An Ageing Population

Can technology assist with the increasing demands on our health and care services

With constant advances in medical research, and a greater provision of healthcare options to patients, the UK faces an ever-ageing population. An obvious effect of this is the increasing number of patients with multiple long term conditions which require constant management as there is no cure. Conditions such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and COPD (to mention a few) are all deteriorating conditions which affect the livelihood of the patient.

It is no longer unusual to find more elderly patients with a number of these conditions, and management of these is a continuing issue. For some, the management becomes too onerous and a greater stress is then placed on the health and care systems of the country.

Inevitably, these conditions reduce the quality of life for many. It is, therefore, key for health and care providers to assist wherever possible. For example, a newly diagnosed diabetes patient has many issues to deal with – change of diet, new medication and monitoring regimes, ensuring suitability of the medication selected, new exercise regimes, and a general lowering of the quality of life. Having to test blood sugar levels several times a day can be difficult for those recently diagnosed, and capturing this data for better clinical decisions is often an area of failure.

In 2011, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NIHCE) reported that the cost of a single ambulance call out was averaged at £246 (National Institue for Health and Clincial Excellence (NIHCE), 2011). The National Institute for Health Research published further research in April 2016 outlining that the majority of 999 calls are from people with “complex and ongoing health problems experiencing a crisis.” (National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), 2016)

With the resources in the health and care systems continuing to be stretched, it is imperative that all providers work to reduce resource use. Can the health and care system use technological advances to assist with this dilemma?

In 2011, the UK Government reported the outcomes of the Whole Systems Demonstrator Programme (Department of Health, 2011). This clearly stated that with over three million people living with long term conditions, telehealth and telecare can benefit health and social care delivery in the UK. The Whole Systems Demonstrator Programme (WSDP) was the first major study which outlined how 6191 patients across 238 GP sites (all with a combination of diabetes, COPD and coronary heart disease) could be managed in a more efficient manner.

Examples of this include the use of intelligent devices to monitor healthcare indicators such as blood pressure, sugar levels, respiration and O2 saturation etc. Trips and falls monitors, connected alarm systems – including solutions for assisting with fake and unwanted callers at the door – and other connected systems all assist people with long term conditions to manage in their own homes. This reduces the burden on the care system.

The outcomes of the study showed that technology could assist in the management of these conditions, reducing costs to the health and care systems and increasing patient satisfaction. So why has the use of technology in such areas not been implemented?

Personally, I feel that this is a longer-term problem for the health and care ecosystem. With constant pressures on budgets, massively increasing demands on services, and many changes in central government requirements, CIOs are increasingly challenged.

Changes to the ecosystem – such as STPs – also reduce the likelihood of any such programmes being introduced. Health and local government partners need to work closer to align resources and view the needs of the patient in a more holistic manner.

At Strategic Discourse, our Patient and Citizen Centric models assist our customers with this understanding. By working with all partners in the ecosystem we develop solutions which can be implemented in a sustainable manner and which will lead to increased efficiencies and a greater level of patient satisfaction.

 

References

Department of Health. (2011, December 5th). Whole Systems Demonstrator Programme – Headline Findings December 2011. Retrieved May 1st, 2017, from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/215264/dh_131689.pdf

National Institue for Health and Clincial Excellence (NIHCE). (2011, November). NICE Clinical Guideance 133. Retrieved April 21st, 2017, from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg133/resources/costing-report-184853629

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). (2016, April). Care at the Scene. Retrieved April 28th, 2017, from https://www.dc.nihr.ac.uk/themed-reviews/Care%20at%20the%20scene%20final%20for%20web.pdf