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.
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.
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.