Patient management in a digital world

Patient management in a digital world

It is well established that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital evolution of the NHS by years in a matter of weeks, resulting in unprecedented changes to the way it delivers patient care, and demonstrating what is possible when there is a true sense of urgency. But how has it influenced the way the NHS engages with, and manages, patients?

What has emerged out of this reimagination of service delivery is a radical change in patient engagement, which, though dramatic, has led to new ways of thinking and opened opportunities for the NHS to explore how patients may be managed in the long-term. There is a quest for proactive patient management as the NHS ultimately drives towards a fully integrated digital platform.

Dr Graham Mennie, GP at Cheltenham’s Sixways Clinic, says: “We’ve been using COVID-19 as an enabler, because I’m seeing the process of change which I’ve been pushing for, for years. Things that I’ve wanted to do that have taken three years are now taking three weeks.”

There is no doubt that progress has been made, but healthcare professionals (HCPs) are now faced with a dilemma as this new digital relationship is set to last: how to continue to deliver patient care and meet expectations as they become increasingly more involved in their own treatment, while navigating the historic hurdles of clinical system interoperability issues.

Clinical systems
Pharma has made great strides to adapt to the changing environment in which their NHS customers work, but what else can the industry do to support the changing needs of their customers?

Pharma has a real opportunity to help the NHS to develop clinical system solutions to support improvements in patient management. Better management of the patient journey, using the clinical systems and NHS processes, provides a platform for HCPs to make better-informed decisions, leading to improved outcomes in patient care, while supporting the NHS on their journey towards becoming a truly digital organisation.

When COVID-19 struck, face-to-face GP appointments shrunk by 33% between March and April 20201, and 99% of practices switched to ‘partial’ or ‘total triage’2, using remote consultation to assess patients before offering appointments to reduce risk, but also as one of the goals of The NHS Long Term Plan.

Dr Mennie says: “COVID-19 made an overnight change to the way that we consult, both in primary and secondary care. Patients initially access our surgery now via phone calls, video calls and e-consult. Everything initially is remote. We still, of course, see patients face-to-face when clinically appropriate and have been doing so since the start of the pandemic, despite media stories to the contrary.”

A 2020 BMA survey3 suggests 88% of GPs want remote consultations to stay, and from a patient perspective, 79%4 surveyed in a September 2020 study also want remote consultations in the future, with 90% saying they were happy with the care received.

In addition, 40% of respondents to an April 2020 poll by NHS England said they avoided contacting their GP practice for a face-to-face appointment due to concerns about adding to an already stretched NHS5. Diagnoses were consequently down in 2020. Analysis of GP records in a Salford study6 revealed diagnoses of conditions including cardiovascular issues and mental health problems last spring were 50% lower than was expected.

Pharma has made great strides to adapt to the changing environment in which their NHS customers work, but what else can the industry do to support the changing needs of their customers?

Ongoing management
Writing in The Lancet, first author of the research from the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, Richard Williams, said: ‘It is not unreasonable to assume this is also happening across the country […] There are going to be people […] who were just afraid, and not going to a healthcare setting for fear of catching coronavirus’.

While patient footfall has decreased throughout periods of lockdown, there still remains a large number of patients within an HCP’s caseload who require ongoing management, especially those with chronic conditions who may be at risk. This is where the true value of patient identification and mobilisation of care pathways come into their own – providing the NHS with the opportunity to reach out to those patients who need it most, as well as delivering pharma a chance to support the NHS in developing innovative healthcare solutions.

At Star OUTiCO Healthcare Solutions, we utilise the knowledge we gain from working in the NHS to develop solutions that enable HCPs in primary care to proactively manage at relevant touch points along the patient journey. Optimising the use of clinical systems and NHS processes, our solutions not only support HCPs to identify and manage patients within  the capacity they have available, but also enable them to make better-informed decisions, through the mobilisation of care pathways. 

Through the intelligent configuration of those clinical systems, Star OUTiCO’s Patient Identification & Management solutions allow HCPs to identify patients who may benefit from a review of their condition, their medication, or a referral to a specialist service. Where there is that requirement, we work with the NHS to ensure that the patient journey is seamless, using NHS processes and systems to underpin it.

This digital interaction to drive the patient journey is where clinical systems that are centred around patient identification and care pathways can support. Our solutions not only provide a platform for improved access to medicines and specialist services, but they also provide HCPs with the means to communicate with patients to drive adherence with their treatment and support patient education.

Dr Mennie says: “With our suppliers, we’re really looking for them to partner with us in the new ways that we work. We’re looking for remote self-management of patients, so we need our suppliers to think and work in a completely different way that reflects the journey that we’ve taken.”

The NHS are forging ahead in evolving how they use the systems available them to manage patients: how are you planning to evolve your relationship to join them on their journey, as we head towards a fully digital NHS?

[1] GP Appointment Publication, Sept 2020
[2] The impact of Covid-19 on the use of digital technology in the NHS, Nuffield Trust, Aug 2020
[3] ‘BMA Covid-19 tracker’, British Medical Association (2020)
[4] Patient Experience of Remote Consultations during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust
[6] Diagnosis of physical and mental health conditions in primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic: a retrospective cohort study, The Lancet.

Register your interest in the free webinar series from Star OUTiCO and Pf Media on demand; exploring the role that pharma can play in the NHS recovery, following Covid-19.

Star OUTiCO Healthcare Solutions offer a comprehensive range of solutions that leverage our clinical systems understanding, which include Intelligent Systems Insights Workshop & Consultancy, Patient Identification & Management, Care Pathways & Formularies Solutions and Transfer of Care. We are the long-term partner of choice for many in the market. For more information, visit www.‌