Martin Taylor, deputy chief executive of Content Guru, explains how rethinking the way in which health and care services are delivered, and making the most of emerging new technologies, could help the NHS run more efficiently
Delivering digitally-connected healthcare is complex.
A key ongoing challenge is to provide more for less, with a particular focus on technology-enabled efficiencies.
Commissioners are acutely aware of this and are shifting from organisational-focused, to patient–centric, outcome-driven models.
And emerging technologies that provide a personalised service can help them deliver on this.
Previously, healthcare providers delivered premise-based, organisationally-focused solutions.
The ill-fated NHS National Programme for IT also saw development of a more-centrally-led, technology-focused procurement strategy.
The NHS is re-organising into broader sustainability and transformation partnerships, encompassing whole health and care systems to deliver the necessary reform
While some of these changes had a positive impact; they failed to deliver every desired outcome.
For example, the sharing of care records consistently and safely across health and care systems still remains a challenge, particularly at primary care level.
Previously, national and local teams focused on developing their own service specifications, with little regard to the expertise available throughout the supplier sector.
Internal governance rules often prevented, and frequently still prevent, engagement with industry and service users, in case of a future conflict of interest.
But this approach has now begun to mature.
The NHS is re-organising into broader sustainability and transformation partnerships, encompassing whole health and care systems to deliver the necessary reform.
This new style of leadership signals a move toward more patient-centric development.
For example, NHS Digital increasingly reaches out to industry leads through Tech UK to help shape service specifications.
This methodology has the added benefit of encouraging the NHS, and other organisations within the health sector to think beyond current capabilities and consider new and emerging technologies.
Increasingly-favourable technologies are those that support personalisation at scale, reduce routine tasks, and deliver better experiences and outcomes, including promoting healthier living and helping to avoid health crises.
Technologies should also make it easy for people to navigate their way through a complex health and care system, while ensuring clinicians and carers have the information required to respond to patient needs.
Clinicians should quickly connect patients to the most-suitable services in healthcare, as well as community services such as the emerging social prescription networks.
New and developing technologies are central to delivering a patient-centric experience.
Big data is becoming increasingly important.
The ability to collect unstructured (sometimes known as ‘grey’) data via speech-to-text and information from typed notes, alongside the use of AI tools to better understand trends and behaviours, will enable local and national care commissioners to design better and more-personalised services.
Internal governance rules often prevented, and frequently still prevent, engagement with industry and service users, in case of a future conflict of interest
Omni-channel technologies are providing users with access through any device, anytime, and anywhere.
They are also being used to deliver a connected patient journey, guiding the service user through different services to the right care.
At the same time, cloud architecture allows for a built-in ability to scale up or down as required, across the whole system, or in a specific locality.
This is vital when the service is experiencing peaks in demand, while needing to ensure that patient contacts are handled swiftly and resolved at first point of contact.
Another trend in the health sector is the use of AI-enabled self-service solutions that support the delivery of personalised care.
A combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP), speech-to-text, and other trends originating in the commercial contact centre, creates enormous potential for the provision of a better experience for patients who are, for example, elderly and frail yet living independently.
This technology enables callers to be recognised instantly, and their care record or crisis plan to be made available in summary form to the responding clinician. It also offers options to self-triage using AI driven algorithms, and suggest alternative services to better meet their needs.
NHS 111 is a national service for providing rapid urgent care, when it does not constitute a 999 emergency.
Across London, its busiest and most-populated region, the service handles 32,000 urgent calls a week, successfully freeing up emergency services to cover 999 instances.
Technologies should make it easy for people to navigate their way through a complex health and care system, while ensuring clinicians and carers have the information required to respond to patient
NHS 111 health advisors and clinical advisors must deliver fast, accurate information, ensuring they are sensitive to each individual’s requirements, and provide further assistance where necessary.
However, a lack of digital innovation was impacting patient experiences and outcomes.
Amending this situation was a key initiative within the nationwide NHS Personalised Health and Care 2020 strategy.
NHS 111 London, along with Content Guru therefore developed a Patient Relationship Management (PRM) solution, securely integrating distinct medical and care information systems to automatically decide how best to route interactions across the five providers using NHS 111 in the capital.
And this has led to significant improvements in patient experience, through enabling a more-direct routing to the most-appropriate medical person.
This type of genuine interoperability will help to ensure that patient records and contact history are available wherever the service user accesses care.
Omni-channel contact options for patients can also help deliver a more-personalised approach, particularly when used alongside AI-powered chatbots, NLP, and self-service innovation.
By rethinking delivery models and adopting clever technologies personalised care can be achieved, streamlining the entire patient experience, while delivering better outcomes
Finally, real-time connectivity to systems will help identify trends and provide alerts to patients and clinicians, enabling them to intervene before a situation becomes a crisis.
By rethinking delivery models and adopting clever technologies personalised care can be achieved, streamlining the entire patient experience, while delivering better outcomes.