image of doctor with various healthcare icons

Digital transformation in healthcare

Early adoption attempts at integrated care

A health and social care system should be truly seamless so that people receive the right care and support at the right time, in the right place. Services are under intense and growing pressure due to limited funding and to succeed, radical transformation is required.

We need to embrace and develop innovative solutions and truly integrated multi-agency working so that local health and social care systems work as a whole to respond to and meet the needs of people who use health and care services. In an ever increasing older population who are most likely to suffer problems with co-ordination of care and delays in transition to services, it’s essential that we transform the way care is provided with the ultimate aim being better outcomes of care in a holistic approach.

It was about five years ago when, as the Trust Integration Lead in a hospital setting I first had an insight into what we now commonly refer as Integrated Care.

The Nuffield Trust published a report back in June 2011, defining what I think is still relevant today:

‘Integrated care’ is a term that reflects a concern to improve patient experience and achieve greater efficiency and value from health delivery systems. The aim is to address fragmentation in patient services, and enable better coordinated and more continuous care, frequently for an ageing population which has increasing incidence of chronic disease.

At an event that brought together large and SME organisations across public and private sector based in and around the area, I happened to meet someone from Social Care representing the Local Authority. After the introductions we discussed and shared our mutual concerns, benefits and outcomes of collaboration across the Health and Social Care. We identified a project for sharing of information with Child Protection in mind. I had also produced a feasibility study for a simple role-based user access for

  • Mental health nurses to have access to the Acute hospital system
  • Acute clinical staff to have access to primary care systems
  • Acute clinical staff to have access to social care systems

At the time it was a difficult to progress any further due to a multitude of reasons; costs, who would fund the project, buy-in from stakeholders and resource availability. The project set out to foster a better culture of information sharing across care settings thus reducing delays at the point of need and overcoming some of the obstacles to authorised access.

So what has changed and why is it now right for progress to be made in the “Integrated Digital Care” revolution?

Some of the drivers forcing change now are down to:

  • Chronic Diseases, including an increase in diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Public sector savings
  • Healthy Child Programme
  • Reducing “length of stay” and repeat visits to hospital
  • The Care Act 2014

The NHS is looking to improve quality of service, provide a better patient centric user experience by providing the “right care” at the “right time” and “right place”. We should also not forget that staff in these new integrated multi-disciplinary teams must have access to accurate real-time or near real-time information. By taking full advantage of the information revolution we can meet these targets of:

  • Ensuring clinical staff across care settings no longer have to depend on or complete paper records by 2018
  • Care records being digitised, instantaneous and interoperable by 2020

To support these aims the NHS now has an Integrated Digital Care Technology Fund, an Integrated Digital Care programme in place and data sharing projects.

Healthcare and Social Care professionals face challenges in the current working environment and would be more effective if they could:

  • make informed decisions based on better access to information about a range of services
  • avoid the need for ringing around multiple agencies to identify the right service
  • avoid keying in the same information on more than one system by staff in integrated teams
  • do away with multiple computers to access health or social care systems and reduce IT assets
  • reduce the need for completing documentation to share information across services
  • streamline associated paper processes helping to improve on time delays and quality issues

I’ve only focused on one element of the integrated care lifecycle here, but the benefits are significant.

How do you see the Integrated Digital Care revolution adoption as it gathers pace? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Published by

Mike Downes

Mike Downes is a Principle Solutions Architect for Sopra Steria and has over 10-years expertise in the planning and delivery of system integration projects within the healthcare sector. He is proficient in HL7, TOGAF, and PRINCE-2 Methodology, as well as a number of other technologies. Before my tenure with Sopra Steria I was Systems Integrator in PACS, HIS, RIS, CIS or other GE-Healthcare systems for UK&I, this included Solutions Architect duties within the Applications and Enterprise Architecture team. During my 7-years working in a hospital setting as the Integration Lead, I was given the opportunity of assignment as Project Lead for Colorectal Theatres using LEAN Methodology and successfully made improvements by the introduction of Day of Surgery Admission (DOSA) unit this enabled better Theatre slot utilisation and increased number of operations. Part of this work required an observation day in Theatre. I have a real interest in the future of the NHS and what the Digital Integrated Care transformation programme mandate. I am a council member of UKCHIP (Fed-IP) and BCS CITP.

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