HSCN coming, ready or not?


March 2019 has a big red ring around it on many an NHS calendar. No, not to signal the UK’s final leaving of the EU as Brexit concludes but to mark the end of the N3 network era. Not quite as seismic a change admittedly but still one that needs careful attention paying to it to achieve a smooth segue into the next generation Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

The transition to HSCN has already begun, with the autumn heralding the start of the Early Adopter Programme migrations, and full migration waves expected to start from December. January to May 2018 should see peak volumes as both NHS consumers (Blue Badge) and NHS providers/suppliers move across to what NHS Digital describe as “a reliable, efficient and flexible way for health and care organisations to access and exchange electronic information, while at the same time reducing costs and complexity, standardising networks, enabling service sharing, and extending the parameters of collaborative working.”

The business speak rather downplays just what a game-changer HSCN is. It is being created to support a world where anyone involved in the delivery of health and social care can access the records, information and services they need to do their job from any location at any time. It will breed innovation and continuous improvement, drive efficiency and agility, generate engagement and dynamism, all in support of patient-centric and integrated care.

So the biggest misstep right now for those organisations that have not got their migration mapped out is to view this as ‘just’ an administrative or operational necessity to change suppliers, and they’ll get to it in time. Sure, it is technically necessary as N3 will be turned off by March 2019 at the latest, but to see it only in those terms is to risk missing out on all the potential opportunities it will bring. And to make a hurried choice of HSCN connectivity supplier without a thought for the bigger picture goes rather counter to the new culture of enablement and transformation.

The HSCN programme is totally impartial as to the procurement routes used for connectivity: the open market option is there to empower those who wish to manage their own network procurement arrangements, but the operative word there is ‘manage’. There is an application and assurance process to be gone through, and while less onerous than its N3 predecessors, it does make demands on both procurement and IT teams. Buyers also need to remind themselves that they are no longer constrained, but depending on their choice of HSCN connectivity provider (officially known as Consumer Network Service Providers or CN-SPs) they can also take advantage of a wide range of products, services and contract terms that better align with their particular needs and objectives. Products and services, moreover, that go way beyond the connectivity commodity, offering instead a rich suite of overlay services, everything from Infrastructure as a Service to public cloud access, hosted telephony to wireless networking. At a stroke, end users have gone from Hobson’s Choice to needing to make a very proper evaluation of the CN-SP market.

Our advice is to engage with the market at the earliest opportunity. That is by far the best way to both deal with the necessity and leverage the opportunity. Engage now and you will be immediately comforted by the fact that each N3 to HSCN project is really just moving from a legacy network to a new network. This is what network service providers do every day, it’s their bread and butter: we derisk and deliver, assuming much of the application and assurance burden too. And as the only CN-SP to have been a commercial N3 aggregator, managing over 20,000 connections (and, incidentally, also appointed as the HSCN Peering Exchange provider), Redcentric is especially well positioned to help end users transition securely, efficiently and painlessly.

But it doesn’t - or shouldn't - end with the change project. If your IT strategy or transformational agenda has other technology solutions on the roadmap, then look at your CN-SP in the context of IT partner, delivering further added value solutions and services over HSCN. It doesn’t necessarily make the choice harder, it just means a more thorough, more diligent selection process. Who understands the market best? Who gets my needs? Who has the solution portfolio that aligns best with my organisation’s aspirations? Who do I want to be working with going forward? Who has that optimum mix of technical expertise, solid project management, accountability, good communication, enthusiasm and commitment? Who will help us succeed in our desire to deliver truly integrated care and improve health outcomes?

The switch to HSCN should presage a new era in health and social care. But the clock is ticking and to ensure N3 users transition in time it is incumbent upon them to sit down in the very near term to map out what their HSCN future looks like. The medical world champions the positives of prompt review and diagnosis. We couldn't agree more.

To help organisations gain access to HSCN as quickly as possible, Redcentric is offering a free onsite HSCN 360°Review, where its Healthcare team will review existing connectivity and develop a project plan for HSCN connectivity on-boarding.

Click here for more information

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance officer, Redcentric

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