Smart foundations for integrated care systems

The ICSs that will start work next April will need good IT to deliver joined-up care, population health management, and a digital patient experience. Yet they are being inundated with advice on the approach to take and products to buy.

Orion Health can help to cut through the noise, by providing a digital maturity model that aligns with ICSs’ strategic objectives. Bruce Horne, UKI product manager and senior management team member, explains.

There is a lot of interest in the imminent arrival of integrated care systems in England. If the necessary legislation is passed, these new organisations will start work on a statutory basis next April.

ICSs will have three big tasks: to join-up health and care services; to shift the focus of commissioning from contracting to population health management; and to create digitally enabled care pathways that engage patients as ‘close to home’ as possible.

To succeed, ICSs are going to need good IT systems to share information, collect and analyse data, and reach out to their populations. Technology companies understand this and are reaching out to ICSs as they form with a confusing array of approaches and products.

Electronic patient record suppliers are telling ICSs that they can address their information sharing challenges, either by extending their acute systems into the community, or by adding on a health information exchange.

While, at the same time, new entrants are advising ICSs to start from scratch with an orchestration layer or data platform to integrate information from existing systems and run it into analysis products and digital patient apps.

Established business information companies and analytics start-ups are coming forward with analysis offers. And there are dozens of innovators moving into remote monitoring, digital triage, and wellness apps. How are ICSs and their digital leaders supposed to make sense of all this?

Shared care records are a great investment

If you’re one of those digital leaders, a good first step is going to be to take a deep breath, take stock of what you have already, and then think about how you can build on those investments; or where you might want to swap out some elements for systems that will better serve your strategic needs.

After all, ICSs may be new, but the idea of joined-up care and technology to support it isn’t. The UK has been developing information sharing platforms and shared care records for two decades, and Orion Health has been working with leaders like Connecting Care in Bristol throughout that time.

The value of shared care records was recognised by the former chief executive of NHS England, Sir Simon (now Lord) Stevens in 2020, when he set a target for all areas of England to get a ‘basic’ record in place by September 2021.

Orion Health developed an ‘out of the box’ shared care record for ICSs looking to meet the target and is pleased to be working with three new areas, including Derbyshire and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, as a result. These shared care records are a great start and mean there’s a lot to build on.

Orion Health has created an interoperability model that takes customers on a journey that starts with the deployment of our platform, enables the ‘viewing’ of data using our shared care record functionality, and then moves onto ‘doing’ using our Discover Analytics and Care Coordination tools.

NHSX wants smart foundations, and we can deliver them  

NHSX recently published two documents to help ICSs work through the mass of technology decisions that they are faced with: ‘What Good Looks Like’ and ‘Who Pays for What’.

Both stress the importance of ‘smart foundations’ and we see the deployment and development of our platform as an example of that. It gives customers a starting point from which to build-out an industry standard shared care record.

Enabling healthcare professionals in different care settings, and using different care systems, to access information at the point of care delivers benefits in itself. It provides a holistic view of the patient’s condition and treatment that supports effective intervention.

However, our shared care record can also tie in with a wider ICS data strategy. Our ‘Care Coordination’ tools enable multidisciplinary users to access and input to citizen centric pathways across multiple organisations ensuring that everyone is working from the same, consolidated record. Unlike some other shared care record approaches, the Orion Health platform allows data to be ‘persisted’ so it can be used for more advanced analytics and interventions.

The data warehouse and dashboard tooling that are included in Discover Analytics provide customers with a basis from which to derive insights from the data they have already. Discover is included in our ‘out of the box’ offer, but customers can evolve their understanding over time with the addition of datasets and dashboards that mature with our products.

For example, our New Zealand developers have created a Machine Learning Manager that provides a platform from which data algorithms can be stored, administered and deployed. Once run against data, the output of the algorithm can provide predictive insights. For example, we have developed a ‘risk of mortality’ citizen score that can be presented within the shared care record.

We build long-term partnerships for success

At Orion Health, we view our customers as long-term partners. We don’t just support them on their digital journey, we use their insights to inform our product roadmaps so they can evolve to meet future needs.

Having said that, I’m not suggesting that Orion Health is the only company that an ICS will ever need to work with. As individual ICSs mature, they may well have use-cases that require us to collaborate with other suppliers to deliver for them.

That’s fine. We’re happy to partner with other organisations, particularly companies that share our commitment to open interoperability and data standards. We welcome any form of innovation in the healthcare IT field because, let’s face it, health and care need all the innovation they can get.

The ICSs that will be starting work next year will need to set a strategy that enables them to create a data platform, shared care record, population health management analytics, and new, proactive tools to enable professionals and patients to collaborate on care ‘closer to home’.

Their digital leaders will need to cut through the noise created by having so many suppliers with so many approaches and products lobbying for their attention. If you’re one of those leaders, you’ll need an approach that strikes the right balance between the type and number of suppliers that you need to move forward.

Orion Health can help, by providing a platform that will put down those smart foundations for a shared care record, analytics, and Care Coordination tools that can also be integrated with the additional innovations you need.