Health Service Focus

06.10.16

We must act now so technology can help transform health and social care

Dr Michael Dixon OBE, GP, former chair of NHS Alliance and former president of NHS Clinical Commissioners, discusses the role of technology in health and social care.

 We talk plenty about re-organising health and social care and co-funding, but very little is done in practice. In the meantime, pressures from a growing ageing population and the number of people living with long-term conditions are rising. We know that there is very little financial relief coming any time soon, so we will only be able to meet these pressures through efficiencies and transformations in the way that we deliver care.  

Too often, health and social care professionals are slowed down by disjointed records and risky care can be the result. The impact of this goes far beyond financial cost and efficiencies, we are compromising patient care. The first step to combining health and social care must be in shared records. We cannot expect health and social care to become joined up if they do not speak the same digital language.  

I am involved in a cross-sector think tank, The Fourth Age of Care, which is spearheaded by everyLIFE Technologies whose professional advisory group I chair. The Fourth Age of Care seeks to explore the barriers and levers to adopting the right technologies at pace and scale. I believe this is essential if we are to transform care for people and deliver breakthrough efficiencies for those responsible for their care. The internet is the organising principle of the modern world but its potential is not being effectively harnessed to organise and support public services. This is especially true in social and healthcare, where bold intervention is required to address spiralling demand and dwindling investment.

The Fourth Age of Care is a vision of a connected world that is safer, more transparent, more inclusive and offers a more sustainable business model. It offers greater choice and control for people and their families. Getting there will not be without challenges, some technical, some cultural, and some just about having the time and headspace to imagine how things can change. 

How can we help deliver The Fourth Age of Care?

  1. Join the debate. That means everyone together, open and pragmatic discussions – public sector, private sector and the voluntary sector
  2. Provide impartial, high quality, individualised information about services to consumers of care. You can’t choose well when you don’t know what is on offer and all the information to make an educated decision
  3. Move to digital platforms for care planning and delivery. Connected care is shared, integrated care – and shared, integrated care requires shared data supported by cross sector digital technology
  4. Develop a common lexicon. Connected care requires all those involved in health and social care to speak the same language – one that puts the person in the centre
  5. Define a common dataset. What information is it that supports care planning and delivery that must be shared across a connected network?

We know we can make life so much better than it is now for those people caught up in the gap between health and social care. It will not be simple. The challenges of sharing information and agreeing standards across public, private and voluntary organisations are profound. But we must act now if we are to ensure that the health and social care sectors are strong enough to deliver the quality of care that people deserve.

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