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Public Health England

Public Health England: Laying the groundwork for a state-of-the-art healthcare analytics platform

The Challenge

Help Public Health England document the requirements for an organisation-wide data and analytics capability that provides insights to improve population health.

Public Health England (PHE) collects and analyses huge amounts of data to shape strategic healthcare decisions, aimed at protecting the nation’s wellbeing. Recent initiatives underpinned by PHE data include the ‘sugar tax’ and the antimicrobial resistance strategy, which has led to fewer antibiotics being prescribed by GPs.

To support better and faster decision-making, PHE wanted to ensure it was making the most of modern analytics tools and approaches, including artificial intelligence and data science. It also wanted to improve data sharing and collaboration between teams working on different areas of population health, potentially by putting in place an organisation-wide Population Health Intelligence System (PHIS).

It therefore needed to perform a discovery to identify:

  • Where it could improve the way it works with data
  • Potential enhancements and their benefits
  • Whether these would be cost-effective

These insights would inform the business case for potential development of a PHIS.

Our Solution

We gave Public Health England a clear way forward for the development of its new Population Health Intelligence System, ensuring this would meet the exceptionally diverse needs of its broad user base.

The breadth of stakeholders who would use a PHIS meant our user researchers gathered a large and exceptionally diverse range of requirements. Bringing this together to create a coherent way forward was one of the biggest challenges of this discovery.

We needed to provide next steps and technology architecture designs with sufficient detail to underpin a strong business case, while ensuring these were flexible enough to meet such broad needs. A data and analytics platform that worked the same way for everyone wouldn’t be suitable.

Following detailed analysis by our user researchers and data science teams, we produced:

  • Personas
  • Analysis of key themes spanning all personas
  • Outline functional and non-functional requirements
  • User stories related to these requirements
  • Conceptual architecture, indicating the nature of a future PHIS
  • Proposed alpha workstreams
  • Overview of alpha timeline, budget, delivery team and PHE stakeholder involvement

The Result

Our findings underpinned the business case to proceed with alpha, while the personas we developed had an immediate impact in other parts of the organisation.

Our discovery outputs enabled PHE to demonstrate the need for a new PHIS. They also showed what this should look like and how to begin development. This has formed the heart of the business case to unlock development funding. This is currently being reviewed by the organisation.

Meanwhile, the personas are being used elsewhere in PHE, including to support wider IT delivery.

Dr Julian Flowers, Head of Public Health Data Science at PHE, reflects: “The Softwire discovery process was even more useful than we’d expected, because it moved us on further than we’d anticipated.

“Firstly, Softwire got through a lot of people in a short space of time. And secondly, they translated these user needs into a system map and requirements. This has been crucial in our next set of business cases.

“Softwire provided a balance of digital experience and data know-how. This was important because we’re linking this work with an in-house, digitally oriented data project, and needed people who’d be able to work closely with us. This collaboration went really well, and Softwire’s work with our digital team has been really important in getting the PHIS project moving.”

Public Health England


The project
Carry out the discovery to underpin Public Health England’s new data and intelligence platform

The results
Key findings used as the foundation for the alpha business case and in other parts of PHE’s operations