Gavin Bashar, UK MD at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses how technology can enable the UK to become a global leader in population health management
Health and care services in England are in urgent need of reform. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, an ageing population and the impact of austerity meant the pressures on our systems were close to breaking point.
The pandemic continues to have an extraordinary impact on our health and social care services, public health, and the role of local authorities. These effects will last long after the impact of the pandemic has subsided.
The investment in and deployment of technology is crucial to enable local authorities to work with the NHS and social care providers to build on current digital-enabled transformation, support better population health management, and enable the UK to become a global leader in public health.
COVID-19 and digitisation
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of health and social care, and highlighted the positive impact that this can have on collaboration with local authorities and population health management.
Collaborative action to improve population health management feeds directly into opportunities for social renewal, a healthier and more productive workforce and the opportunity to place the UK at the centre of burgeoning global health industry. Improved health and social care is, therefore, an investment in the future prosperity of the UK and its place in the world, and not just a cost to be managed.
There is now an increasing acceptance and perceived usefulness by professionals within authority services and the public of the role technology plays in service provision and the management of our health. Whether it’s the use of virtual care platforms, remote monitoring solutions, communication tools, digital apps or sophisticated data platforms, our services are entering a new phase of digital maturity.
The pandemic has exposed several challenges and flaws but none more pressing than widening health inequalities. An increasing effort is needed to ensure the widening gap is reduced. Intelligent use of actionable data and personalised services will give patients and service users the chance to be offered solutions that will be more accessible and convenient to them.
Clinicians benefit from securing improved access to end users through holistic and real time patient insights. This enables preventative care as stakeholders are better placed to monitor vulnerable individuals, identifying potentially adverse events quickly, mitigating their effects and preventing the need for more complex interventions. This not only reduces the pressure on our health and social care systems, but it also reduces costs for local authorities, and the public.
The benefits of TECS
The TEC Services Association conducted an evaluation across 39 councils which identified average annual savings of £1,163 gross/£890 net per TECs user(1). This was typically split 70% cost avoidance and 30% cashable savings1. Clearly, there are significant cost benefits to investing in such technology, both in the short and longer-term.
Many people want to continue living independently and safely for as long as possible, with the reassurance that care and support will be provided when needed. Technology is widely seen as a way to address this challenge, enabling the provision of high-quality care to an ageing and post-pandemic population.
The use of technology within health and social care is increasingly about developing and delivering innovation-led digital health and care solutions which provide new, more efficient, and effective models for health and care management in the community. The increasing potential for employing technology, using data, and aligning monitoring systems together, now offers a tantalising possibility of revolutionising population health, both delivering better outcomes for individuals and reducing costs for the state.
A healthcare system fit for the 21st century must have digital innovation at its core, and this must be embraced by local authorities and the Government. As innovative technology continues to transform every aspect of modern life, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the impact this is having on population health and wellbeing. Where it has not already done so, digitisation is set to touch every corner of health and social care, and open new frontiers for practice.
If digital is to be placed at the heart of service transformation, people must be engaged with services through access to their own health data and the digital tools to drive their own care. By empowering the population to be a co-creator in its own health, people can be reframed as informed decision-makers as opposed to passive recipients of care. Citizens must, therefore, be engaged with the development of new forms of digital- and data-enabled healthcare.
The next generation of technology will drive the vision for a highly personalised care model to allow more older and vulnerable people to live independently for longer. New technology and services use advanced AI to detect whether someone’s health could be about to deteriorate, spot a potentially undiagnosed condition, and can resolve immediate social care needs.
Taking data from multiple sources, including motion sensors, smartphones, wearables and recordings, new technology can provide a clear picture of the risks someone faces and ‘nudge’ them or their caregivers to respond, or alert a professional. It’s being designed to improve the quality of life for more people while reducing the number of GP visits, ambulance callouts, hospital admissions and demand for local authority-funded residential care.
The UK health and care system finds itself at an opportune moment to capitalise on digital progress that will likely never again accelerate so quickly. It’s time for the sector to collaborate with local authorities and continue what has begun over the past year and fully commit to a healthy future with digital reform at its core.
1. Socitm, Inform Report: Care Technology Landscape Review, June 2019
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