COVID-19 accelerates the UK’s journey from reactive to proactive to predictive health care

Gary Birks, Orion Health Managing Director, UK and Ireland, reflects on a tumultuous 2020 and looks ahead to how 2021 will be shaped by the events of this year. He emphasizes that the pandemic has underlined the value of shared care records and created a new appetite for digital services among clinicians and, crucially, the patients they serve.


2020 has been a very different year for all of us and we’re going to continue to feel its effects in twenty twenty-one. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has demonstrated the value of data to health and care. Implementing a shared care record is now a priority for integrated care systems in England, established customers are accelerating their move from reactive, to proactive, to predictive healthcare. Next year, I expect to see these trends continue.  

2021 will be a very different year again, but it will be shaped by COVID-19, and the momentum it has given to vital developments.

Coronavirus and Orion Health

As the scale of the COVID-19 crisis became clear, we undertook a rapid review to ensure our employees felt supported in their new working environment. Fortunately, more than 50% of the team here in the UK and Ireland are on home working contracts, which made the transition for the rest of team easier.

Supporting customers

Despite not being able to meet customers in person, communication was dramatically increased, which led to a deeper understanding of their needs and wants. COVID-19 simultaneously accelerated their need for data driven technology and changed the critera for what they needed from the technology, which meant we had to adapt quickly.  

For many customers, the immediate challenge was making important and necessary information available in the shared care record to support front-line staff. 

Responding to policy changes

As the UK started to come out of the first wave, NHS England started to look ahead to the winter and a ‘reset’ next spring.  

Guidance was issued asking the NHS to complete the roll-out of integrated care systems and to get basic shared care records in place by next September. Areas that don’t have a shared care record in place will need to progress rapidly. Our long-standing customers are eager to build on their experience during COVID-19 to move along that continuum from reactive to proactive to predictive healthcare. 

Connecting Care in Bristol has had a read-only record for almost a decade, but now it’s becoming the primary record for new, integrated services. This year it took the first steps towards predictive care by making available NHS Digital risk codes and risk stratification information in the Connecting Care platform.  

Patients driving change

I would like to see technology improve patient access to services, I believe this will drastically improve the way we deliver consultations in the future. The demographic who were unlikely to adopt technology are now using it proficiently to shop and keep in touch with family and friends. COVID-19 has inevitably accelerated this progression, and it is likely this change has set the scene for technology to drive patient care. 

We can safely predict that we’ll be working with some incredible organisations to support the life changing work they do, we look forward to sharing an update with you in 2021!