February 20, 2020

The role of technology in integrated care systems

The NHS has thrown down the gauntlet – that the integrated care system (ICS) is the future of healthcare in the United Kingdom. Evolving from previously formed sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) between local authorities and NHS organisations, ICSs represent a change in the way healthcare is delivered – focusing on a much more joined up approach to improving health and wellbeing in the communities they serve. 

While it’s early days in terms of rolling this approach out on a national scale – there are currently twelve ICSs of varying size, very much managed on a local level. The journey continues, and the challenges brought about by financial pressures and an ageing population mean that this joined up approach is sorely needed.

Technology is very much at the centre of discussion not just for how it can aid the development of ICSs, but also how it can help the NHS innovate and transform. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at the role technology plays in an integrated care system – and how it must be leveraged to deliver real change.

 

Improving care and outcomes

The primary aim of an integrated care system is to provide better and more joined-up care. Providing outstanding care starts with making it easy and seamless to access – removing the barriers between patients and the care they need by leveraging the collaboration between services. 

Technology is obviously a vital component in enabling this, allowing for both improved connectivity between the services within an integrated care system and providing patient-facing communication and interaction. It’s important that even though numerous entities are involved in an integrated care system, the service is presented as a joined-up, single point of contact for the patient, and technology is a massive help in delivering this. 

In addition to helping patients better access the care that’s available, technology unlocks more self-care options. Encouraging and promoting self-care where appropriate releases pressure on the NHS and charitable organisations within an integrated care system, and they are able to focus budget, resource and energy on other areas of the community that need attention and development. 

 

Enabling collaboration and raising standards

The advantage of creating a joined-up system to provide healthcare is that the organisations within the system can learn from each other – plugging gaps in each other’s knowledge, capability and bandwidth to provide a comprehensive service. Standardisation in practice, process and seamless connectivity and communication is needed – and bringing in the right technology will help to drive this. Whether it’s backend infrastructure allowing faster connectivity, end-user devices to enable remote working or state-of-the-art wearables or health tech to enable care providers in the ICS to access accurate, up-to-date patient data – technology will help to unify the service. Increased collaboration and communication will also allow organisations and services within the ICS to share knowledge and best practices, leading to standards improving across the system. 

 

Addressing wider issues

Another core aim of integrated care systems is to “better understand data about local people’s health” in order to identify wider social, economic and environmental factors that could be addressed in order to improve care and health outcomes for people in that community. The key here is data – and to be able to collect, process and view this data, you need the right technology, and the right approach to technology. 

All of the elements of technology we mentioned previously – infrastructure, end-user devices, wearables and IoT come into play here. You need the latest in wearables and IoT to collect meaningful patient data. You need the infrastructure to store, process and call up this data. And you need adequate and suitable end-user technology to display and understand this data. 

Bringing in more advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI), you can begin to process and understand the data on an even deeper and more meaningful. Predictive analytics and pattern detection can help you quickly identify trends, projections and opportunities for improvement in care and health in the community. 

 

Through the ICS approach and other initiatives, the NHS is showing its commitment to standardisation and encouraging emerging ICSs and individual Trusts to use others as blueprints for success. Sharing knowledge and experiences with colleagues, innovators and suppliers is key for senior leaders if they are going to be inspired to innovate and make a change. Healthcare Partnership Network brings together 100+ senior leaders in the NHS and the industry’s most innovative suppliers at 3 events yearly. If you’d like to sponsor or attend the upcoming HPN, get in touch.

 

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