The UK is on the edge of a revolution in the way healthcare is provided. The imperative for radical change is being created by higher personal expectations of care and increased lifespan of patients with long-term chronic conditions. This is coupled with spiralling costs paid for by a shrinking workforce and financial pressures at a government level.
In as little as five to ten years, we will see the default care setting shift to the home; specialist clinicians will consult with patients from behind their office desktops, communicating with mobile units situated at the point of care.
Changing the balance of power
Technology is central to the change and will enable the patient to become the informed decision maker and commissioner of a personalised healthcare system.
in just ten years, internet banking empowered 22 million adults to take control of their everyday financial transactions (1). In the same way, we could see people in the near future commissioning their own healthcare.
Capitalising on connectedness
It is possible to imagine the NHS having a fully joined up information system embracing active therapeutic devices, passive monitoring devices and telecommunications, working smoothly across all care settings. This would be underpinned by accurate personal information, safely accessed by those who need it, when it was needed, where it was needed. Routine monitoring of patients with long-term conditions in the home would be the norm, with data being collected or downloaded automatically to a computer hub interfacing with the care systems.
This would significantly reduce the need for clinicians to monitor interventions as well as help early detection and treatment – both achieving increased performance and reducing costs. The need for specialists to be at the bedside of patients experiencing a crisis to administer immediate care could be transformed by virtual access from a remote monitoring device.
The specialist could talk the emergency services through the diagnosis and actions, significantly reducing the need for hospital beds, ambulance transport and geriatric hospital wards and improving the speed and quality of care for the patient. The technology is already available today to make this possible and there are suppliers and service providers willing to embrace this approach.
Harnessing the power of the collective voice
From internet searches to television documentaries, specialist health information is increasingly available to everyone instantaneously on the home computer. The individual can be more informed and educated about their own health than ever before. Sites supporting patients with long-term conditions such as Diabetes UK are leveraging the web to great effect.
Over 70,000 people have completed an online ‘Diabetes Risk Score’ to identify those at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and in excess of 20,000 people have now signed up to the Diabetes UK social networking page on Facebook. So there is a clear unrealised potential to harness the voice of the patient/carer and support a transition from passive recipients of information into partners, developing new methods of commissioning and co-designing telehealth solutions.
New approaches from the provider and supplier market
While technology suppliers have recognised the vast opportunities they have in the healthcare market, they will need to develop the new range of products tailored to integrate care equipment into the home. Forward-thinking suppliers will be already starting to build a direct consumer brand and selling direct to the new patient commissioner of the future.
There will be a new market in high volume, low cost products for use in the home by non clinicians – be it self-dispensing injectors, home testing kits or monitors. Why would the empowered patient want to go to the inconvenience of travelling to have medication administered?
However, there is a complex legacy of care provider infrastructure, established professional groups, payment systems and regulation, which all tend to reinforce the traditional approaches to delivering care. Technology has the potential to break down these barriers and trigger real empowerment of patients so they can take their place at the heart of the health systems as informed decision makers and commissioners.
To find out how PA can help you in delivering healthcare in the future, please contact us now.
(1) The first UK internet banking service was launched in 1999 (Egg Financial Services) and by the middle of 2009 (according to the UK Payments Administration Ltd) over 50% of internet users bank online (22 million of the 41.4 million internet users).