Insights

My NHS – the Product Owner’s View

Healthcare Director - UK
Valtech UK

September 15, 2016

We have recently written extensively about the recent 2-week open data project with My NHS, through which we opened the client’s eyes to the power of data science and Agile techniques, and demonstrated the potential of this vital NHS service for powerful, meaningful insight and better decision-making. The My NHS team having set up camp at Valtech’s London offices, we had the opportunity to speak with their Product Owner, Julie Fidler. Here’s what she had to say about working with us during an interview with our Healthcare Director, Jack Fitzgerald…

Jack: Julie could you please introduce yourself?

Julie: I’m Julie Fidler, Product Owner and Project Lead for myNHS. My NHS is a website, and we are part of NHS digital, a wider organisation that’s responsible for digital technology and data within the Health and Care profession.

Jack: Great, so you said my NHS is a website, what is it there to do?

Julie: Currently it’s a site that fits with the overall agenda for this government around transparency of data and information, and the purpose at present is focussed at professionals to foster a culture of learning within the NHS. So by doing some comparative data presentation, organisations can learn from that and do some comparisons between their peers and on a national level.By doing some comparative data presentation, organisations can learn from that and do some comparisons between their peers on a national level.

Jack: Valtech was brought in to help you guys over the last few weeks, what did we set out to achieve in your view?

Julie: So for me this was around taking the website to the next stage. So we have one-dimensional data at the moment and we know from user experience, that a real benefit to our users would be to have some multidimensional data. We lack some of the capability both in terms of the platform to put that data into and then to visualise it. So Valtech’s part in that was a partnership with Swirrl, who we’d identified with earlier on as a partner who would help us with the platform. Through Rob [Sinclair – Technical Architect at NHS Digital] and the relationship with Valtech, this opportunity came about to use your expertise around visualisation of data.

Jack: And how’s it gone, how have the last couple of weeks been?

Julie: Quick!

Jack: And you’ve been in our offices as well?

Julie: For the majority of it I’ve been in this office, I suppose for me, I see this from 2 perspectives. From a personal level, in terms of what I’ve learnt from a digital agency in comparison to a digital organisation in the public sector, and then obviously the learning from me around the outcomes of what we were trying to achieve of visualising data based that which we currently have.

Jack: So on that, what did you think went particularly well over the last couple of weeks?

Julie: I think we did a lot quickly, short-notice. To be honest, the surprise meeting for me was when Rob and I first came to do a kick off on Monday and it was the first day before, neither of us knew that was the purpose of that or what were the outcomes of that meeting, I think just to get things moving, when you work in government it can be slow, it can be onerous, but it shows you can work in an Agile way when you set your mind to it.When you work in government it can be slow, it can be onerous, but it shows you can work in an Agile way when you set your mind to it.

Jack: What do you think could’ve gone better?

Julie: I think we may have been able to do some more UX work, had we had a bit longer, because that was our big struggle. I think the rest of it went really well, so where we had control over my team, the broader team, and your team that worked well. Where we were dependant on external users, experience tells you anyway, that takes a bit of time, so we could’ve maybe done more with the hospital experience, although the mental health one was a bit better.

Jack: What’s next? What happens next for you, now that we’ve finished the 2-week project?

Julie: My plan in leading on the strategy for this was always to work with Valtech and Swirrl together. I always assumed this Valtech visualisation bit would come at the end of [the Proof of Concept] For us this is about aligning those two things together, so for me I think it means we’ve got a couple of things we’re going to do immediately which is some of the work to get ready for NHS Expo, I think we’ll continue the relationship, in terms of Rob and I having an on-going relationship around how we can help you guys get to where you want to be, and vice versa. The big outcome for me is obviously to get commissioning and funding for a platform and some visualisation. For that I need to put the 2 projects together so that will be delivering the POC at the end of our 8 week period [with Swirrl], presenting of the platform, and do visualisation on top of that to our stakeholders, with a view of securing some funding to take this forward.

Jack: One of the things that we got out of this was around generating some insights of some interesting stories, where there any stories that came out of this that stood out for you?

Julie: I don’t know if there were any particular stories, but in general what was great to see was the power of visualisation and multidimensional data. Being able to describe that in a narrative was the difficulty we’ve always had. I think overall it was powerful, I don't think I’ve had any real surprises really, I think there’s been some validation which is good, just in the way the data has been presented. For me, and the nature of my role having a policy background, it raises more questions than answers, which again can only be a good thing! What was great to see was the power of visualisation and multidimensional data, being able to describe that in a narrative was the difficulty we’ve always had.

Jack: Last question - what are the wider implications for the NHS, not just from this project but also from what you’ve learnt over the last few weeks, and what you’ll continue to work towards?

Julie: I think it gives us an opportunity, I’ve always said, I’ve always had faith in my NHS from the beginning and it’s a product that’s not been particularly well received in the early days for a number of reasons. I think a lot of effort over the last 12 months has been about giving it some branding and some identity and sharing the potential - just getting a site that looks and feels like it's supposed to even though it’s limited. And I actually think it’s limitless, the potential is limitless, I mean this site will eventually form part of NHS.uk which is a big part of the NHS Five Year Forward View, giving users more empowerment around patient care. It will fit into that, and I think my role managing that is giving it a place. NHS.uk takes all the money and funding at the moment as it’s the bigger project, but I think there’s a place for data within there, rather than just information.

From all of us at Valtech we’d like to thank Julie and her team for their help throughout this project, and at the NHS Expo. It’s been a lot of fun, and we look forward to continuing our great work together in the future!