Health Technologies

What’s happening in digital and data across the North West? – htn

Last but not least, there’s Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS’s digital strategy, where five inter-connected themes are highlighted. ‘Creating the future’ is one such theme, along with integrating services, managing the system more effectively and empowering the frontline. These themes tie into an ICS’s overarching focus on empowering the person.

Creating the future means supporting people to innovate, the strategy clarifies, “creating space and time to tackle common problems and share good practice.” The ICS pledges to connect people with specialist resources, including the wider industry and academic partners, in order to drive transformation. The strategy also lays out their commitment to consider the potential of new technologies in future planning, to use the best available data to drive continuous improvement, and to “build a reputation for innovation in technology to attract the workforce of the future.”

With regards to integration, Lancashire and South Cumbria share plans to “adopt a unified approach, doing things at scale and building on what already works well. We will share data rather than duplicating it, to support care for individuals, neighbourhoods and the whole population whilst always respecting people’s right to privacy.” The ICS plans to continue developments around their shared care record, with focus on using data to predict and prevent disease, and also intend to access and process data as soon as it is recorded to ensure effective management of resources and support future planning.

Looking at managing the system more effectively, the ICS states its aim to “get the basics right to ensure our systems are universally capable and secure from cyber-attack.” They intend to have a single approach to information governance, and for component organisations to work together to reduce complexity, duplication and costs, “using our collective buying power to get the best value for tax payers.” Another key part of this work will see the ICS focus on standardisation and redesign of digital systems to release more time for care delivery and safety improvements.

On the topic of delivering care, Lancashire and South Cumbria’s strategy emphasises the need for staff to feel confident and enthusiastic when it comes to new digital solutions to help empower people to self-manage their health. Staff should be able to support people in doing this, and assist them in coordinating care and sharing experiences through the care record. The ICS notes that staff must be given time to innovate and develop their skills as part of this, in addition to ensuring access to the information necessary for them to do their jobs. Focus is also placed on data collection, with the strategy highlighting that it should be “a fundamental part” of a staff member’s role.

Finally, with regards to empowering the person, the ICS pledges people will be able to access and add to their own electronic health record; they will have access to good quality information to support their own decision-making; and when they need services and support, there will be a range of options available for them to access remotely from any location. The individual will also be able to use digital tools to help them make changes to their lifestyle and monitor the impact of those changes, and they will be confident that their data is stored securely and only shared when relevant and necessary.

Last year, HTN spoke with Professor Anthony Rowbottom, clinical director for Lancashire and South Cumbria’s pathology service. Anthony shared his thoughts on the future of the ICS: “Technology is going to be front and centre. We’re seeing it in the world around us through the use of applications, the use of wearables, et cetera, and I can only see that expanding.”

He added that data managing and reporting are also a “vital” focus area for ICSs. “Data is key. In our department, we gather around 80 million parts of data throughout the year – a significant proportion. Quite often we use it to look back retrospectively – to understand what’s happened to the service and how much money we’ve spent. We need to move from that retrospective performance analysis to a more prospective description, and towards information gathering around what the needs of the service are. Our aim is to leverage the combined information gathered from healthcare, social care and economics for patients. We know that all of those have a significant impact on outcomes, so I would really like us to get to a position where a clinician is sitting in front of a patient and they’re having an informed discussion about their care based on important, aggregated, real-time data.”

In addition to this, Anthony raised the importance of population health management. “Gathering and connecting data from across communities can make a huge impact,” he said. “Take, for example, areas like microbial resistance management. We use a lot of antibiotics across the ICS, but we don’t really have a heat-map of who is using what and where… so we’re not able to fully understand how we deploy particular antibiotics and what their reaction might be in particular communities.

“There’s also risk stratification – whilst we might all have similar DNA, we know that environmental factors imprint on outcome. By being able to use data to ‘drill down’ to an individual, perhaps by using their DNA sequence or mutational analysis, we may be able to create a risk stratification for that individual, which helps them to understand their disease, lifestyle and any environmental changes or potential treatments.”

On the topic of the ICS’s pathology services, last year we heard how a new Laboratory Information Management System was deployed across all NHS pathology services in Lancashire and South Cumbria. Anthony commented that the implementation “really takes us to the next level of technological advancement and will support our future aspirations for utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence.  It will also support the transition that we are planning to near-patient testing and future wearable technology.”

With regards to other digital projects and programmes from across the region, earlier this year Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Fylde Coast Medical Services announced that they were working alongside a remote monitoring tech supplier to implement a solution capable of providing a direct link between patients awaiting cardiac surgery and a team of clinicians. The aim of the initiative is to deliver a digitally-enabled cardiac surgical waiting list, in the hopes of reducing demand on primary and secondary care. The team will also be able to identify patients from the list who are deteriorating and offer earlier interventions if needed. Joe McGuigan, senior digital lead at the ICB, said: “Hopefully we can take the good practice and learning from this programme – which has been a real team effort – into other areas across Lancashire and South Cumbria, so care can be delivered in the most appropriate place for patients.”

Last year we also heard about chatbox technology being deployed across the region to help tackle elective care waiting lists, with the bot guiding patients through a series of questions to establish if their condition has changed, if they require treatment sooner, or if they no longer require an appointment.



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