The private sector – hidden heroes in healthcare transformation

Widening access to services. Improving patient outcomes. Maximising productivity and efficiency for staff.

These are just some of the ways the private sector can help transform our public services – especially the NHS. Facing demographic change, budgetary restraints and the current COVID-19 crisis, health bosses are exploring how they can deliver care in a way that overcomes these challenges.  

This is likely to involve a shift from a traditional approach – where hospitals and GP practices are the first port of call for the unwell – to patient self-management, whereby medical specialists only intervene in the event of a crisis and people use online resources to manage their own conditions. But this is only achievable through skills, innovation and collaboration. 

That’s where the private sector comes into the picture. SMEs working alongside larger enterprises, they can help the NHS deliver integrated and connected care that meets the needs of people today, as well as future generations. 

Breaking down barriers through innovation 

The NHS has ambitious targets to meet. It wants to provide 70,000 more children with access to evidence-based mental healthcare interventions in the form of online portals, apps and connected devices. Much of this will be delivered through Integrated Care Partnerships – joining up health and social care services to alleviate pressure on hospitals and GP practices.

But while two thirds of NHS and health organisations have started on their integration journey, barriers to success remain. These include incompatible technology and legacy infrastructure – both identified as major obstacles by a majority of health workers (86% and 79% respectively – Source: IGov). Without overcoming these issues, it won’t be possible to achieve integration between different services.

SMEs can help solve this through cutting-edge innovation. Infinity Health, a secure collaboration and task management platform, is already transforming NHS workflows from paper-based processes for patient transfers, facilitating seamless knowledge sharing between different departments. Operational teams can now optimise activity on the ground – getting patients transferred to the right areas in a much faster way. 

Of course, large enterprises have a key role to play, too, in offering skills and driving these positive outcomes – supplying new infrastructure to support accelerated patient transfer systems. Having a diverse partner ecosystem, with a range of skill sets to choose from, is vital.

The skills needed to save lives  

To meet the challenges of an ageing population, the NHS needs to enable patient-self management. Promisingly, our research showed that there is a huge amount of enthusiasm for the idea, with nearly six in 10 health workers (58%) feeling it would be beneficial.

But skills gaps within the NHS mean there isn’t always the expertise available needed to deliver the connected innovations that are going to make this new ecosystem a reality.

Again, SMEs and large enterprises often possess the medical and technical knowledge necessary to make a difference. Diabetes Digital Media is an evidence-based, personalised app improving the health of diabetics, while Birdie is a digital product using machine learning to deliver better preventative care for the elderly.

By supplying a combination of medical knowledge and technical knowhow – supplementing what is already within the NHS – the private sector can play a crucial role in making connected healthcare a reality. Of course, telehealth and self-management are only going to become more important in the months that follow as the country deals with the COVID-19 crisis.  

Martin McFadyen is Head of Public Sector at Virgin Media Business

 

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