Guest blog: Mike Farrar - How end-to-end digitalised systems can deliver a swifter, and sustainable, NHS recovery and better COVID-19 management

Guest blog written by Mike Farrar, outlining the importance of end-to-end digitalised systems within the NHS.

The importance of patient flow management and the need for versatile service options - How end-to-end digitalised systems can deliver a swifter, and sustainable, NHS recovery and better COVID-19 management

It is undeniably true that the NHS is faced with the toughest challenge in its 72 year old history as it attempts to:

  • prepare for a second wave of COVID-19 cases
  • recover its services to support those waiting longer with non COVID-19 problems such as cancer, CVD and mental health problems
  • protect and support its outstanding but beleaguered workforce
  • apply new approaches to care including the transformation to digitalised care and virtual services
  • deliver all of these on top of rising demand exceeding available resources.

Faced with this, NHS leaders could be forgiven for thinking that its task is near impossible and yet these are the ‘sink or swim’ moments that can provide the opportunity to make real step changes in how the NHS and care system delivers its services and improves its outcomes and efficiency.

One such opportunity is to examine the current NHS approach to ‘patient flow’ and to revisit the art of the possible. Up and down the country people are looking at individual elements of the care pathway and trying to use digital and remote techniques to change the patient experience and manage access to care. In their own right, each has value but the real prize is to create an integrated system for managing all these elements together with an underlying connecting platform that offers an end to end, and blended, patient flow management system – blended as in managing virtual patients and those presenting at the hospital, physically, on the same managed platform.

Such a system would embrace 7 key areas of the patient journey:

  • identifying and allowing choice for patients of telephone, video or face to face consultations scheduling of clinics to optimise the deployment of clinical staff, avoiding DNAs and reassuring the patients on safe care
  • booking, registration and check-in for appointments on-line, where necessary for outpatient, diagnostic or elective care to avoid unnecessary time on site in healthcare facilities
  • access to diagnostic tests and assessments either on-line or with targeted appointments
  • management of the patient journey through inpatient care, allowing for as much of the preparation as possible to be done remotely, for example pre-operative assessments, and for tracking capacity and resources to match need
  • management of discharge to speed return to home, or next step facilities
  • remote management of follow up actions and reviews
  • remote monitoring and early warning of deterioration for those people managing known chronic conditions

The great value of such a system, both in the current climate and beyond, would be to allow patients to access care safely even if they have current fears of attending due to COVID-19.

Equally, by reducing wasted capacity and improving the efficiency of patient flow, it would completely enhance NHS Trusts’ ability to get their activity levels back up to the target levels and avoid financial penalty.

This would, at the same time, generate accurate data and record transfer to cover not only the patient clinical journey but also data to support planning, scheduling and targeting of services to allow the best use of our resources in the future.

It may sound far-fetched to believe that this is possible when the current market is dominated by niche providers offering the individual elements or the big EPR systems that have their core and DNA built around in-patient care but little by way of ‘best in class functionality’ for the whole pathway. The way forward has to be the recognition of an eco-system of relevant suppliers and commercial partners who are best of breed and have a proven track record in their field.

The direction of travel is clear and some innovative systems suppliers, such as Intouch with Health, are moving swiftly to being able to offer this. What it needs however, is for the buyers to understand the art of the possible, avoid piece meal procurement of the elements and to specify to suppliers the requirement to deliver an integrated platform that will genuinely transform services and allow the NHS to meet its challenges. By way of supplier example, Intouch with Health has proven that it is able to be the conduit or the hub to pull all of the required suppliers and solutions together – see the link at the end of this ‘Blog’.

We have a great opportunity within our grasp. The NHS is a fantastic organisation and we have a duty of care ourselves to ensure its positive development. We do not want to be the generation that is accused of perpetuating the NHS historic propensity for creating fragmented services and disconnected care.

Find out more about Intouch with Health's eco-system of partners.

An introduction to Mike Farrar

Mike Farrar is an experienced and well-respected Chief Executive having worked with organisations that include the NHS Confederation and the Northwest and West Yorkshire Strategic Health Authorities. Mike has run his own business nationally and internationally for over 8 years supporting Boards, Leaders, and Systems; along with large and small corporates providing services to the NHS.

Recently, Mike went back into the NHS to offer free full-time support to Kings College Hospital, London as Acting Deputy CEO during the COVID-19 crisis and recovery planning phase.

How end-to-end digitalised systems can deliver a swifter NHS recovery