps North Cumbria Overcome IT Challenges of COVID-19

Case Study:
North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
(part of the UK’s National Health Service)

About North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation (NCIC) Trust provides hospital and community health services to a half a million people in Cumbria.
The Trust is responsible for delivering over 70 services across 15 main locations and employs over 6,500 members of staff within a whole range of disciplines.
At the heart of the Trust is a core set of values; kindness, respect, ambition and collaboration that support NCIC’s vision to create happier and healthier communities.

Company
North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation (NCIC) Trust

Headquarters
Penrith, Cumbria, UK

Industry
Healthcare

Employees
6,500

Digital healthcare at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation

Digital healthcare plays a big part in the NHS and forms a wide range of services at NCIC, including, IT, Applications and Project Management.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world, digital healthcare has never been more prevalent and important. At NCIC the Trust has been redesigning patient health pathways to help improve and make a difference to local communities at this unprecedented time.

The Digital Healthcare department at NCIC is responsible for providing business critical services at extreme rates of availability within the highest profile public sector on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic. Whether facilitating speedy resolution of technical issues, fulfilling company initiatives and projects, procuring equipment and software, ensuring loaned, stockpiled, and assigned hardware is accounted for, or automating processes to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

During the ongoing fight against COVID-19 NCIC has had the opportunity to take part in ground-breaking research aimed at better understanding recovery treatments and community-acquired pneumonia.

In addition, NCIC has reconfigured wards and patient flows, and participated in the creation of Community Recovery Centres in local non-healthcare buildings. As part of contingency planning, the Community Recovery Centres will be used for patients who are medically fit for discharge and are well enough to leave the hospital, but need a little extra support to get back to their home. Community Recovery Centre beds will only be used if needed.

The Challenge

David Atkinson, an IT Specialist in Digital Healthcare at NCIC, stresses the importance of technology in their hospitals and clinics:

Without IT services, communication between departments is more difficult, personnel are unable to access critical information in a timely fashion, and it is more difficult to provide patient care that meets our high standards.

All of our clinical areas are tightly integrated and effectively sharing information. Patient records are now fully connected nationally into the NHS summary care record service so our systems must be available 24/7.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified NCIC’s dependence on technology due to the increased patient traffic and the need for flexibility. Our Digital Healthcare department is working hard to ensure clinical and support staff can depend on the infrastructure they need to save people’s lives. It’s important that we adapt quickly to deliver consistent service so that our clinical and support staff can help patients regardless of what medical treatment they need.

Despite having continuity plans in place for many years which incorporated pandemic planning, Mr. Atkinson admits the unprecedented situation created a massive shift towards working from home for many people which wasn’t anticipated:

This presented a significant challenge for our IT department and since the COVID-19 outbreak, Digital Healthcare Teams have distributed hundreds of new laptops, worked to expand the Virtual Private Network capacity, and have increased Service Desk and other IT related staff.

We’ve had to expand our Service Desk and sometimes we’ve had to move personnel back and forth between teams to fill potential gaps, or in response to changing workloads.

Mr. Atkinson adds:

Rapidly redeploying staff within Digital Healthcare also put additional pressure on management to understand how Digital Healthcare’s resources are being used. Our personnel are spread across multiple locations, shifts, and projects, with many now working from home. This creates a real challenge for our management teams because we have to be as efficient as possible right now. Having the right tools in place allows us to understand which tasks are ahead or behind schedule, which is very important to us.

In addition to their current workload, Digital Healthcare is still part of an extensive reorganization following the creation of NCIC in October 2019 following a merger of 2 organisations.

Mr. Atkinson explains:

As with any merger or reorganization, there are inherent technical, logistical, and personnel challenges. We’re combining Active Directories, centralizing parts of our infrastructure, accommodating for the handling of different locations, re-evaluating our processes and workflows, and making sure our newly formed Digital Healthcare department is efficient and effective.

Given the criticality of what we do, our recent organisational changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s absolutely essential that we have the very best IT Management tools in place, so we can meet the high standards we set for ourselves at NCIC.

We have a lot of people counting on us which means we need software that can deliver. That’s why we continue to trust in Alloy Software’s solutions to support our IT operations, meet our organisational goals, and facilitate patient expectations.

«We’ve greatly benefited from using the Alloy Navigator product, having so many functional areas in one place has streamlined our communication and teamwork. Alloy’s solution has allowed us to overcome so many of our challenges and it’s become a vital part of the way we manage our technology.”

David Atkinson
IT Specialist in Digital Healthcare at NCIC

Using Alloy Navigator

For over 16 years, successive NHS organisations in Cumbria have depended on Alloy Software’s Alloy Navigator solution for handling all of their IT Service Management and IT Asset Management needs.

Alloy Navigator has helped NCIC provide top-notch, high availability IT services in the midst of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic and an NHS reorganisation. In particular the Trust has used Alloy Software’s IT Service Desk Management and IT Asset Management Platform – Alloy Navigator.

Key Features Used

  • Incident Management
  • Service Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Work Order Management
  • Purchase Management
  • Contract Management
  • Project Management
  • Computer Management
  • Network Device Management
  • Hardware Management
  • Software License Management
  • Workflow Automation
  • ITIL Compliant Processes
  • Self-Service Portal

Benefits realized

  • Fully integrated multi-faceted solution saves costs through software consolidation
  • With top-notch customization, benefits are easily expanded to departments outside IT
  • Successfully merged IT operations and processes during challenging reorganization
  • Greatly reduced Technical Support costs with expanded use of Self-Service Portal
  • Major decrease in resolution times at the Service Desk via workflow automation
  • On-board of personnel ease-of-use played critical role during COVID-19 staff increases
  • Analytic and resource tools ensured stronger management during COVID-19 crisis
  • Flexible workflow engine brought swift process changes during COVID-19 outbreak
  • Alloy’s Stay Strong Program provided unlimited licensing through COVID-19 pandemic

Using Alloy Navigator has helped reduce costs, streamlined operations, and increased the effectiveness of IT service delivery throughout the organisation.

Mr. Atkinson adds:

The ability to handle ticketing, purchasing, contract management, and software licensing, all in one tool makes it easy to do away with other software and that saves us on budget. There are also indirect cost savings, including having all of our Digital Healthcare teams working within the same tool brings major efficiencies by helping us work better together.

Alloy Navigator has appealed to some NCIC teams outside of Digital Healthcare functional areas which leads to a greater opportunity for multiple teams, both inside and outside of Digital Healthcare, to collaborate and more effectively communicate.

As a result of our reorganisation, we’ve been able to bring multiple teams into Navigator such as project management, applications, information governance, primary care, business intelligence, risk management, and others. The more we expose the solution to other areas of NCIC, the more we see teams wanting to use it because the advantages are quite clear.

Different teams co-exist seamlessly in the same space because workflow and data can be separated out by team, situation or even shift. We love how easy Navigator is to configure and that it offers such great flexibility in process design. We can do just about anything with it that we want to. Because Navigator is so configurable we were able to easily expand and merge our processes during the reorganisation, but with the conditions surrounding COVID-19 rapidly changing day to day, our ability to quickly improvise by adjusting our workflow on the fly has been invaluable to us.

In addition to cost savings from software consolidation, improved collaboration, and process development, NCIC instantly witnessed the benefits of adopting Navigator’s customer-facing web portal after the reorganisation.

As NCIC scaled their workforce to counter the increased workload associated with COVID-19, Mr Atkinson commented on how the simplicity of Alloy Navigator’s on boarding functionality created much needed relief:

All we had to do was create an account, assign them a role, give them a web address or deploy Alloy Navigator software to them, and they were up and running. In about two minutes they had access to everything they needed for the team they’d be working in, such as dashboards, views, processes, and workflows.

To further aid the on boarding process, Alloy Software’s Stay Strong program, a plan of action designed to alleviate the business, operations and financial impact incurred by COVID-19 made managing resources much easier:

Alloy was very helpful on very short notice, providing us with unlimited licensing at no cost so that we could get more hands on deck faster and keep everything moving.  Alloy Navigator’s powerful analytics toolset empowered us to better manage IT resources, understand staff deficiencies, monitor work being done, and recognize key areas of improvement. We greatly expanded our use of dashboards to maintain a real-time understanding of our IT operations which was an enormous help to our management teams. Navigator gives us unlimited dashboards that can be easily assigned to different roles and whatever information you’d like to show can be displayed in so many different ways providing information to any audience is extremely simple.

In addition to dashboards, we also use scheduled reports and live views which helps us stay up to date with possible trends within our IT operations. Like clockwork, reports automatically arrive in our e-mail as PDFs and that saves everyone, especially managers, a lot of time. The combination of real-time dashboards and views, and scheduled reports, provided the much needed oversight for NCIC during one of the most critical periods in their history.

Given the high volume of IT equipment supported by Digital Healthcare across over a hundred locations in Cumbria in addition to COVID-19 Community Recovery Centres plus the recent surge in laptops for work at home employees, the ability to fully understand assets is also extremely important. Our IT teams manage over 15,000 devices so it’s important for us to know what we have and where we have it at all times. Navigator gathers information right down to the switch port, alerts us of unauthorized software, helps us manage software license compliance, and makes pinpointing the location of devices easy. Given how dependent we are on technology, and how our current demands have skyrocketed, it’s critical that we’re able to manage the infrastructure that makes all of the services we provide possible.

The Results

Mr. Atkinson says:

NCIC is adapting well and quickly to both our recent reorganization and to the increased activity surrounding the Coronavirus. Alloy Navigator has played a major role in Digital Healthcare’s ability to unify IT with stronger teamwork and collaboration, but it also made us better prepared to tackle the increased workload associated with COVID-19.

Alloy Software and all of the people we’ve worked with over the years have consistently gone above and beyond for us. The level of service we’ve received is exceptional.  As the COVID-19 situation escalated, Alloy Software anticipated our staffing needs and immediately provided us with unlimited licensing at no cost so that we could focus on what truly mattered during the crisis.

We couldn’t be happier with the results we’ve had using Alloy Navigator and each release continues to provide us with more and more value, and Alloy responds to our feature requests with either something that matches our need or the promise to try and incorporate it in future releases.

Alloy Navigator is an excellent and configurable, fully-inclusive IT management tool with strong ITIL principles and it gives us everything we need to be effective. Year after year, the solution continues to provide value and grow with us as we evolve as an organisation.

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