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Health knowledge helps those trying to use IT to fix the NHS

If you want to improve the way technology is used in the NHS then it makes sense to ask those who have detailed understanding of the system

There are three things you should never discuss with any stranger in a pub. Religion, politics and the National Health Service. In fact, that last category is the worst, because it’s expanded to swallow up the other two categories.

Even the mildest critique of the way the NHS runs is evidence enough for you to be branded as a heretic. Technology is to blame for all this. It’s widened our options to such a frightening degree that people are retreating into a narrow mindset for comfort.

Having said that, the blue chip companies who delivered the Notional Programme for Incremental Takings (NPfIT) weren’t a great advert for ‘disruptive IT’.

Without getting into the politics of ‘weaponising the NHS’, there must be a way to make the existing workflows of the NHS run more efficiently.

One of the many crises facing the NHS is the shift in the youth-experience axis of the population. We’re having fewer children, and living longer. Official statistics suggest that by 2022 there will be 14m people aged 65 or older in the UK, one in five of the population. More worrying still is the fact that by 2025, one million people in the UK will have dementia.

The current system for arranging care is awful because it rewards recruitment agencies - who take fat commissions for making things worse - impoverishes and demotivates carers and subsequently punishes the patients.

What we need are systems devised by health professionals who can make cuts with surgical precision, so the malignant middle men can be cut out, and the circulation of wages and good will are stimulated between carers and patients. There are three systems that exemplify this: Vida, Supercarers and HomeTouch.

HomeTouch was founded by dementia specialist Dr Jamie Wilson and aims to create a more efficient supply chain for carers of the elderly. Currently, the process of putting carers in touch with patients is oganised by employment agencies - not people most of us would associate with either empathy or efficiency. But that doesn’t stop them extracting a massive commission every time they mismatch Dave from North West London with a trip to Doris at the other end of town.

As a result, most carers - no matter how good they are - become disillusioned by the poverty of both the pay and the patient outcome. The financial model of the agencies eats into their wages, and the incompetence of their system of allocation eats into the amount of time each carer can spend with each patient before they have to rush on to the next mismatched job. The poor working conditions drive 900 carers a day to leave their jobs.

By cutting out the middle meddlers, HomeTouch - aims to create a direct link between carers and their patients. This allows the carers to keep more of the money they’ve earned and, more importantly, it gives patients continuity. The net result of this is that more people can be treated at home, where they are happiest and fewer beds are blocked in the NHS.

This was last published in November 2017

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