Industry voice: NHS England has outlined a demanding vision for out of hours and urgent care, but the technology is already available to make it achievable
Healthcare organisations face a tough challenge in meeting NHS England's vision for out of hours and urgent healthcare. They have to support a fundamental shift towards delivering more care closer to home rather than in hospitals, and this is going to impose some stiff tests on the supporting technology.
The vision outlined in the Commissioning Standards for Integrated Urgent Care report, published last September, implies a number of priorities in choosing the technology. First is to provide multi-channel access – phone, video link, email, web chat or text messages – through a single point.
Next is the ability to recognise the patient and give the clinician or call handler a full picture of their health, with access to summary care records and special patient notes.
Then comes the need for a clinical decision support system (CDS) to support the triage process. This can now include smart algorithms to analyse a patient's records and suggest appropriate questions, provide risk alerts of problems and guidance on what to do next.
The technology has advanced to the point at which it can make quick connections between symptoms and a patient's history, helping the call handler to take the right steps for the individual patient. For example, a person with leg pain whose records show alcohol and weight problems could be questioned on their cardiovascular condition.
Knowing how to advise a patient to look after themselves – with over-the-counter medication or simple exercises – or where to refer them locally for care is also important. Again the CDS has a vital role in matching the patient with the most appropriate local service, and the potential grows when it can be used as a virtual clinical hub. This could provide access to a range of specialist healthcare professionals, and support a smooth transfer of the patient to ensure their needs are resolved quickly.
In addition, the system should be able to monitor the patient's progress, record the stages of care and provide alerts when the process goes off track. And it should be able to provide anonymised data that enables organisations to assess performance on urgent care and identify where improvements could be made.
It is an exciting vision, and the technology is already available to make it achievable. A collaboration between Microsoft and Capita has used Microsoft Dynamics customer relationship management as the basis for the Salus care management system, which provides all the necessary capabilities. These include multi-channel contact; a secure patient record; integration with other healthcare provider systems; clinical decision support; and performance monitoring and analytics.
All the features can be tailored to locally available services, providing a highly responsive service for patients who need urgent care, as conveniently and close to home as possible. It can also help organisations to cut out waste, save on costs, obtain data used in long term planning and shift more healthcare into the community.
It makes reality from NHS England's vision for out of hours and urgent healthcare.
You can explore the full potential of the Microsoft and Capita capabilities in integrated urgent care at two seminars, taking place at:
Manchester (Old Trafford Football Stadium), 09:30-13:30, Wednesday 27th April
Reading (Microsoft Offices), 09:30-13:30, Thursday 28th April
The events will cover the concepts and reality of the new approach, using technology that is already available, and include a presentation from an NHS client that has created savings of more than £250,000 per annum.
Places are limited. For more information and to register, please click here.