Evaluating the impact of the Eastern AHSN Transformation Support Unit

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The Eastern Academic Health Science Network supports innovation uptake in the healthcare system. RAND Europe evaluated their Transformation Support Unit, which helps implement innovative solutions to challenges faced by health and care providers.

Overall the results are favourable at this stage. There is room for improvement in terms of helping to identify scale-up opportunities and requirements, and although the TSU has not yet had much impact on NHS cost savings and the wider economy, most respondents believe that these positive effects will come in the near future.

Background

The Eastern Academic Health Science Network’s (Eastern AHSN) purpose is to improve population health and generate economic growth through the support of innovation uptake in the healthcare system. To help fulfil this mission, Eastern AHSN set up the Transformation Support Unit at the start of 2017.

The Transformation Support Unit’s aim is to find and help implement innovative solutions for the challenges that health and care providers face. The unit supports innovation in: primary care, productivity of health care providers, digitally enabled healthcare and supported self-management by patients.

Goals

The Eastern AHSN commissioned RAND Europe to evaluate the impact of the Transformation Support Unit (TSU). In particular, the study:

  • Assessed how effective is the Unit’s approach to supporting transformation projects
  • Assessed the added value that the Unit is delivering on projects
  • Developed a methodology for how to determine the return on investment achieved by the Unit.

Methodology

The research team’s approach to this study was based on document review, a workshop, a survey of stakeholders and ‘customers’ and an analysis of four case studies to gauge impact.

Findings

Overall the results are favourable at this stage. Most survey respondents believe that the TSU has a positive impact on the outcomes of their projects, especially in helping them to reach more people and speeding up implementation of the innovation. Support for pilots, implementation and network building are particularly useful.

There is room for improvement in terms of helping to identify scale-up opportunities and requirements, and creating an evidence base on impact to support shared learning and spread of good practice.

The TSU has not yet had much impact on NHS cost savings and the wider economy. This is understandable given its early stage; in fact, most respondents believe that these positive effects will come in the near future.

The TSU appears to be contributing to worthwhile innovations although it is not possible to know with certainty how much of the net benefits of the innovations can be attributed to the TSU's role.

Recommendations

The TSU should consider which types of evidence can be collected for projects on a case-by-case basis (considering criteria such as relevance, feasibility and resource implications for data collection). Evidence collection should be proactively embedded into project delivery from the outset of each project.

It would also be desirable to obtain from the partner organisations participating in each project the extent to which they incur additional costs in implementation (e.g. set-up and training costs). This information is generally lacking from the evidence seen so far.