By Doris Retfalvi
The NHS has received much criticism about its inability to deal with an increasingly old and ill population. What the system needs now more than ever is time – time to ensure the best treatment gets to every single patient. Doris Retfalvi finds out more about a new IT solution providing quick and easy access to patient records anytime, anywhere
‘Within 20 years, the population over 85 in the UK will double,’ Daniel McGraw (picture left), CCO of Vision, tells me. ‘As they age, many people are dealing with multiple diseases which drive the costs of the NHS up.’ Add to that the pressure of an ever-decreasing workforce and insufficient funding, and the fear of a possible privatisation of the health system is anything but far-fetched.
But amid these concerns, the thirst for innovation remains strong, particularly in the area of digital health and self-care. Collaboration between healthcare providers and digital startups has given rise to a myriad of apps aimed at helping patients engage with their health and, as a result, reduce the time they spend at the GP practice or in hospital. But a lot of attention is also directed at facilitating healthcare delivery from the provider’s side as well.
Simplicity, flexibility and functionality
Vision – formerly known as In Practice Systems – has recently launched an intelligent software solution that allows the practice of shared care across the healthcare community. The app integrates various electronic patient record systems, allowing any healthcare practitioner to analyse, update and share patients’ health information in real time, wherever they are. This reduces clinical risk as practitioners can make well-informed decisions faster based on that patient’s clinical history.
‘The GP needs to focus on the patient, not on the technology. In the past technology has bogged the GP down because they spent more time inputting the documentation and data rather than with the patient. So our focus needs to be around simplicity, flexibility and functionality,’ McGraw explains.
‘A couple of years ago we saw a future where mobile and desktop working would converge into one application adaptable to both platforms. What we’ve come up with is Vision Anywhere and it addresses a lot of issues about interoperability for GP federations,’ adds CEO Max Brighton (picture right).
The benefit of Vision Anywhere lies in its ability to access data and record the clinical findings within one short encounter with the patient, according to McGraw. ‘This results in better care and it also allows GPs to spend more time with the patient.’
When it comes to handling sensitive data, the Vision team is already one step ahead. All access to records is conditional upon the patient’s explicit consent to the clinician and the clinician’s confirmed reason for access. Sophisticated sharing agreements can be used to create exclusion lists at practice-, GP- and patient-level to make sure any sensitive information is not shared. Clinicians can choose to access a number of aspects about a patient’s health, from blood pressure, height, weight, alcohol and smoking status, to allergies, immunisations, prescribed medication and test results.
Involving the community
Vision Anywhere is the combined work of software developers and the healthcare community the app aims to serve, Brighton explains. ‘We’ve worked with GPs, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and health boards in England and Scotland so that we know that what we’re developing is what the health service wants.’
A lot of the customer feedback also comes from the regular conferences Vision organises around to country in order to keep in constant contact with the 400 practices already using the technology. ‘In these conferences we show our participants the app and demonstrate how simple it is to use for those who haven’t yet given it a try. But we recently opened the meeting up to competitive accounts as well because they’re still able to leverage a lot of technology from it,’ says McGraw.
While Vision Anywhere is still in its infancy, the team is already spreading the word about its latest development, Vision Outcomes Manager. The platform provides IT support for clinicians and CCGs, helping them to identify patterns in a particular condition, based on data inputs from Vision Anywhere, and so to make informed decisions about the best treatment based on those trends.
‘We’re giving data intelligence to the CCGs to help with early preventative medicine before these symptoms become major illnesses and drive the costs of the NHS up. These are hard pound savings in regards to leveraging technology to better enhance patient care,’ explains McGraw.
‘It also allows the CCG to share best practices to all GPs across the region when dealing with a particular issue and to monitor that as well. If they find a pathway for a particular disease that they would like all their practices to follow, it enables them to spread that clinical template and monitor their usage of it and manage the outcome of their intervention,’ adds Brighton.
In addition to this, Vision is also working on other practice management apps, all designed to save time within the healthcare organisation. These include a clinical diary appointment app and a tasks and workflow app that allows both tasks and comments to be shared between GPs and other healthcare practitioners not based in the practice.
A collective effort
The Richmond GP Alliance (RGPA) has been the first to adopt Vision Anywhere with promising results. Across their 28 practices, the app connected over 200,000 patients resulting in a 25 per cent reduction in walk-in centre attendances and a 0 per cent increase in A&E attendances, compared with the national average of 10 per cent.
Vision was joined by RGPA IT Project Manager, Grant Oliver, who co-developed the interoperable platform supporting multiple patient record systems. He is currently working on implementing other administrative software across primary and secondary care, in the hope of eventually creating a fully paperless NHS.
‘We’re working hard to keep patients, especially elders, out of A&Es and hospitals by encouraging them to self-help and register what’s going on with their vital signs. Patients we’ve worked with already have said this is a good thing because they don’t want to go into the hospital,’ Oliver explains.
Oliver is actively involved in the London’s digital health scene, working with the Health Innovation Network and Digital Catapult on the development of several diabetes apps. He is also a startup mentor at the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator.