Tackling the demands of a digital world in an analogue healthcare industry
Quality of life and life expectancy have vastly improved over time due in no small part to medical and technological advances. At the same time, populations worldwide are aging at an unprecedented rate. As a result, the demand for healthcare is outpacing the ability of healthcare systems to provide it.
The healthcare industry is under enormous strain to provide quality healthcare at affordable prices. Enterprise wide there is abundant evidence of inefficiencies and underperformance due to information blockage. Healthcare is probably the most information rich of all industries, yet despite spending vast sums on IT there is little value to show for it.
It has become clear in recent years just how much pressure many Healthcare organisations are under. For example, recent statistics from the Care Quality Commission found that the UK’s NHS is ‘straining at the seams’ with more than 90% of hospital beds being occupied without staff increases to keep up with demand. To add to this, statistics from a survey by The Guardian show that over half of Healthcare professionals believe that NHS IT systems are not fit for purpose.
Other industries have minded the gap between old analogue and new digital solutions to business problems. They have demonstrated the value of digitally transforming information flow by automating processes, rationalising workflow, and improving customer services.
Moving away from an analogue approach
The most common problem in healthcare industries today is that key health information does not follow the patient. It doesn’t flow. It gets stuck; “siloed.” It cannot be shared, quickly and accurately, to coordinate rapid service delivery processes, and it cannot be collected by key stakeholders. As a result, providers under-deliver evidence-based care, researchers miss opportunities to produce new evidence, systems suffer from lack of automation, workflow is inefficient.
Consider, for example, the Electronic Health Records (EHR) that are being rolled out more widely within the healthcare industry. These do not come cheaply to the providers that deploy them or the governments that subsidise them, yet there has been minimal guidance for healthcare organisations around how they can utilise EHRs to the greatest advantage. As a result, the data they contain is not interoperable. It is largely inaccessible to those who need it.
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The vision we should be working towards is one where all stakeholders can easily access security protected information they need. A patient should be able to share their personal data, for example on existing medical conditions or their medical history, with up to the full healthcare ecosystem with which they interact. This information should then be accessible and acted upon in real-time by those who receive it. Ultimately, this will reduce unnecessary care and reduce geographic variation. It is the clearest way to add value to the healthcare industry.
The future of healthcare lies in interoperability.
It is not hard to see that IT, applied correctly and effectively, has a vital role to play in the world class healthcare systems of the future. The price, quality and availability of healthcare services relies on timely access to secure and accurate information for authorised caregivers. The healthcare industry can learn from the mobile and telecommunications sector, in which users can make calls and transfer information to users of other networks freely and easily.
Collaboration is key. An organisation cannot solve the problem of interoperability on its own. Groups including healthcare providers, innovators, governing bodies and standards development organisations must work together to create and apply pioneering solutions to the challenges faced by the healthcare industry.
Poorly integrated and inadequate technology systems can have a direct and negative effect on patient care. In contrast, effective healthcare processes and technologies can both boost existing services and facilitate new ones, which in turn reduces the strain on healthcare providers and improves the end-user experience.
The lynchpin that will hold all of this together is the ability to have real-time access to accurate data, which will help determine the quality of healthcare services going forward. Leaders in the sector must strive to create an ecosystem where patient information can flow securely and electronically to where it is needed and when it is needed.
NHS care homes are better than private, report finds
A new survey has found that 60% of people with parents in NHS care homes believe the quality of care has improved, compared to just 49% of respondents with parents in private care facilities.
The survey was conducted by Kepler Vision Technologies, an AI-driven company formed at the University of Amsterdam. It was carried out among UK adults with parents over the age of 75.
Respondents cited more capable care staff and better monitoring systems as being the main reasons for improvement.
However those who do not have parents in assisted living facilities had a different viewpoint - in this case only 35% of respondents believe that NHS facilities are improving, compared to 32% who believe it is only improving in the private sector.
Only 18% of people whose parents live with them or independently believe care home staff are able to look after residents to a good standard.
Kepler Vision say this difference in opinion is due to perceived budget cuts and financial pressures, with 67% of people commenting that a lack of funding has had a negative effect on care in both NHS and private care facilities.
Other key findings of the survey include:
* Out of those who say quality has declined in care homes, 69% say the NHS is dealing with budget cuts and increased financial pressure, while 65% also said that the private system is dealing with these pressures too
* 55% said that they or their parent have money saved specifically to pay for their future care
* 35% said the idea of their parent in a care home makes them feel frightened, although 32% say it makes them feel secure
* 52% are worried about their parent catching COVID
* 47% are worried about their parent being lonely
* 46% are concerned they could fall over alone
The announcement of this research follows the UK government's decision to delay presenting its social care budget till the autumn.
Commenting on the research, Dr Harro Stokman, CEO of Kepler Vision Technologies said: “While it is good to see that people recognise the importance of staff and face-to-face interaction in elderly care, the huge gap in opinion between those with parents in care and those without shows that there are unfair negative perceptions around the residential care space.
"More can and should be done by care homes to give people the confidence that their relatives will receive the very best care - by highlighting the excellent work of staff and how well they are able to monitor resident’s needs with easy-to-use technology.”