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Healthcare

Patients belong at the centre of healthcare. To ensure this, the sector must become digitally enabled.
Richard Corbridge, CIO of Boots UK&I, discusses how digital platforms protect patient-centricity above all.

JULY 06  2021

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Today’s consumer is increasingly empowered; and we would be remiss to think that our healthcare patients should be different.

If healthcare organisations fail to meet new demands for digital innovation and patient-centricity, they will fade into the background of what is now a highly nuanced and competitive market. Now dictated by new expectations and a plethora of choice, health executives must align their infrastructures to reflect and anticipate both the market’s and patients’ demands. This is particularly true of the acute care and mental health sectors, which have experienced vast levels of transformation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to meet these more nuanced care demands, it is high time for acute care and mental health executives to challenge the status quo and take advantage of opportunities to innovate. They must embrace the market’s new ‘sink or swim’ mentality and invest in infrastructures that promote patient-centricity above all.

This can certainly be achieved through digital, technological and data-driven initiatives. As Boots UK&I’s Chief Information Officer Richard Corbridge states, healthcare is only beginning to ‘scratch the surface’ of what technology can offer. Richard, a true advocate and leader in innovation, has seen multiple organisations flourish in adopting next-generation digitisation. Under his guidance, multiple NHS Trusts and health governing bodies benefitted from his digitally-led strategies.

In order to survive beyond post-pandemic recovery, Richard recommends that we must invest in innovation in a ‘more meaningful way’ – a way that allows organisations to be true partners in achieving patient autonomy and centricity.

 

Patient-Centricity: Preference Over Precedence?

The need for patient participation in health care decision making is now abundantly clear.

Patient participation in health decision making is certainly not a new topic of discussion within the industry. However, given the current global climate and the emergence of new health technology platforms, conversations on the topic have re-emerged with new vigour and necessity.

Due to changes in circumstances, acute care and mental health patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic were tasked with taking on a more significant role in their own care. To address the operational challenges posed by the global health crisis, organisations enhanced remote patient access pathways, multi-faceted information systems and digital care tools. As a result, patients in these care pathways became equal partners in decision making, an opportunity that many actively relished and enjoyed. In tandem with technological advances and policy, this change of attitude remains today; and continues to influence patients in terms of their preferences in health service and care delivery.

The emergence of sophisticated mobile technologies, platforms and wearables have opened new avenues for more personalised care. As a result, acute care and mental health patients now elect to take a more active stake in their health journeys – the consequence of a ‘cultural change’ that pre-dates the pandemic, according to Richard Corbridge:

‘Technology has been the answer to the problem for so long, I’ve been involved in tech in health for over 20 years, and yet in reality we are now just starting to really scratch the surface in a meaningful way. What is interesting though is that it took a cultural change to really be the catalyst for the bigger change we have always thought was coming.’

 

 

COVID-19: Case and Point for Digitally Enabled Patient-Centricity

From a healthcare providers perspective, Richard adds that this change precipitated more than just ‘acceptance’, but a tangible ‘reliance on technology to administer and receive health, care and wellness’. This was made apparent during the early phases of the pandemic, when overwhelmed health systems struggled to meet unprecedented demand on all services; particularly on mental health and acute care.

In many respects, the current health backlog that Trusts across the United Kingdom now face is a legacy outcome of digitally nascent infrastructures. Resistance to digital transformation, stemming from various factors such as historical norms, tech-aversion and privacy concerns, precluded much-needed change across the entire sector. Now facing escalating cost, pressure on services and demand, it is evident that traditional healthcare model is unable to sustain long-standing processes without additional support.

Thus far, healthcare has attempted to address these challenges by implementing new business models that hinge on technology. However, the uptake of truly transformational working models has been few and far between, causing dissatisfaction across acute care and mental health patient groups.

Many organisations now acknowledge the need to engage more effectively with patients throughout the entire health continuum. As per COVID-19 pandemic learnings, organisations now see the value of digital tools that promote continuous patient communication at each point in the healthcare value chain. Without the appropriate technologies and digital tools, some organisations struggled to navigate the ‘needs’ and ‘complexity of the customer of health’ – a challenge Richard believes will persist if healthcare fails to adopt omni-channel approaches to delivery.

‘Still missing is the ability for the patient to sit at the centre of their care. Huge improvement has been made in ‘point solutions’ that deliver sporadic and disparate care, but the patient still can’t sit easily at the centre of their information and see how their care is going to be delivered’

 

Boots UK&I: Leading by Example

Richard’s emphasis on ‘omni-channel’ and patient-centric care at Boots has allowed the organisation to truly ‘put [their] patients at the centre of their needs’. Richard adds that by ‘allowing [patients], with informed choice to decide how, when, where and what care they want to receive’, Boots has set a veritable example of what optimal and patient-preferred care delivery looks like.

‘The new partnership with Lemon Aid at Boots allows us to offer a wealth of healthcare services that can be delivered to the customer/patients door, can be accessed online and can be obtained in store, the choice being with the patient. For me this is where care needs to get to, a width of solutions that the patient decides on, solutions that enable them to stay out of hospitals and GP surgeries, solutions that allow them to stay well (or at least better) rather than becoming part of the sickness system’

As we continue to learn from the way we have delivered care during the pandemic, it is critical that acute and mental health sectors persist in offering new avenues for health provision. According to Richard, the implementation of ‘virtual care [options], data-based diagnosis’ as well as information systems that ‘facilitate self-care’ will continue to drive success.

‘It feels to me that the NHS can only survive as a service available to everyone, free at the point of care if we continue to head down these roads. It feels like the wave of unmet need facing every NHS organisation needs to be considered a societal problem that things like High Street Healthcare provided in a democratised way is key to seeing the NHS continue in the way that the UK population needs it to.’

The Future of Acute and Mental Health Care is Digital

Innovative digital and data-driven technology will enable further patient-centric development across healthcare. By making effective use of various technologies, patients can expect truly personalised and contextualised approaches to their own health journeys.

Through strategies driven by real-time insights, health organisations will certainly be able to do more to engage with patients. To actualise a truly connected and collaborative healthcare system, executives will need to learn how to leverage the correct technologies and insights to promote patient-centricity and improved outcomes.

 

Join Richard Corbridge at ‘The Acute Care & Mental Health Recovery Summit: Turning Innovation into Action’, to learn how you and your organisation can use predictive insights to transform healthcare delivery.

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