The key things to focus on when designing an ICS are:
- Earlier engagement with all stakeholders, including patients and staff, drawing them into the design from the start to unlock value and reduce risk. The old phasing is dead. Long live concurrency!
- Deeper planning that goes right to the final service in operation, this includes: finance, efficiency; the built environment; information systems; digital; organisational structures; and clinical services.
- Scenario testing. ICSs offer extreme performance and vulnerability, so attention must focus on failure modes and unintended consequences, as well as ways to make the most of their versatility and responsiveness in fast-changing crises.
- Agile responses underpinned by automated data and intelligence. Out with old-style monthly KPIs; in with actionable intelligence, always available to all who need it.
- People and relationships: our fates have never been more intertwined than in an ICS. When things go awry – as they will – the quality of relationships will dictate how we respond and stay on track.
Leaders and policymakers will need expertise that is better networked to reach deep knowledge in consensual ways that combines wider skills.
There are no shortcuts for fostering systems as complex and big as ICSs, so look for flexible support that can switch from strategy to technology, to organisational development, to finance, to clinical flows, to resource management, and can be sustained for the duration of development. Experienced hands – but with the curiosity and appetite for the new era – will be hugely valuable.
Don’t forget, our collective intuition has been honed in very different systems, so grill your experts with care before taking them on: you are looking for experience, agility and a wide range of skills, tools and capability.
If comprehensive system transformation is achieved, then providers and policymakers alike can share a wonderful sense of fulfilment, safe in the knowledge that they have created a solid foundation for integration to thrive throughout their system of health and care.