Society makes greater demands on healthcare all the time: demands that can only be satisfied through a wholesale transformation of how healthcare services are delivered.
Designed in the post-war world of the 1940s, the UK’s health system is struggling to get to grips with demographic changes and cultural shifts of the digital era.
- For one, the population is living longer. This is good news – and a testament to the success of our health system in improving longevity. But managing the health of older people puts strain on health resources and budgets: more than two fifths of total NHS spending goes to people aged 65 years or older as these citizens require more frequent and costly interventions, often for multiple conditions.
- Cultural changes are significant. People are changing how they access healthcare. Traditionally, the GP was the first port of call. Today, quite often it’s A&E: in just over a decade from 2003/2004, visits to A&E rose 35%2. And around half of recorded A&E visits are unnecessary – in the sense of resulting only in advice (37%) or no treatment (13%)3
- Furthermore, the sheer number of documents entering and leaving the Health profession combined with the resource constraints within the U.K will dictate that efficiency through technology becomes both paramount and inevitable.
- Finally, as services get busier, expectations are rising. Today’s ‘connected consumer’ is looking for personalised service and is accustomed to having their needs anticipated and quickly met. We want more from the GP surgery and A&E – but the ability of these overstretched services to satisfy our expectations is declining.
Together, these changes present a major challenge to UK healthcare providers, especially when combined with increasing budgetary pressures. But the very same technology that’s transforming people’s expectations also holds the key to transformation.
Power to the people
Digital technology and greater collaboration and information sharing can help healthcare providers meet and overcome the challenges of our age, ultimately offering the citizen better service and satisfaction. Today’s ’connected environment’ mean the citizen can access healthcare expertise without leaving their homes or workplaces. The potential is huge and ranges from the ability to participate in remote consultations to the use of mobile apps and IoT (Internet of Things) tools to monitor health and wellness indicators. All the time, more connected devices will become available, offering more opportunities to diagnose, monitor and treat conditions.
The net effect will be to transform the citizen’s relationship with healthcare providers, giving them more control and better experiences. For providers, this will mean more efficient use of resources as citizens are empowered to self-diagnose and select their best treatment option without a trip to A&E.
Moving the front door
At CGI, we use the term ‘moving the front door’ to describe using technology to empower people. Essentially, this means taking advantage of digital connectivity to give citizens access to expertise and reassurance where and when they need it.
Today the front door to healthcare is too often the busy A&E department or GP surgery. We’re moving that front door to their home, to make it faster and more straightforward for the citizen to find the right care for them.
‘Moving the front door’ is designed for citizens whose expectations have been shaped by digital, and a healthcare environment where resources are increasingly stretched. In the next blog, I will look at some of the specific ways we’re delivering this approach across the UK.
1 The Guardian and the Nuffield Trust, February 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/01/ageing-britain-two-fifths-nhs-budget-spent-over-65s
1 What’s Going On in A&E, The King’s Fund, March 2016. http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/urgent-emergency-care/urgent-and-emergency-care-mythbusters#increased
1 Most common first recorded treatments at A&E, Accident and Emergency Statistics, House of Commons Library, July 2015.