Experts discuss the importance of using digital innovation to alleviate pressures within healthcare

Experts discuss the importance of using digital innovation to alleviate pressures within healthcare

Tunstall Healthcare and the County Councils Network (CCN) have launched a brand-new report which argues that the potential of technology to support those with social care needs is growing ‘exponentially’ each year. 

This new report follows the 2021 report, Employing Assistive Technology in Adult Social Care, and looks into the impact of digital technology on adult social care, as well as the importance of implementing digital change across the care landscape. 

As well as transforming services, the report finds that Digital Transformation can hugely benefit care users, from allowing more independence to widening understanding around condition management and reducing anxiety. 

“This report is the natural sibling of our previous work with Tunstall in 2021,” said Simon Edwards, Director of the CCN. “Perhaps, most importantly, this piece discusses how we get the right care to the right people, the right devices and technology into people’s homes and how we can support an ageing population with a stretched workforce.” 

In the report, Tunstall and CCN detail a strategic pathway in the adoption of digital technologies effectively into the care sector, from enabling local authorities to ensuring smooth delivery of care and embedding this change for good. 

Practical steps recommended in the report include: 

  • Not underestimating the time it takes to embed change. 
  • Thinking about what good procurement processes look like from a market perspective. 
  • Working in partnership with providers to deliver effective TEC and data-led practice. 

Gavin Bashar, Managing Director of Tunstall UK&I, added: “The adoption of digital technology has great potential to contribute to the smooth running of adult social care services as we look to the new government reforms for the care sector. This new report provides a summary of some of the benefits offered by care technology as well as practical suggestions for the implementation of these changes.” 

We further explore this topic in our Editor’s Question, where we ask two experts about how digital innovations can be used to alleviate pressure across the healthcare sector… 

Nigel Hall, Director of Client Health Solutions, Netcall 

A digital-first approach is critical, but there exists a need to create initial capacity in order to support digital innovation. NHS organisations require the resources, hours and returns on investment (ROI) that can be facilitated by the right technologies, as transformation cannot be delivered without resources. But change does need to happen, as the current demand placed upon healthcare systems will become unsustainable without such transformation.  

The message from the healthcare workforce is one of being overworked and underpaid, with significant pressure to deliver savings amid tight budgets, leading to mass burnout. Widely reportedly to be under-resourced, understaffed and underfunded, with a record-high waitlist of over seven million, the NHS is struggling to effectively respond to the challenges of elective recovery and the pressures on emergency care. Strikes are likely to exacerbate existing fragilities.   

An AI-powered automation and customer engagement platform, that can integrate with legacy and external systems, is an opportunity to deliver the change needed to ease the burden on healthcare workers. This can be delivered at a pace and in a cost-effective way, compared to traditional development methods. Digitisation presents opportunities to ease patient care, reduce administrative load and minimise inefficiencies. This can give time back to workers, rapidly process additional patients and improve both worker and patient well-being.   

A comprehensive automation and customer engagement platform will include transformative technologies, such as a low-code platform, digital contact centre solutions, robotic process automation (RPA), pre-built machine learning models and omnichannel messaging offerings. The technologies work complementarily, driving the best outcomes for healthcare workers and patients. But of course, training and development on new systems so staff can use them proficiently will be required too.  

Ultimately, patients benefit as staff are provided additional time to focus on priorities. With an agnostic platform, the opportunities for integration across both telephony and existing legacy solutions bring the ability to move, rather than duplicate, information within the organisation. This provides the visibility required to attend to patients effectively and efficiently without additional work. 

Digital should not be seen as the sole solution but utilised in conjunction with improvements and transformation elsewhere in the healthcare system – essentially Digital Transformation shouldn’t be seen as a magic bullet, but as a significant enabler. Above all, while such digital solutions are likely to improve the interaction for the majority of patients, continuing to provide integrated telephony solutions are crucial in order to ‘leave no patient behind’ for the 33% who are digitally excluded by desire or circumstance. A balance must be struck in order to hit the fine line between embracing and consideration for those patients who are unwilling or unable to embrace digital solutions. 

Kelly Doering, Senior Director,  AspenTech

Digitalisation is a necessity for healthcare organisations as they seek to thrive in the face of considerable pressures.  

This is especially true in critical areas, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing. Having had to reshape their supply chains after COVID-19, pharma companies are now coping with the wider effects of the conflict in Europe, rampant inflation and energy costs and continuing political uncertainty in the Far East. At the same time, a fast-rising global population includes two billion people who still lack access to basic medicine, according to the World Health Organisation.  

Moving from myriad manual and semi-digital processes towards self-sustaining digital transformation is therefore critical. It allows companies to capitalise on revenue growth opportunities more readily and to deliver quality medicines around the world. The notion of building a facility to produce one or two products that remain the same for 15 years is outdated. Enhanced agility and resilience are therefore high on the list of aims because of these pressures.  

It is why there is increased awareness that more advanced software solutions are the only way to meet all the challenges and excel as a profitable and growing organisation. For example, using digitalisation to improve the predictability of material flows means more patients have reliable access to medicines. Having greater supply chain predictability also allows companies to reduce strategic inventories, saving millions of dollars annually in material holding costs. 

Digitalisation is also what will enable companies to innovate and bring important new products to the wider market. A survey of 400 pharma industry professionals across the US and Europe on the future of Digital Transformation and manufacturing showed 60% of respondents expect cell and gene therapies and biologics to be the industry’s fastest-growing pharma/biopharma revenue opportunities up to 2027.   

The growing proportion of these modalities contributes to the demand for the implementation of digitalised smart manufacturing to improve production agility and flexibility and optimise efficiency and visibility across manufacturing processes. This is how to support timely, global access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostics, including those in low- and middle-income countries.  

Digitalisation is all about fully exploiting the expanding volumes of data from sensors and assets in supply chains and manufacturing processes. Cloud and SaaS systems offer the greatest opportunity, enabling global organisations to access and store data at scale in a much easier way than has been possible previously. Production facility data can, for example, become globally available in real-time to contribute to wider capabilities and address additional use cases. 

Digitalisation will transform how an entire industry faces up to many of the severest challenges in the next five years or so. Implementation of digital technologies will save time, significantly increase efficiency in areas such as energy use, bolster data integrity and reduce waste products. 

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