Innovate or Die: How can the NHS deliver care in the digital age?

Blue Latitude Health | 16th June 2015

Image source: Flickr user comedynose

The National Health Service (NHS) has been under a great deal of scrutiny as of late; failing hospitals, increased wait times at A&E, and numerous scandals involving care homes have flooded the news. Most recently, the Conservative party’s plan for a “truly seven day NHS” has been met with criticism, as the £30 billion funding gap continues to act as an obstacle to the expansion of services.

The future of the NHS is uncertain, and the holistic vision of a fully integrated and interoperable system put forward in the Five Year Forward View document (an outline of the NHS’s strategy and direction for the service released in late 2014) hinges on digital transformation. However, the early deadlines laid out in the document have already been missed, and some innovative, life-saving technology and services are not available via the NHS.

For Blue Latitude Health, the discussion and speculation around the future of the NHS begs the question: what is the role of Pharma in facilitating the deployment of digital transformation? Senior Associate Consultant Angela Lopes has written a thought leadership piece for Blue Latitude Health to tackle this question, based on a piece of research conducted with David (Senior Associate Consultant) and James (Senior Consultant) from the Strategy team.

Current State of the NHS: Serious challenges ahead

The NHS has been in operation for 67 years, and has been delivering health and care based on their three core principles:

  1. The health and care services should meet the needs of everyone.
  2. Services should be free at the point of delivery.
  3. The NHS should be based on clinical need, and not ability to pay.

Digital innovation has already started to take root; 96% of GP services installed digital clinical record systems following the incentives introduced in the 1990s. However, there are significant challenges for the service to deal with, including a £30 billion funding gap and three health and care gaps the NHS identified in their Five Year Forward View.

The three gaps in health and care in the NHS as of October 2014

In their Five Year Forward View, the NHS identified three main gaps in health and care services that must be addressed:

  1. The health and well-being gap
  2. The funding and efficiency gap
  3. The care and quality gap

There is a strong case for the use of digital innovation to help close these gaps. That case is laid out in Personalised Health and Care 2020, which was released by the National Information Board at the end of 2014.

For example, the UK is currently ranked only 7th out of 11 industrialised countries (where primary care physicians can electronically exchange patient summaries and test results with other physicians outside of their practises) on data integration and mobility. If 85% of doctors are already receiving electronic prompts about patient prescriptions, and 96% of GPs have digital clinical record systems, we should be ranking much higher.

What is the role of Pharma and other organisations in this process?

There is an opportunity for Pharma and other organisations to get involved in the digital innovation and transformation happening in the NHS, particularly around developing services beyond the pill to improve patient outcomes.

For example, MSD’s patient monitoring service was provided to patients with heart failure and COPD in the Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group Closercare, contributing to a 50% reduction in admissions and 16-20% cost-saving.

However, the challenge facing pharma is significant when it comes to partnering effectively with the NHS. The lack of tools and capability to drive innovation, as well as the complicated structure of the NHS, creates a massive obstacle to implementing new services on a large scale.

Digging deeper and uncovering answers

To unpack some of this complexity and see what our detailed thoughts and recommendations are on the topic of digital innovation in the NHS, download the full thought leadership piece from our Strategy team below!  

**A version of this article previously appeared in Pharmaphorum.

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