A couple of weeks ago, Softcat and our new Integrated Care team attended HETT with one overriding aim; speak to our customers about Integrated Care and how this is impacting them at a local level. Throughout the two days, we spoke to hundreds of people and the variety and diversity of challenges were apparent.
When I took some time to think about it, I came away with 5 key questions. Some were inspired by the many brilliant seminars that took place, others by chats over a coffee. In this article I’m going to ask the questions I came away with and then in the following weeks, I will be challenging Softcat to solve them.
Should our Health system be more data-driven?
Data. We couldn’t get away from the word during HETT. It felt to me that this ever-growing monster was on everyone’s mind. How do we protect it? How do we recover it? How do we USE it?
The amount of data collected by a single NHS Trust as a matter of routine is staggering. From a single interaction with a patient to the macro-data we have on something like COVID. The data available to us is not only useful but plentiful too. Once you begin to comprehend integration (the joining of lots of pools of data together!) the possibilities for pattern spotting, prediction, innovation, and increased efficiency become endless. Is the answer to our Elective Care problem in here somewhere? Can we use data to improve efficiency and delivery?
It feels to me that the question shouldn’t necessarily be “should our health system be more data driven?” but “where do we start?”.
When it comes to connecting Electronic Patient Records (EPR's) and shared care records; can open API’s and standards accelerate our progress?
Integrated Care is a great concept. In practice, it is difficult. No more so than with patient records and EPR’s. Some of our customers most trying times have been during an EPR move or upgrade, and connecting EPR’s carry many of the same challenges.
My favourite talk from HETT was titled just this. A diverse panel headed up by Lisa Emery, Chief Transformation Innovation and Digital Officer at NHS Sussex tackled this subject and the conversation that ensued was brilliant.
My takeaway from the talk was that on a technical level, can open API’s and standards accelerate our progress in this area? Yeah, probably. The real question is how do we get our people and our leaders to commit to it? This is a tough challenge and continuity of leadership is key. Tech aside, is there a role for IT partners to help support this?
Mobile, medical and IoT devices; how do we ensure connectivity and security?
On our stand, we spoke to a lot of clinical staff and there was a common topic of interest: medical devices. The increased reliance and proliferation of mobile devices across the NHS has also brought an increase in challenges. One nurse told us how she only gets connectivity in one corner of her ward, and it helps to stand on a chair! If these devices need connectivity to function, then we need to make sure that it is fit for purpose. Does patient care stop completely if the Wi-Fi goes down?
From an IT staff perspective, they were worried about security. It’s difficult to know what IoT devices an NHS Trust has, let alone whether it is secured adequately or not. Besides, how do you secure something that doesn’t even have an operating system? Medical devices have made their way into DSPT and the current guidance points to creating a Medical Devices Register.
How on earth do we locate all our devices, secure them, and ensure they remain connected?
Virtual wards: what are they and what do patients really think?
The devastation of COVID forced the NHS to increase innovation at an unprecedented level. In January 2021 we saw the formal launch and acceleration of COVID virtual wards (CVW’s). Patients were provided with a pulse oximeter, remote monitoring arrangements and additional care and support as required. Needless to say, CVW’s were a massive success.
Now as COVID levels drop, virtual wards remain, and we are tasked with how we can better innovate in this area. Can a patient get sufficient care at home? How do we broaden the scope of these virtual wards? Do we want to? Do we need to? As the geography of care becomes more fluid, we have a pressure and a responsibility in the IT community to find ways to improve the patient and clinical experience.
Can we use digital to help tackle the workforce crisis?
By 2030, WHO predicts that we will be short of 18m health workers globally. At the core of the NHS are its brilliant people. As we continue to fight for more people in the NHS on better pay can we leverage digital as a workforce ally?
The pandemic has caused a huge strain on the NHS with the elective backlog seeming more intimidating by the day. The skills inherent within our NHS staff cannot and should not be replaced but can we ease the burden in other ways, paperwork for instance?
If we can use digital to help our workforce crisis, then how do we?
Finally, to all partners, customers, and everyone else who dropped by our stand – thank you! We had a brilliant 2 days immersed in the community and plans have already begun for next year.
If you would like to discuss any of these questions further, or find out about future discussions that Softcat are planning to address these topics, contact our Integrated Care & Government team today: ICGTeam@softcat.com