Innovation in healthcare

How do we make essential steps forward in the West?

This crucial question was the topic for discussion when NHS leaders from across the South West met recently.

The debate centred on recent developments in healthcare and the impact on forward planning. What we heard really highlighted the conflict between the potential opportunities through use of technology and data on one side and the constraints of existing systems and coordination on the other. “What is certain is that a combination of factors are driving a need for rapid change in healthcare: increased patient expectations, changing demographics and a significant funding gap mean that we need to look at how services are delivered differently” said Heather Ancient, PwC Partner, in her introduction.

Our recent patient polling pointed to some key priorities for the population as a whole with respect to the healthcare services received and delivered an overwhelming message that this should be the focus of leaders, rather than ‘balancing the books’. There was some support for increasing funding for the NHS through taxation and national insurance contributions, while at the same time very little recognition of the efficiency savings made. The poll revealed support for some rationing of service delivery but primarily retained the principle of being free at the point of use.

If the healthcare system in the South West is going to respond effectively within these expectations, and those of the Department of Health, then our round table of leaders agreed that they must focus their attention on  7 key areas.

7 Key areas for success

  • Finance and capacity issues are key to understanding the systematic and coordination problems in the NHS - these stifle planning and forward thinking - lifting heads out of these details and engaging in more visionary thinking, while difficult is necessary to truly come up with alternative methods

  • Making best use of and celebrating the medical knowledge within our communities will mean we can challenge the perception of A&E as the primary entry point to NHS services - use of the voluntary sector, communities pharmacists and nurses is essential
  • We must build on and preserve pillars of strength in the NHS; for example, the quality of the existing provision, contribution that voluntary organisations make to the healthcare workforce. The sector needs to pursue areas of efficiency by a focus on what goes well and support for such areas.

  • Insufficient infrastructure leads to problems which need to be addressed; for example, great apps exist but are let down by IT infrastructure

  • Identify inefficiencies through the patient journey; e.g. address care needs before people reach A&E, make use of early detection signs and soft data, improving workforce satisfaction through the opportunity to care
  • Determining the right roles for new entrants and private sector actors to play in the healthcare environment can only augment, rather than replace, NHS health provision

  • Reconciling the two requires strategic conversations and collaboration as well as support from private sector funding for innovative businesses filling gaps in the market; for example, our recently launched innovation programme in the North West does just that
  • There is a need to integrate wellness and healthcare data to be able to deliver value to the patient or citizen. Else, wellness devices become at best ‘fads’ and, at worst, detrimental

  • There are opportunities to be explored here in helping parts of the NHS/patient relationships to communicate with one another through data, that is not only able to offer retrospective views, but also has the ability to look forward
  • Technology presents huge opportunities for NHS improvement of efficiency and must be supported by both infrastructure improvements and adequate and periodic training

  • How can technology in the home and the Internet of Things can be used to support healthcare should be a priority and, where good models are already in place (and they are!) results must be publicised and shared
  • This has to be about offering choice in context and in a changing environment where patients are increasing spending on health and wellbeing and increasingly wanting to understand and control their data

  • Recognising the ‘Patient Knows Best’ could form the basis of an integrated care model and help address inefficiencies in the NHS
  • Improving infrastructure problems would help solve simple worries of the NHS, e.g. delivering Wi-Fi to facilities

  • It can also enable bolder steps forwards; for example coping with increasing numbers of people and not enough space or with remote housing by making virtual delivery services more prevalent

Contact us

Heather Ancient
Partner, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: 07714 665144

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