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ICS talks gather pace — but what role will data play?

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Our CEO Jon Pickering was invited to a prestigious breakfast briefing in London, this week, courtesy of the progressive team at Public Policy Projects. The event — held at the E&Y offices in Westminster — offered a unique opportunity to discuss the role that Integrated Care Systems are playing in the radical transformation of the NHS. And joined by guest speaker, the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, delegates were not disappointed. Here are just some of his takeaways from the event…

In the eyes of many, a senior role in the UK’s health and social care sectors is not an enviable position to have right now, given the multitude of challenges facing the NHS. But — acknowledging the need for continued change — a number of people from the NHS eco-system gathered at the first PPP breakfast in Westminster this week, to spark progressive discussion surrounding the best possible pathways forward. 

It was a privilege to be invited to such a well-organised event, and former Secretary of State for Health — the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt — was a fitting speaker. Having played a critical role in the Government’s ICS review, she definitely had the attention of everyone in the room when she elaborated on the prioritisation of preventative care, and I think everyone was in agreement that this must be the focal point as we look to the future of both the NHS and the health of society. It was also encouraging to see that the subject of Integrated Care Systems appears to transcend party politics — given the magnitude of the challenge to be tackled, it’s surely important to ensure a coherent and committed approach, whoever is in power.

However, as we delved into the topic of data — and the role that data-driven insights will play in improving patient outcomes — I couldn’t help but wonder if a fundamental point was being overlooked. Yes, innovations like AI and machine learning are advancing at pace, which opens up a wealth of preventative care potential, in theory. However, you can only mine the data you have. And if millions of historic paper-based patient records are currently filed in vast storage libraries — instead of residing on an intuitive electronic system — the NHS will merely find itself gathering dust, not intel. 

So while nobody in their right mind would dispute the importance of Trusts working together within an ICS, they surely need to be able to work with a complete picture of a patient’s information, if they’re to truly collaborate and drive change. 

Admittedly, the digitisation of billions of medical images and case notes is a challenge of indescribable proportions — one Mizaic is certainly working hard to address, with our EDMS, MediViewer. And we probably can’t tackle it alone. It requires the support and commitment of the wider digital supply chain — collaboration between technology partners for the ‘greater good’ — and relevant funding would certainly accelerate the step-change. However, we acknowledge that until we arm clinicians with the patient data they need, they risk always being held back — they’ll never understand the full patient episode otherwise.

I cannot stress enough that I fully support the need for us to advance our ICS thinking — this is critical to the transformation of the NHS, and it’s what we all want to see and hear. But you wouldn’t build a house without robust foundations, however exciting and inspirational its future potential. The construct of Integrated Care Systems is no different. We have to get the basics right if we’re to reap the benefits that we are all so hungry for. 

To discuss the content of this blog, please don’t hesitate to contact us. If you’re interested in seeing what an EDMS could achieve for your NHS Trust, why not request a demo, or talk to us about the beginnings of an economic case, to build your funding application.

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