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A new report from Binley's sister company, NHiS, finds technology investment is key to vanguards’ vision for the future of the NHS

The NHS must invest in new technology if innovative models of care being trialled by its vanguards are to be rolled out, according to a report by NHiS Commissioning Excellence, which helps the NHS plan and commission patient services.

The report, which is based on a recent advisory panel discussion, organised by NHiS and involving eight vanguards, found that technologies that enable risk stratification, early detection, appropriate intervention and remote monitoring are key.

Entitled ‘The Role of Vanguards in the Development of New NHS Commissioning Structures’, the report says risk stratification (the process of identifying the potential care requirements of patients by analysing their medical history, to improve the type and quality of care delivered) is important in primary care to help identify patients with complex needs and to determine onward specialist referral.

For example, clinicians in one GP super-practice vanguard have access to the entire electronic patient record, including primary and secondary care notes and results of imaging and laboratory tests, so they can make fully informed decisions about patients.

Turning to early intervention, which is crucial for many cancers, decision support software can be invaluable in helping to identify at-risk patients early and thereby improve outcomes.

A unique cancer vanguard, which was involved in the discussions, plans to install decision support software in GP surgeries to help them identify the disease in patients who have symptoms that appear vague. This software is designed to raise awareness of symptoms, and to encourage clinicians to ‘think cancer’. Features can include symptom checkers, risk calculators and information to identify ‘low risk but not no risk’ patients.

Echoing the recent announcement from NHS England CEO Simon Stevens, that there would be an NHS payment system overhaul that will help technology companies gain fast-track approval, vanguard representatives also agreed that the NHS services must use modern technologies to provide alternatives to traditional face-to-face consultations and remove barriers to communication between different services.

Many vanguards already provide telephone triage in primary care and others are offering call-in consultant services that allow GPs to talk directly to consultants and obtain advice without having to send the patient to the hospital.

Simplifying the NHS is important as many areas run the same services with different standards and practices, and best practice is rarely shared. New strategies are needed to facilitate sharing and collaboration, and these could involve the use of new technologies for cross-organisational discussion and sharing best practice.

As healthcare and social care serve the same population, there is an appetite for the two to work together to commission and deliver services jointly for their patients and the local population. Technology and innovation could be key enablers and the creation of a new tariff offering an incentive to hospitals to make better use of these is likely to support wider spread adoption.

Sue Thomas, CEO of Commissioning Excellence for NHiS and Chair of the Advisory Panel, said: The focus of care needs to shift from managing ill health to preventing it developing in the first place. This will involve investment in technology to identify patients at risk in order to facilitate earlier diagnosis and intervention, and define the best care pathways.

"Our recent panel advisory discussion shows that vanguards are leading the way in trialing innovative new ways of working that use technology to improve outcomes and patient experience, and to meet local and national targets. The challenge will be finding ways to make these practices the norm rather than a novelty.”


Press contact:
For more information, please contact: Andrew Baud and Catherine McNulty, Tala +44 020 3397 3383 / 07775 715775 andrew.baud@teamtala.com

Editor's notes:
NHiS was founded in 2007 in response to a growing need in the marketplace for quantitative and qualitative data to inform service redesign and pathway efficiencies. NHiS’s services are split across two directorates - Commissioning Excellence, which helps NHS organisations to plan and commission patient services, and Healthcare Insight, which provides business intelligence and insight solutions to pharma. NHiS is part of healthcare intelligence provider, Wilmington Healthcare.

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