Talking to each other – the answer to achieving the NHS Long Term Plan

Jon Elburn, product manager at specialist diabetes patient data devices Diamond and Twinkle, Hicom, explains how the organisation is working with other IT patient systems providers to achieve the NHS long-term goal of becoming paperless by 2024, and how this is improving patient care and allowing clinicians more time with patients.

The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) sets out a phased approach to support trusts in achieving industry-wide goals around improving performance, value and healthcare across the NHS. The LTP focuses on collaboration, integration and sets out a vision for a fully digitised NHS by 2024 that will require a cultural sea change. The LTP is helping all stakeholders keep focus and encouraging them to work together to unlock operational efficiencies and opportunities for better patient care.

When it comes to integration, trusts are getting IT systems talking to each other by working with a number of specialist systems that can easily interface with a hospital’s existing PAS and pathology systems. As a result, data from multiple sources is being consolidated and a single view of a patient’s record created. This is enabling multi-disciplinary clinical teams to access information whenever there is patient interaction. It’s no longer about the NHS having one big system, it’s about there being one source of information that can be shared on a departmental, trust, regional and national level.

Culturally, staff are seeing the impact different technology is having on transforming day-to-day practices. There is now widespread acceptance of the need to digitalise, and the adoption of technology continues to increase as the benefits are realised. Nurses and clinicians’ time is being freed up from monotonous recording processes by removing the need to manually enter data into systems from paper-based records. The better allocation and management of resources is allowing for more meaningful time being spent with patients, resulting in improvements in the delivery of patient care.

A recent study by the Taxpayers Alliance suggested that the equivalent of £12.5 billion a year in staff time could be saved by increased uptake of technological solutions. Digital solutions are particularly beneficial in diabetes care, with patients often interacting with different clinical teams for different treatments, including their GP, inpatient specialist nurses, dieticians as well as eye and foot specialists. High levels of NHS expenditure and rising levels of Type 2 Diabetes have made it an area of focus within the LTP. It is hoped that improving education and the integration of technology, data and automation, will result in cost reductions and, more importantly, improvements in patient care. Digital innovations also have the ability to give valuable insights and can alert community teams to visit patients before they are in crisis, allowing for potential health issues to be tackled early. The importance of technology will continue to grow with the rising number of diabetes patients in the UK.

There is also a big culture shift in how specialist suppliers are working together to provide advanced technology and systems to the NHS and ensure these are able to integrate with one another. The LTP can be viewed as a continuation in the shift in NHS thinking away from competition and towards collaboration. Suppliers, trusts and policymakers are becoming more closely aligned in their approach, putting their commercial differences aside, to come together to improve integrated care by enabling GPs and consultants to see the same patient data. INTEROpen, for example, is leading the way in forging these alliances. This will be welcome news for patients who have to deal with multiple clinical teams.

Whilst it may seem that there is a lot still to do in order to achieve the goals laid out in the LTP, there is much progress being made and this needs to continue and expand. Collaborative ways of working should be celebrated and shared so best practice can be built on. Trusts should lead the way and ensure they share their successes, learn from each other, and work closely with trusted partners to join up IT systems.


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