By Stephen Pattrick, CEO and co-founder of Newcross Healthcare (www.newcrosshealthcare.com)
No matter how excellent the care received, when a person enters a healthcare facility, their primary aims are to become well again and to return home. But across the country 13,000 hospital beds are occupied by people who are declared well enough to go home but can’t leave because of staff shortages and administrative issues across the system. The covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the unsustainability and impractically of traditional health care more than ever before. The approach to modernisation needs to be delivered through co-ordinated action across the whole health and care system. Technology is a key enabler for change. While technology should never replace the human touch, it can enhance people’s lives and transform the way that we provide care and treatment. When embedded seamlessly into care services, technology can help people to live happy, and fulfilled lives in the comfort of their homes and communities. By incorporating technology into our routine healthcare system, we can increase efficiency in treatment and diagnosis by giving care workers the ability to focus on the main task at hand – care.
A recent study commissioned by Newcross Healthcare and carried out by YouGov, emphasises a strong appetite for care to move out of hospitals into people’s homes. Three quarters (78%) of the public would prefer to receive care in their home over a care facility.
We’re also seeing a boom in wearable technology and a change in the way that people look after themselves, with one in three of the UK population already using smart watches or health-tracker devices. These often penny-sized devices can help to manage health conditions 24/7 such as diabetes, with a quick scan giving you all the data you need at your fingertips. To provide enhanced healthcare services in homes, requires an investment in technological infrastructure that enables all professionals delivering care to access relevant data. Our survey found that 85% of the public would be willing to have their own home modified if it meant they did not have to be cared for in a hospital, and 85% would be willing to use technology if it made healthcare more accessible.
Technology opens the door to a future where people no longer need to live their lives around medical treatments like, dialysis, so that patients can focus on simply living their lives. These views are backed up by the majority of care workers, with (52%) of those surveyed stating that they believe home care is more effective than hospital care. With AI’s huge potential to identify disease patterns through machine learning and to provide more in-depth and accurate insights, there is new hope in effectively preventing illnesses through early diagnosis.
Mobile apps are also helping to alleviate some of the burden on health care systems, by boosting a patient’s ability to live better with long term illness and providing tools for logging disease-related data.
For those who receive care for multiple conditions, this currently means using multiple apps, which is where the sector would benefit from a unified approach through a single programme that is secure and promotes empowerment.
In the US, a study has found that two thirds of outpatient appointments could be carried out in people’s homes. The American healthcare system is transforming its care delivery model with the aim of increasing accessibility to healthcare as well as improving health outcomes. It is imperative that the government and health professionals in the UK also develop innovative interventions that promote preventative health, and improve outcomes across the country, especially among communities disenfranchised from traditional healthcare.
There were more than 122 million outpatient appointments in 2021-22, with two-thirds of these being follow-up appointments. 7.8 million people didn’t attend their appointments, with anxiety and financial/societal pressures being some of thereasons. Procedures at home, such as blood tests, could be more comforting to anindividual and reduce strain on NHS which would lead to better clinical outcomes.
After all, it’s people that cure people, not hospitals, and so the way in which we utilise medical settings needs to reflect this. From introducing local clinics and more treatment and care at home, to preventative health screenings in the workplace, we can provide care that responds dynamically to communities’ evolving needs through leveraging existing data and assets. With a record number of patients ready to leave hospital, if there’s one part of the economy which is ripe for digital transformation – it’s the healthcare sector.