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As our understanding of science improves, so does our ability to create new medicines and healthcare devices. Ensuring these healthcare innovations are safe to sell is one of the major jobs of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

To help safely speed these innovations to market and to become more agile and responsive in a rapidly changing world, the 1450-strong agency has invested in transforming its IT systems and transitioning to cloud-based services.

The Agency’s legacy IT systems, dating back fifteen years or more, were preventing it from delivering on a range of organisational transformations, says Jon Fundrey, MHRA’s chief operating officer. “By IT standards ours were incredibly long lived.”

“If the world is converging, our data needs to converge as well.”

The development of novel medical devices, that dispense a drug for example, is another area with which the Agency must keep up if it is to regulate appropriately. Such devices are increasingly software-driven and this presents a challenge, says Fundrey. “The world of medicine is blending with software but the way devices are regulated is different to the way medicines are regulated.”

The new cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems replacing its old legacy HR and finance systems will ultimately help MHRA combine information about hardware, medicines and software when other business systems eventually move into the cloud, he says. “If the world is converging, our data needs to converge as well.”

In a rapidly changing commercial, political and technical landscape, the imperative to be more flexible in how the Agency polices public health is another priority, something its new system should help it achieve.

“Part of our move to a cloud-based system is to provide flexibility and agility to respond to different scenarios.”

Sharing data across borders, particularly with the Agency’s European partners is currently a key task but political uncertainties may mean this will change, says Fundrey. “Two years from now our systems may need to be radically different. Part of our move to a cloud-based system is to provide flexibility and agility to respond to different scenarios.”

Technology is also driving change, such as the growing need to regulate sales of medical goods online. “Our enforcement activities need to respond to that model of supply, which is very different to ten years ago,” adds Fundrey.

The Agency is already seeing internal benefits to modernising its finance, procurement and HR IT systems and other transformations are in train as a result of the new system with more to come, says Fundrey.

“We need to understand the various cost drivers against various lines of business so if we do need to change the size and shape of the organisation, we can flex it accordingly.”

“One of the major benefits I expect to see is the increasing use of analytics. Our existing information flow around our core activities is poor. We need to understand the various cost drivers against various lines of business so if we do need to change the size and shape of the organisation, we can flex it accordingly.”

“The fact we are now on one common system with an analytics platform means we expect to get significant mileage out of that, leading to better decision making.”

“Our use of KPIs, information on finance and on performance has been done through spreadsheets in the past. The fact we are now on one common system with an analytics platform means we expect to get significant mileage out of that, leading to better decision making.”

The new systems will also help the Agency work better with the healthcare sector, he says. “What we hope to do with the next phase is to integrate with our customers more coherently.”

This is likely to include more automation and building on the existing pilot of robotics for routine data input activities during the assessment process for new drugs, speeding the process and removing the need to train people for such roles and releasing them for more value-added work.

“We have had to adapt to very different ways of working. Information analytics are going to be key to making sure we maximise the value we get from this initial investment.”

But to wring the most value from the new system the Agency will have to invest in new capabilities too, says Fundrey. “We have had to adapt to very different ways of working. Information analytics are going to be key to making sure we maximise the value we get from this initial investment.”