The future of health and social care: a service fit for the 21st Century

Doctors examining X-ray image

Written by Martin McFadyen, Head of Public Sector at Virgin Media Business

How technology and digitisation will transform health and social care

When was the last time you used a fax machine? If you work in the NHS, the answer is probably very recently. The NHS buys more fax machines than any other organisation in the world and staff frequently have little option but use them to send crucial patient information to colleagues.

This reliance on out-dated equipment is the reason why patients referred to hospital by their GP frequently need to re-register as a new patient on arrival, and why patients who’ve undergone major surgery are given hard copies of their x-rays and instructed to pass them on to their next doctor.

The situation, according to The Royal College of Surgeons, is farcical[1]. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Digital technology provides new opportunities to transform and integrate health and social care services and process like never before. For patients this means reduced delays, faster treatment, a more tailored experience and more control. Ultimately, it can help lives to be saved.

How we transform health and social care to make these examples a reality is what brought me to a round table event in Portcullis House, hosted in partnership with the New Statesman, on the Future of Health and Social care. I was joined by politicians working on health care policy, health and social care IT experts, and transformation and ICT directors from several major NHS trusts. The event was particularly timely as it came just days after Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, launched a tech vision that aims to be the foundation for a new generation of digital services that will meet the needs of clinicians, patients and managers.

Attendees at the round table were clear that health and social care should not be considered as different challenges, but that barriers to sharing information have resulted in them working in silos. For patients, the inevitable result is fragmentation and disconnection. Technology in hospitals, GPs surgeries, community care facilities and care homes frequently doesn’t talk to each other and so a common platform – the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) – was welcomed as a vital first step to deeper collaboration across care providers. By providing common standards, the HSCN provides clarity to suppliers, supports interoperability, offers greater choice and encourages competition in the market which is essential to driving down costs. It also provides an opportunity for third-sector community organisations to play a role in a holistic care system.

The importance of strong leadership and partnership-working were recurring themes in the discussion with several attendees praising parts of the country which are already using connected care technology to successfully integrate health and social care. However, these were felt to be the exception and not the rule. There was broad consensus that to overcome this, connectivity partners must add value and establish trust with health and care providers to realise the benefits of technology. They need to build an in depth understanding of their customer, and patients’ needs, and support them in every step of their journey.

Technology has enormous potential to transform care, empower staff and patients, and put patients at the heart of what healthcare organisations do. Virgin Media Business has been a key player in the development of the HSCN, and so I left excited to work with our partners and customers to use our expertise to bring health and social care organisations together. We’ll be running a number of regional events to help organisations better define their needs and find ways we can help support their digital transformation. To find out more, please get in touch.

Originally posted here

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