How are healthcare services evolving to meet the needs of an ageing population?

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The NHS is facing a myriad of challenges, whether it be from an aging and growing population, staff shortages, political uncertainty and pressure to do more with less.

At our Digital Risers Public Sector breakfast event, we were joined by speakers from the North West Shared Infrastructure Service (NWSIS) and NHS South Central and West Commissioning Support Unit to find out how they are planning to address a population that is living longer, and living with a growing number of healthcare needs.

NWSIS – empowering citizens by giving them access to their health and social care record in order to participate in their own care management

The ability to exchange medical information quickly and efficiently across the NHS and wider care delivery system is vital. The NHS is under increasing pressure to provide better patient care, while improving efficiencies and reducing costs. Data sharing presents an opportunity to address all of these challenges, enabling our stretched healthcare services to operate in the most efficient way possible, while digitising and streamlining patient care.

Most information across health and social care is held on disparate IT systems where it can’t be easily accessed by those directly involved with the citizen. Without this interoperability, no carer can know as much about the person as they should or indeed need to.  Tests may be repeated, inappropriate care may be given and hospital stays may be extended. To address this issue, the NWSIS team launched the Lancashire Person Record Exchange Service (LPRES) – a programme to deliver a joint approach to information sharing via a health information exchange (HIE) platform.

The health information exchange enables relevant information to be available to authorised members of clinical and social care teams in order to support the delivery of timely patient care. With patient consent, data from the GP record, acute and community providers, is made available across the health economy on demand. By providing a centralised technology platform and programme support mechanism to facilitate the exchange of information about citizens, LPRES is improving efficiencies for front line care givers, transforming patient care by enabling new ways of working, and empowering citizens across Lancashire and South Cumbria to have access to their health and social care record in order to participate in their own care management. Collaborating and sharing information about patients and service users across care boundaries, equips care givers with access to the right information, at the point of care delivery.  This is vital in enabling them to improve continuity of care, as well as reducing unnecessary diagnostic tests and providing more efficient services for patients and their carers.

NHS South Central and West Commissioning Support Unit – exploring wearable technology to monitor vulnerable patients in the comfort of their own home.

One of the biggest challenges for the NHS is how to support an ageing population and keep them healthy and out of hospital. To address this, there are 3 key areas we need to look at: the people, the care systems that are aligned to the primary care network and integrated care systems.

Social care resources are extremely stretched but patient wearables could help to monitor patients vital signs around the clock. Medical patient monitoring devices are poised to disrupt the healthcare industry with the global market projected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021. With the ability to enhance the healthcare system by aiding in the remote monitoring of patients, wearables provide real-time access to health records and provide quicker diagnosis and treatment of conditions.

The consumer wearables market has taken off with companies like Apple and Fitbit leading the charge, but medical grade devices are yet to follow suit. This is because currently, there are no open standards around wearables and smart home technology and the data can’t yet be presented in a single dashboard. Building a centralised platform that can monitor every condition and every factor, whether it be movement, heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure to name just a few, will be absolutely key, but having said that, it’s a very difficult and complex thing to do.

If the entire NHS was able to operate using a common data platform, data from wearables and smart home devices could provide population health management analytics to help us better understand individual patients and their conditions which in turn could help us to tailor their treatment and deliver it more efficiently. For instance, a nurse could work remotely and look after multiple patients at a time. When certain unusual patterns are detected in the data, an alert could sound, warning the nurse there may be an issue. They could then phone the patient to check if things are ok, or escalate the issue based on the state of their condition and dispatch an ambulance.

The key to the successful evolution of the NHS lies in its ability to translate data into actionable insights. People are not only living longer, but they’re living with more complex health needs and to ensure the health management of the entire population is sustainable, the NHS needs to change, and quickly.

To discover how the NHS can realise value from modern data platforms, click here to watch a video with our Head of Public Cloud, Joe Wolski.