Fiona Kirk: A huge challenge across the whole health ecosystem is trying to break down the silos, so data and insight can flow freely through primary, secondary, community and social care with ease. Technology can allow services to work in more integrated ways, but systems need to talk to each other – and suppliers of health tech need to open to that happening. Collaboration and interoperability really are key.
Sophie Evans: Digitisation of health and social care needs to be consistent. There are many examples of university hospitals being fully digitised but then just 5 miles away a smaller community-based hospital is still working from paper-based systems.
The whole system from primary care through to long-term care needs to be joined up – regardless of Trust or location. We can’t have a care system where people in rural locations don’t receive the same standards as those living in the cities.
Janine Thomas: Getting patients into hospital beds can only happen if those beds are empty. Being able to share quality data with social care means they can anticipate what service users will need, fewer patients will fall through the cracks in the system and in the long run, this will enable primary care providers to plan more strategically.
Monitoring the elderly at home is currently a high-profile priority for Government, but it’s not possible unless proper provision and assessment of need is in place. Digitally enabled teams around cohorts of elderly patients, who can perform proactive reviews based on wearable data, might ease the burden of hospital admissions. Using wearables to monitor the risk of falls in the home or patient movement to prevent pressure damage will be crucially important in this.
I also think that there should be more emphasis on digital communication with social workers in this arena, for example, monitoring the temperature of a person’s home and any changes in circumstance that need social worker input. Essentially anything that improves the timely provision of care improves the chances of keeping people – especially those with long-term conditions – out of hospital.
Phil Stuart-Douek: The biggest challenge facing health and social care is resource. The NHS’s remit is widening almost daily, while recruitment and retention of almost every role within health and social care is falling. Technology can’t replace people, but it can make their lives easier.
Having technology that streamlines the workflow and provides patient insight and data to the clinicians at the point of care is vital. This improved accessibility of data can encourage greater collaboration across multidisciplinary teams.