By Zillah Moore, Director at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses the role of technology in impacting public health and enabling the UK to become a global leader in public health management.
Health and care services in England are in urgent need of reform. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, an ageing population and the impact of austerity meant the pressures on our systems were close to breaking point.
The pandemic continues to have an extraordinary impact on our health and social care services, and public health. These effects will last long after the effects of the pandemic have subsided.
The investment in and deployment of technology is crucial to enable the NHS and social care to build on current digital-enabled transformation, support better public health management, and enable the UK to become a global leader in public health.
Covid-19 and digitisation
Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of health and social care, and highlighted the positive impact that this can have on public health.
There is now an increasing acceptance and perceived usefulness by the public of the role technology plays in service provision and the management of our health. Whether it’s the use of virtual care platforms, remote monitoring solutions, communication tools, digital apps or sophisticated data platforms, our services are entering a new phase of digital maturity.
The pandemic has exposed several challenges and flaws but none more pressing than widening health inequalities. An increasing effort is needed to ensure the widening gap is reduced. Intelligent use of actionable data and personalised services will give patients and service users the chance to be offered solutions that will be more accessible and convenient to them.
Smart solutions and technology enabled care (TECS) help to protect the safety of individuals, especially where people are particularly frail or at risk of falls. The use of technology can provide 24 hour reassurance and enables care service providers to deliver care safely and efficiently.
Clinicians benefit from securing improved access to patients in their homes through remote patient monitoring (RPM), providing holistic and real time patient insight. This enables preventative care as stakeholders are better placed to monitor vulnerable individuals, identifying potentially adverse events quickly, mitigating their effects and preventing the need for more complex interventions. This not only reduces the pressure on our health and social care systems, but it also reduces costs for care providers and the public.
The benefits of TECS
The TEC Services Association conducted an evaluation across 39 councils which identified average annual savings of £1,163 gross/£890 net per TECs user1. This was typically split 70 percent cost avoidance and 30 percent cashable savings1. Clearly, there are significant cost benefits to investing in such technology, both in the short and longer term.
Many people want to continue living independently and safely for as long as possible, with the reassurance that care and support will be provided when needed. Technology is widely seen as a way to address this challenge, enabling the provision of high quality care to an ageing and post-pandemic population.
RPM in practice
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group invested in remote patient monitoring, combined with multi disciplinary teams, for 34 of the area’s care homes to protect residents, staff and clinicians during and beyond the COVID crisis.
Where care staff have concerns about the health of a resident they can use a tablet to record their vital signs and help them to answer questions about their health and symptoms.
The remote monitoring approach has supported the Trust and CCG during the pandemic, but will enable the provision of more proactive care over the longer term, as early intervention avoids the need for more complex care and improves outcomes, reducing pressure on primary and secondary care services.
Building on the technological progress made during COVID-19 will give more people the freedom to live where they choose, and ensure much-needed medical and social care resources are channelled to the areas that need them most.
A healthcare system fit for the 21st century must have digital innovation at its core. As innovative technology continues to transform every aspect of modern life, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the impact this is having on population health and wellbeing. Where it has not already done so, digitisation is set to touch every corner of health and social care, and open new frontiers for practice.
If digital is to be placed at the heart of service transformation, patients must be engaged with services through access to their own health data and the digital tools to drive their own care. By empowering patients to be co-creators of their own health, they can be reframed as informed decision makers as opposed to passive recipients of care. Citizens must, therefore, be engaged with the development of new forms of digital- and data-enabled healthcare.
To drive the vision for a highly personalised care model to allow more older and vulnerable people to live independently for longer, Tunstall is now on track to deliver a new intelligent care service called Cognitive Care. This service uses advanced AI to detect whether someone’s health could be about to deteriorate, spot a potentially undiagnosed condition, or to help them resolve an immediate social care need.
Taking data from multiple sources, including motion sensors, smartphones, wearables and recordings,it will provide a clear picture of the risks someone faces and ‘nudge’ them or their caregivers to respond, or alert a professional.
Cognitive Care is the next step in the evolution of Tunstall’s predictive care technology, which uses data from at-home monitoring devices to spot worrying changes in behaviour and suggest the most appropriate course of action It is designed to improve quality of life for more people, while reducing the number of GP visits, ambulance callouts, hospital admissions and demand for local authority-funded residential care.
The UK health and care system finds itself at an opportune moment to capitalise on digital progress that will likely never again accelerate so quickly. It’s time for the sector to continue what it has begun over the past year and fully commit to a healthy future with digital reform at its core.
For more information on available technology and how it can impact public health, please visit www.tunstall.co.uk.