• Adrian Griffiths, Partner |
5 min read

Nowhere have the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic been more far-reaching than in healthcare. So, it was fitting that a breakout session at Our Digital Future should explore the future of the sector.

Joining me to discuss how the industry can deliver better experiences for patients and practitioners were:

  • Kelvyn Hipperson, Joint CIO, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Dr. Umang Patel, Director, NHS Services, Babylon
  • Graham McCauley, VP Pharma Technology and Manufacturing Excellence, GSK
  • Jo Thomson, Director, Customer Consulting, KPMG
  • Rob Vickers, Director, Healthcare Transformation, KPMG 

Beyond the pandemic

The industry’s response to the public health crisis showed just how quickly and effectively healthcare providers can adapt – even in the most challenging circumstances.

Now as we move into a post-pandemic world, the pressure is on to continue delivering what patients need today, while preparing for the demands of tomorrow.

Technology has been central to the sector’s response to COVID-19, and will be vital to improve patient experiences going forward. Healthcare providers must develop digital solutions that can underpin secure, scalable and cost-effective care.

So how can digital innovation be harnessed to achieve the patient outcomes of the future?  

Current and future tech

Kelvyn shared some insights from his Trust’s recent experiences of digital adoption.

He recalled how the early days of the pandemic drove an immediate need for two vital capabilities. Remote collaboration to coordinate the Trusts’ response; and virtual consultations so that patients could still receive treatment.

But rapidly deploying these risked leaving the Trusts with fragmentated IT systems. So a set of common solutions was quickly identified for use across the region.

Looking forward, Kelvyn and his team are considering how to reshape the Trusts’ ways of working, and identifying the underlying technology this will require.

For example, voice recognition software has been made available to clinicians to streamline the process of capturing notes from their consultations. These notes are planned to feed into a patient portal, which will automatically generate letters or electronic communications for patients as appropriate.

“That would give clinicians control over how and when they perform certain tasks, and patients control over how they receive information from us,” Kelvyn explained. 

Meeting expectations

Meanwhile, digital innovation is helping pharma businesses to stay ahead of growing expectations from patients, regulators and providers. “I can only see this accelerating,” Graham stressed.

He identified four technologies the sector is embracing as a result:

  • Digital twins and machine learning – to improve manufacturing capacity, yields and efficiency,
  • Virtual and augmented reality – to provide frontline support and training to production staff,
  • Internet of things – to monitor the condition of sensitive drugs as they move along the supply chain,
  • Big data – to enhance predictive capabilities, helping to prevent supply disruption.

Digital pathways

Babylon's mission is to digitally transform how patients use health services and interact with practitioners. I asked Umang what will be needed to drive adoption of the latest technologies at scale. 

The answer lies in what he calls ‘consumer-grade’ pathways: “We need to make the patient experience simple, and join up all parts of the journey.”

Research supports Umang’s view: 68% of healthcare leaders believe that having a patient-centric strategy will be a significant priority in the post-pandemic landscape.

“Technology has the potential to reshape care pathways, making them more consumer-focused,” he affirmed. Virtual consultations, for example, could be wrapped around with digital pre-appointment and post-appointment touchpoints.

Top priorities

Surveys suggest that during the pandemic, patients’ top three demands of providers have been speed of service, clarity of communication and availability of appointments.

This illustrates that how we implement change is just as important as what we change. So how can we transform care in a sustainable way?

Jo listed three top priorities for providers when using technology to transform care experiences:

  • Design. Start with patients, not technology. Capture their emotional experience of healthcare and consider how to personalise the journey for each one.
  • Inclusion. Don’t invest in technology that patients can’t or won’t engage with. Digital experiences must be designed to work for everyone.
  • Collaboration. Involve those delivering your services in the design process. That will ensure they have the tools to enable seamless patient experiences.

And from his work with healthcare clients, Rob laid out three important priorities providers should focus on to achieve the right patient outcomes in the future:

  • Acceptance. Leaders must recognise that they can no longer separate service delivery from technology. The care model of the future is digital.
  • Connectedness. Integrating technology and operational excellence will drive what KPMG calls the ‘Connected Enterprise’. It’s a paradigm shift the industry must get to grips with.
  • Agility. Five-year transformation programmes are no longer an option. Working in agile sprints will allow providers to deliver experiences in weeks.


Cross-sector learning

To finish the session, one of our attendees asked the panel what lessons healthcare can take from other industries.

“All sectors consider themselves unique,” said Kelvyn. “But really, they’re unique combinations of similar things. The key is to identify not just what is unique about healthcare, but also where the commonalities lie. Then exploit the wider learning opportunities that presents.

The pharma sector has learned from companies working in the fast-moving consumer goods sector and their supply chain management capabilities, Graham explained. “They’re a step ahead in their understanding of customers and supply chains, and in their ability to exploit data for that purpose.

“That’s why we’re looking for big data solutions to manage our supply chain end to end, to get medicines to the right place at the right time.”

Umang drew attention to the value of multi-disciplinary teams with experience from different sectors.

“Some of our leaders have come from tech giants like Google” he said. “They bring a valuable perspective on whether the capabilities our clinicians request are realistically scalable. And scalability is crucial if we want to transform care provision.”

Hear more from the panel in the on-demand recording, available here.