Driving savings and efficiency in healthcare
Written by Lindsey Sutherland – Director of IT, Newton Europe
The information needed to yield necessary cost savings within the healthcare sector already exists, stored in one or more systems within healthcare organisations.
Yet the power of this information (when it is used in the right way) is often unknown or underestimated and all it requires is joined up thinking and visibility in order to significantly boost operational efficiency and lower spend.
With £20 billion of savings to be made over the next four years, the NHS is under increasing pressure to deliver more for less, but the successful use of IT could be the key to overcoming this challenge.
Currently a range of IT systems are available to the healthcare industry. Newton Europe has delivered more than 60 successful improvement projects to the NHS in the last three years alone and the development of purpose-built new systems has played a key role in the projects’ success, particularly across operating theatres and clinics.
Typical annual financial benefits can range from £750,000 to £2 million per NHS Trust in the UK, generated through a number of routes including increased case volume, decreased volume outsourced, cost reductions and a decreased length of stay.
Highly-customised information systems are emerging to play an increasingly important part in the project because they bring to light – in visual terms – information including theatres not in use, consultants' timetables, lost time causes and length of stay opportunities.
This allows areas for improvement to be identified and addressed as well as subsequent improvements to be measured in an accessible and uncomplicated manner – in a manner of which no other systems are currently capable.
Every Trust has a different mix of standard systems, which is why off-the-shelf packages that must be configurable to cope with every possible permutation are less effective.
A comprehensive suite of IT tools was recently created for a London Trust – which at start of the project was maintaining theatre records using a paper-based system.
The new system allowed for touchscreen entry of operating progress in theatres that feed straight into a tracker to show live progress and performance – a real cornerstone of the Trust-wide programme to deliver tangible improvements.
A speciality within a Northampton NHS Trust was experiencing difficulty meeting the 18-week patient pathway given the existing capacity of its operating theatres. An increase in utilisation of eight percent was therefore required to meet government targets and to reach sufficient capacity to perform additional operations, making cost savings of £243,000 additional profit for the Trust.
Working collectively with the management team, secretaries and booking clerks, we focused on ensuring that operating theatre lists were appropriately booked and that cancellations were reduced.
The systems have consistently delivered between 10 and 50 percent improvement in the key performance measures, on average representing around a six-month return on investment.
A key component in more recent cost efficiency projects has been the Newton PasPlus healthcare process system, developed as a solution to maximise the productivity of vital A&E, theatre and outpatient facilities.
The advanced reporting tools give high level reporting covering all the individual operational areas covered by Newton systems.
Building on visibility, reporting and developing training to ensure cost benefits can be sustained as best possible and, importantly to improve the standard of patient care as a result of better information available, more predictable waiting times, less cancellations and shorter waiting lists.
We are already seeing evidence that cost pressures are leading to salami-slicing of services and staff, which invariably has a negative impact on an NHS organisation, reducing income or leaving remaining staff to do more.
However, from working with NHS Trusts across the UK, it is clear that blindly applying cuts will simply not be enough to cope with the increased demand without an increase in funding.
The NHS should now be intelligently targeting areas to improve quality and efficiency while squeezing out cost to drive the required efficiencies now being realised across the private sector.
Well designed, developed and implemented IT systems will deliver real, measurable and sustainable savings to key areas of all NHS Trusts as well as helping to deliver a better, more responsive NHS designed to meet 21st century demand.
Newton Europe is an operational efficiency specialist, delivering business intelligence and operational efficiency programmes to the healthcare sector.
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Dexcom: changing the lives of people with type 1 diabetes
It is estimated that 9.3% of adults around the world are living with type 1 diabetes, which amounts to a total of 463 million people. A further 1.1 million children and adolescents under the age of 20 are living with the condition.
Unlike the more prevalent type 2 diabetes, where the body still produces insulin and symptoms develop slowly, people with type 1 diabetes need regular insulin injections or pumps, and must monitor their sugar levels frequently.
In recent years a number of remote glucose monitoring systems have become available that patients can use at home. These work with a sensor, usually placed under the skin, that measures glucose levels every few minutes. This information is then transmitted wirelessly to a device like a smartphone or tablet, which can then be shared with their clinician.
British actress Nina Wadia's son Aidan, 14, has type 1 diabetes, and has been managing his condition using Dexcom, a glucose monitoring system used by patients all over the world. Here Wadia explains how Dexcom has improved their lives.
As a parent of someone with type 1 diabetes, what is your day-to-day life like?
Being able to take a breath, think and pivot constantly without getting frustrated becomes an essential mindset because sometimes it feels like each day is determined to be different from the day before. Whatever worked yesterday is going to misfire today.
Which areas of yours and Aidan’s life are most impacted by diabetes?
The one thing that you have to fight hard to reclaim is spontaneity, especially when it comes to food and exercise. It’s only when this is taken do you realise how essential each one is. You can be flexible and there are no real limits, but only in the sense that a great athlete can be flexible without limits because they’ve trained super hard to be that way. So we’ve all had to become athletes when it comes to being spontaneous.
How has Dexcom helped you and Aidan?
Dexcom has brought future science fiction to real life today. The continuous glucose monitoring system is tiny, sits discreetly on his body and gives him a ten-day breather between sensor changes, so it's goodbye finger-pricking seven times daily.
Dexcom is totally active at a grass roots level and for Diabetes Awareness has pledged to donate £2,000 if #DexcomDiabetesStories and/or #DexcomWarriorStories is shared 200 times! I’ll be sharing more on social media and would love to hear how other families are winning their fights.
Maybe most importantly Dexcom is trying to introduce a reimbursement programme for type 1 diabetes patients which will give greater access to modern, life changing hi-tech. I want to spread the word on the importance of accessing it through this campaign.
If you compared your life today with how it was before Aidan was using Dexcom, what has changed?
It's always working, which lets him take his mind off diabetes for longer stretches. It also lets me get off his back. We both receive alerts so I no longer have to pester him by asking him what his number is, and especially importantly, I don’t have to wake him at night to prick his finger if I’m worried. Dexcom gave us back our sleep!