Harnessing 'Government as a Platform' for Scottish Health and Social Care - Digital Scotland

Harnessing ‘Government as a Platform’ for Scottish Health and Social Care

New digital venture idea: CareProviders.scot

This blog provides an introductory background for a new startup venture we have now begun the process of launching: CareProviders.scot. Comment on the idea here.

Platform Business Model

Massive new startups like Uber taxis, Airbnb and many more are pioneering the ‘On Demand Economy’, implementing a Cloud-based On Demand Business Framework which overlays a ‘digital mesh’ across a marketplace of vendors, such as taxi drivers or travel accommodation.

The repeatable secret sauce is the Platform Business Model, described in detail through academic literature and popular business books. For example the MIT book ‘Platform Revolution‘ describes these hyper-scale disruptors like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Twitter et al, as the book describes:

“Facebook, PayPal, Alibaba, Uber-these seemingly disparate companies have upended entire industries by harnessing a single phenomenon: the platform business model.”

The book builds on prior MIT research, such as this detailed 2007 research report on Platform Networks, this highly recommended presentation Platform Strategy and Open Business Models, and in a simpler format in this presentation, which defines:

“A “Network platform” is defined by the subset of components used in common across a suite of products (Boudreau, 2006) that also exhibit network effects. Value is exchanged among a triangular set of relationships including users, component suppliers (co-developers), and platform firms.”

Government as a Platform

Applying the concept to the public sector is defined as ‘GaaP’ – Government as a Platform.

Tim O’Reilly coined the concept in this presentation and documented in this book section, describing how traditional IT for government should become more like Facebook, Twitter and the other Internet pioneers who have been harnessing the evolution of the Cloud to become ‘platforms’, doing so for government would enable a shared infrastructure that enables more rapid digital transformations.

As Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, described in this article one of the biggest cost driving challenges government faces is this duplication across departments, such as the MOJ writing off a £56m project when it discovered the same system was already being developed by the same supplier with the Cabinet Office, and GaaP offers to eliminate these inefficiencies through a shared platform model.

Writing for Computer Weekly Mark Thompson asks ‘What is Government as a Platform and How Can We Achieve it?’ where he examines the key principles and how they might be implemented. In another he explores the distinction with Platforms for Government, one being still the traditional ‘cathedral’ mode of organizing government, versus the truly disruptive approach of ‘bazaar’ marketplaces.

In his Code for America video Tom Loosemore describes the background and philosophy in making it a central design model for GDS, the UK Government’s digital team. Their latest progress update is available from the GDS GaaP blog, detailing adoption case studies such as How the Department of Trade is basing their digital transformation strategy upon the model.

Integrated Health and Social Care

In 2014 the Scottish Parliament legislated a program to achieve a wholly integrated approach to Health and Social Care. There are 31 health and social care partnerships in Scotland, and they manage almost £9 billion of health and social care resources.

It’s a perfectly fitting scenario for an Digital Ecosystem Design approach, as literally the goal and primary challenges are all those related to the issues that arise from traditional organization models and the need to better integrate them. Most operate via rigid, top down hierarchical management and design systems to operate in silos. Audit Scotland identified how these isolated systems are the primary hurdle holding up the program.

The primary bodies needing to work together are Local Government and Healthcare, both large monolith organizations heavily regimented this way, and highlighting the nature of the challenge, they must also increasingly incorporate services from the Third Sector, a sector that is entirely opposite in nature – Lots of very small social organizations.

Audit Scotland recently published this report – Local Government in Scotland. This highlights the extensive role Local Councils have to play in achieving Integrated Health and Social Care, and the new capabilities they will have to fund.

A keynote example is North Lanarkshire, recently issuing an RFP for a digital transformation systems integrator, to deliver on their digital strategy which encapsulates the use of technologies such as data analytics, CRM, RPA, Identity, IoT and Office 365, and the transformation work to migrate to them from legacy systems.

As part of this they describe the start of their journey to achieve an integrated ecosystem:

“NLC is highly networked with other organisations – Multi-agency working is the norm. Council services – and often partners too – share a digital platform, so much of their data is shared instantly. As a result, NLC now organise around particular problems as we need to tackle them – teams are highly strategic, fluid entities that form into teams based on local needs.”

This highlights the key dynamics of establishing Platforms and growing Ecosystems – Shared digital platforms that enable multi-agency working. North Lanarkshire identify that the primary technology capability for enabling this being a new Case Management solution, one that replaces their existing legacy system.

“Standardise on a single, comprehensive case management solution that allows internal and external service requests to be tracked across the Council, regardless of entry point or line of service. This will replace the existing Lagan Case Management solution;”

Ecosystem Service Design

The critical evolution required is to break out of ‘silo’ design. Traditionally government and healthcare agencies buy and implement technology with only their organization and users in mind, usually locating it behind a firewall that only their staff can access.

Platforms instead design around Ecosystems, recognizing that services are delivered through orchestrating together multiple collaborating organizations, an approach I describe as ‘Ecosystem Service Design’, expanding the scope of Agile development practices to work around this multi-party marketplace scenario vs just one organization as service provider.

Scotland is very well placed to move forward with this approach. As well as Local Governments like Lanarkshire pioneering this approach, enabling others to learn from and repeat their best practices, organizations like The Alliance already work to unite myriad of small third sector social service providers into a single collective.

When combined with the latest Platform technologies and business models they can be united into the world’s most advanced blueprint for Integrated Health and Social Care.

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