What does levelling up actually mean? In the health and care context, the term means better services and better care for all. It ensures all communities can access the very best services. Also, it makes sure no individuals, or individual segments of the population are left behind.
The last couple of years has not made levelling up easy. Health and care providers have performed against the odds during a time of unprecedented demand. However, there is now an extra burden to an overstretched and under resourced workforce. With over 6 million people waiting for treatment, the NHS now faces its highest backlog on record. Halfway through last year, more than 300,000 people were estimated to have missed urgent cancer screenings in England alone.
Meanwhile, the full impact of COVID-19 is still unfolding. For example, according to research commissioned by NHS England, COVID-19 could trigger increased demand for mental health services, rising by 40 percent for adults and 60 percent for children and adolescents.
In recognition of the extra challenges caused by COVID-19, the NHS is spending £30 billion across England to clear the backlog of treatment. At the same time, the health service is working on the wider task at hand. This includes addressing systemic challenges and reform. As the NHS Confederation put it:
“The lesson from the 2000s is that only when far-reaching reforms were put in place – alongside the right level of resources – did services improve and waiting times fall.”
Rather than just plugging the gaps, the focus is now very much on improving long-term efficiency and effectiveness. This is exemplified by the goal to deliver 30 percent more elective activity by 2024-25.
There’s clearly a lot of work ahead, for both the NHS and wider social care. So how can ICS leaders, clinicians and provider organisations meet their ambitious targets and improve outcomes across the board. And specifically, how can they consistently level up the communities they serve?
Better data, better outcomes
Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) hold the promise of hyper-integrated health and care services. Underpinning this is partnerships, process innovations and data-driven decision making.
Collaboration is key. At Microsoft, we’re helping ICS organisations transition from the old, fragmented model towards truly joined-up care. By pooling data across health and care providers—and leveraging the power of predictive insights—ICSs can make more informed planning decisions that maximise the impact of their collective resources.
We help ICSs to invest where it matters most: empowering their workforce, improving outcomes and productivity. And all while reducing health and care inequalities.
Integrated data, integrated care
Enhanced data access will transform the roles of health and care professionals over the coming years. Data insights already enable provider organisations to maximise the efficiency of telehealth and digital telecare services. This ensures their services join up and are mutually reinforced. But that’s only the beginning.
Enhanced data access will also enable health and care professionals to shift their focus from reactive care towards pre-emptive and preventative solutions. Microsoft can help you create a 360 degree view of an individual’s care history. This can include key factors such as their housing needs and caring responsibilities. By making use of the latest in analytics and AI, we support ICSs to improve health and care outcomes for their whole population. That means redesigning care pathways to promote wellbeing, prevention and independence. For example, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is doing some great work in this area.
Unify your data, unify your workforce
Data sharing also fosters a ‘one workforce’ culture of collaboration which extends across the health and care spectrum. 90 percent of ICSs have already adopted a shared care record. They’re using their newfound connectivity to improve how primary, secondary, mental health, and social care work with each other. Additionally, they’re supporting local social and economic development. Rich data and analytics will help the different components of an ICS to work together. They can tackle health inequalities, prioritise at-risk population groups and deliver the best possible care to all.
In this way, data sharing will be a major contributor to creating healthier, happier communities. Microsoft can help ICSs work towards this brighter future while ensuring a ‘privacy-by-design’ approach that ensures the highest levels of data security and role-based access controls.
We’ve only scratched the surface
“The scale of the challenge cannot be underestimated. But neither can the potential rewards,” says Geraint Lewis, Director of Population Health at Microsoft. “Because of their focus on preventive care, and the impact they can have on the wider determinants of health, Integrated Care Systems are ideally poised to help their populations live longer, happier and healthier lives.”
Budgetary pressures will doubtless remain, but technology can help ensure that ICSs use their resources as efficiently and effectively as possible. Data is one of an ICS’s most valuable assets. However, many NHS organisations are only scratching at the surface of its true potential. At Microsoft, we can help your ICS access, connect and translate your population’s data. We’ll help you identify opportunities for improving the quality, equity and efficiency of care. Use this ‘opportunity analysis’ to shape your policies, empower your workforce, and to level up your providers and the communities they serve.
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About the author
Umang is a Chief Clinical Information Officer at Microsoft with a passion for ensuring that technology delivers its full potential and value in healthcare. He is also a practising NHS paediatrician and has a background working across multiple sectors covering both payors and providers. Umang was a foundational member of start-up Babylon Health which had a successful IPO in 2021 on the New York Stock Exchange. With Microsoft, Umang is helping shape the digital transformation in health across the UK which is aiming for better outcomes through seamless integration and innovation.