The future of healthcare is beyond the walls of the hospital, says Elliott Engers, CEO, Infinity Health
Traditional approaches to healthcare have centred on face-to-face interactions between patients and clinical staff. When patients need treatment, it makes sense o bring them into a hospital setting, where the equipment, medicine, and expertise they need are in one place and can be accessed easily.
But healthcare costs are rising, the complexity of patients’ health needs is increasing, and we are facing a global shortage of healthcare staff which is set to reach 18m by 2030 – 20 per cent of the workforce needed.
Layered onto this, healthcare systems are reeling from the impact of the pandemic. In the UK alone, the number of patients waiting for their first outpatient appointment has reached more than 10 per cent of the population, while the workforce crisis is predicted to be a key limiting factor in dealing with the rising backlog of care.
Healthcare cannot cope with the demand; the model of providing healthcare within the walls of hospitals simply isn’t working anymore.
Changing how we deliver healthcare
Healthcare has been slow to adopt new ways of working in the past, but digital solutions are vital to tackling the issue of overstretched healthcare systems and increasing demand. I believe that we need to make significant changes to the way we deliver care, and expand the borders of healthcare operations.
Only see patients when needed
The UK is an example of how a healthcare system can reduce demand on hospitals through transformation of outpatient pathways. Two thirds of NHS outpatient appointments are taken up by outpatient reviews, many of which are unnecessary.
The Patient Initiated Follow-Up (PIFU) programme has been introduced to reduce the overall number of outpatients appointments and free up clinical time. Instead of routine follow-up appointments being automatically booked, patients can decide if they would like an appointment and request it themselves.
Infinity Health is currently part of a national PIFU pilot, where clinical and management teams use our platform to manage PIFU and understand the full picture of their waiting lists. The platform integrates with existing systems to allow hospitals to prioritise patients that need to be seen.
Increase coverage with the same staff
Another way acute hospitals can adapt their services is through virtual wards, where a multidisciplinary team delivers high quality hospital care at home. This can help to “unblock” beds, by reducing unnecessary admissions and length of stay in hospital.
Infinity Health is focused on enabling multi-disciplinary teams to remotely monitor and coordinate care for patients in their homes, providing frontline staff with the tools they need to share their caseload and manage their tasks in real-time. One of our virtual wards implementations has increased capacity to see patients by as much as 55 per cent without additional staff, so it is clear the right digital solutions can make a meaningful difference.
Integration with assessment forms and monitoring devices means that patients can be monitored remotely via Infinity while they wait for care, which is also an advantage for staying in touch with patients on PIFU pathways.
Increase efficiency in hospitals
There will always be patients who need hospital care, and for them, receiving the right treatment and investigations, at the right time, in the right order, is crucial. It’s vital to patient flow, ensuring patients are admitted and discharged when appropriate and reducing bed blocking.
This is another area Infinity is focusing on. Using our digital task management platform, staff can access and add to a real- time log of all outstanding, completed, and pending tasks for each patient, direct from the point of care. They can see what needs go be done, for whom, and ensure tasks are completed in the right order, by the right person.
A recent evaluation at one Infinity site showed a saving of an average of 91 minutes per person per shift, and staff reported feeling more organised and in control as a result.
The future of healthcare is here
Hospitals will always be an important part of ensuring patients get the care they need, but they are not the only way to do so safely.
The vision of a world where healthcare delivery is safe and efficient, and where the workforce’s time is used most effectively, is already within reach. Our job is to ensure we can all benefit from the digital solutions that make this possible.