Adoption of remote monitoring will provide essential health advantages
Everyone knows that the way the NHS manages long term condition (LTC) care is unsustainable. The need to establish new models, as laid out in NHS England’s ‘House of Care’ framework, is widely understood. Yet despite the rationale and the consensus, unlocking a solution at the local level remains a huge challenge. This need not be the case.
But first, let’s look at the trend-lines. The number of people with LTCs and multimorbidity continues to grow, placing intolerable pressure on services and pathways.
More than 15mn people in England have at least one LTC, while the number with three or more is forecast to reach 2.9mn this year. The implications are significant. LTC patients already account for 50% of all GP appointments, 70% of all bed days and around 70% of acute and primary care budgets in England. As the population ages, those numbers are only going to increase.
Recent research predicts that, by 2035, 2.5mn (17%) people over the age of 65 will have four or more chronic illnesses. Around two thirds of over 65s – a massive 9.7mn – will have at least two. But the problem is not one for the future – it lives in the here and now. Our ability to establish effective models of LTC care is vital to the sustainable delivery of safe, timely and high-quality care. The question is: how do we do it?
An evidence-based solution is already out there, but it’s important to examine the context in which it sits.
A primary problem: recognising deterioration
Fundamentally, the single biggest priority in the NHS is patient safety. Five years ago, in the wake of the Francis Report and the Berwick Review, a range of policies and measures were put in place to help clinicians recognise and respond to patient deterioration in acute settings. However, these same policies have never been extended into the community. As a result, clinicians in primary and community care are often unable to recognise deteriorating patients before they suffer an emergency exacerbation.
The impact is felt on the front line of care in the form of increased demand for services, greater costs and poor health outcomes. The scenario is particularly common in patients with multimorbidity. The system is not set up to support them.
The problems with current approaches to multimorbidity are manifold. Primarily, chronic diseases are typically managed in isolation via services that are set up to focus on single conditions. Well-coordinated care is the exception not the rule, with pathways often fragmented and thwarted by a lack of informational connectivity.
Alongside this, LTC patients often receive limited support beyond the clinic. In the digital age, increased access to online information theoretically empowers patients to self-manage their conditions more effectively. However, the reality has not yet caught up with the rhetoric.
Services don’t always do enough to educate patients around their disease – expecting them to take greater responsibility for the management of their conditions simply because technology is there to empower them. It’s a passive approach that’s prone to risk.
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Wide variability in online health information, health literacy levels and the understanding of disease invariably leads to poor self-management and, at times, patient deterioration. The latter manifests itself in patients returning to the GP surgery for urgent treatment or presenting at A&E. Many of these emergency exacerbations are entirely avoidable. However, since clinicians have no advance visibility of patient deterioration, they cannot proactively intervene.
The conclusion is clear: current pathways are routinely configured to deliver expensive, reactive models of care. We have to reengineer them.
Regaining control through remote monitoring
The challenges of multimorbidity are familiar to every practice, community trust and acute hospital – many of whom have limited control over the flow of patients into their services. But familiar challenges can have familiar solutions. This is certainly the case with LTC care.
The simple use of mobile technology can, at a stroke, empower patients and clinicians with tools to support the safe, proactive and efficient management of LTCs. Remote monitoring solutions, delivered over intuitive tablet devices, provide a powerful platform for intensive monitoring, education and empowerment of at-risk patients.
These solutions are custom-designed to help patients engage with their health and self-manage their conditions through the daily capture of physiological data and self-reported information about their wellbeing. That data is linked to dynamic care plans and evidence-based algorithms that enable automated triage for healthcare teams when an escalation of care is required.
Crucially, this gives clinicians real-time visibility of physiological trends to help them recognise and respond to deterioration. Moreover, it provides them with an evidence-base that gifts them ‘remote control’ of vulnerable patients, allowing them to intervene proactively rather than wait for a costly emergency exacerbation. This is hugely reassuring for patients and carers, who also feel in greater control of their care.
Adoption of remote monitoring solutions is growing across all settings within the NHS. Evidence shows it’s helping to facilitate earlier discharge, prevent readmission and reduce the risk of future exacerbations through better self-management.
In chronic diseases like COPD, diabetes, heart failure and frailty, CCGs and community trusts are leveraging remote monitoring solutions to engineer more efficient pathways – with improved patient engagement and better self-management helping to alleviate the burden on services and lower the cost of care.
The principles of remote monitoring are strongly aligned with the key components of the ‘House of Care’ model for person-centred, co-ordinated care. The framework highlights the need for services that ‘engage and inform individuals and carers to self-manage’. It also calls for ‘organisational and clinical processes that structure around the needs of patients using the best evidence available’.
Moreover, House of Care underlines the importance of ‘informational continuity’: if HCPs are to provide the right care at the right time, they ultimately need access to the right information. This is undoubtedly true. And its why remote monitoring solutions, which give clinicians unprecedented real-time visibility of their most at-risk patients, must play a key role in future models of LTC care.
How can the healthcare industry build trust with consumers?
One of the many ways the pandemic has impacted society is that it has firmly cast the healthcare industry in the public spotlight. From producing ventilators and PPE to developing life-saving vaccines, consumers have looked to pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to keep us safe and find a way out of the Covid-19 crisis.
As a result, healthcare companies have an opportunity to build upon this and utilise their marketing to drive greater engagement and trust with consumers. When it comes to effective marketing, it’s vital to remember the important role which visuals play. Consumers increasingly engage with brands through the visual communications and storytelling they absorb while online or browsing through media channels. These visual communications can have a huge impact not only on consumer purchasing decisions but also the relationship between brands and customers.
At Getty Images, we work with healthcare companies throughout Europe to advise them on their visual content. This study forms part of the research for our insight platform Visual GPS, which looks at the key factors affecting consumer decision making and how that impacts their visual choices.
In partnership with YouGov, we surveyed 10,000 consumers globally and have been tracking this consumer sentiment for the past two years. This latest deep-dive into the healthcare industry is part of our wider on-going research, and aims to better understand how consumers in different regions are interacting with the healthcare sector and what motivates their visual preferences.
Our research revealed that many companies are not using visuals as effectively as they could. In the UK, for instance, the vast majority of consumers do not feel represented by the visual communications which businesses are producing – only 7% of British respondents to our global Visual GPS survey say they felt represented. That is even lower than the global average of 14%.
This latest deep dive into the healthcare industry has uncovered some important insights that can help us better understand how consumers in different regions are interacting with the healthcare sector.
Mental health should be centre stage
A key finding shows that mental health remains a highly relevant issue for consumers. Over nine in ten British consumers think it is important to talk about mental health and put it on an equal footing with physical and emotional health. Not surprisingly, 55% of British consumers believe that more people are being diagnosed with depression due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health across Europe. Health and pharmaceutical companies should acknowledge this in their visual communications but do so in an empathetic and compassionate way. Only five years ago, visuals around mental health often depicted people alone, isolated and expressing feelings of shame, whereas now we are seeing a more empathetic and supportive approach to visualising mental health - with an increasing number of positive visuals showing support groups, or individuals proactively seeking and finding support.
Visual communications that show support for mental well-being in a meaningful way will resonate deeply with consumers.
A more holistic approach
Another key finding is that consumers want to focus more on holistic health. Our survey found that the majority of UK consumers place an almost equal importance on emotional, physical and mental health, and almost three quarters (73%) placed the health and well-being of family as a top priority.
It’s important that healthcare companies reflect this. Our research paired with ongoing image testing revealed that consumers want to see visuals that humanise healthcare, so companies should consider visualising inclusive care across intersecting factors such as age, ethnicity and gender. Brands can help establish trust with their customers by highlighting a collaborative relationship between medical professional and patient, as well as ensuring that their visual choices feel genuine.
Technology and innovation in healthcare are gaining traction
Thirdly, eHealth and purposeful innovation was another key finding. Consumers want innovation that will meaningfully support their care. Particularly in Europe, the older generation will pay more for brands that use technology to provide advice and recommendations, while Gen Z & Millennials are willing to pay for self-service capabilities. It’s important therefore for healthcare companies to incorporate purposeful innovation in their visual communication and demonstrate consumers at the centre of accessible eHealth.
Given these insights, what visual content do consumers expect to see from pharmaceutical brands? Our research highlighted three key themes.
- Consumers want to see how healthcare companies fit into people’s lives. Accessible health services are a key factor here. Decision makers should build trust by showing consumers at the centre of a holistic healthcare ecosystem.
- Consumers want to see the emotional rewards others get from using a healthcare company. This can be achieved by building brand loyalty through empathetic and inclusive visual storytelling.
- Finally, consumers want to see people who are similar to them and their lives. British consumers want to see people that look like them and reflect their lived experiences in advertising and brand communication. Decision-makers should ensure that their visual communication is inclusive and authentic and represents the diverse population of the market in which they’re operating.
Ultimately, the key to successful visual storytelling for pharma and healthcare businesses is to ensure that they understand what matters to their audience while establishing trust of care. An important element of this is authentically representing the full spectrum of the population. That means representing all ethnicities, ages, abilities, body shapes, sexuality, religion and genders, to ensure patients of all backgrounds feel included and represented.
Healthcare brands should bear in mind that, as a result of the pandemic’s impact on healthcare systems around the world, consumers may be feeling anxious about whether they will be able to access care if they need it. The healthcare industry has an opportunity to reassure customers and build greater engagement and trust by showing them that they matter through inclusive visuals that represents them authentically at the heart of brand storytelling.