Authored article

What's the future for information and technology in local health and care?

Mark Golledge is Programme Manager at the LGA, leading on health and care informatics, and co-executive lead of one of the NIB workstreams.

Mark Golledge, co-executive lead of NIB workstream.

In 1985 Marty McFly and Doc Brown presented an image of 2015 – one of flying cars, self-tying shoes and hover-boards. At the time, 2015 (or precisely 21 October 2015) as presented by Robert Zemeckis in the film classic ‘Back to the Future II’ seemed a little far-fetched - even at that stage.

However, fast-forward 30 years to 2015 and actually some of the film’s predictions are not too distant – a world of wearables, video calls and personal electronics are perhaps now a little closer to the world in which we now live.

For health and care, information and technology present an opportunity to transform both the ways we live and the ways we work. Giving people access to information can give them the ability to take more control of their own health and help to achieve better outcomes and lives for themselves, families and communities. At the same time, giving professionals access to information can support the way health and care is delivered directly to the patient or service user.

Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to take part in 4 regional engagement sessions held by the National Information Board. These sessions have bought together local organisations from across health and care – NHS commissioners, NHS providers, local authorities, social care providers, voluntary and community sector, patient and carer representatives as well as local innovators – to debate and inform the plans for delivering Personalised Health and Care 2020.

The importance of starting with the patient, carer or citizen should not be under-stated. The work that National Voices has undertaken to deliver a narrative for person-centred coordinated care is a reminder that information, digital and technology is important but that it needs to start with what is most critical to patients and service users. In practice, this means that since service users and patients often move between different care organisations it is important to ensure that information is shared digitally not just within - but also across care settings. As a result it is important we consider digital maturity across a local area, not just within organisations.

Indeed, one thing characterising those regional engagement sessions has been the importance of enabling local delivery. Presentations from local areas, including Bristol and Berkshire, demonstrated the value that bringing local areas together around a shared commitment and vision can have to delivery – with a prompt to organisations to look up and outside rather than just within. The Connecting Care programme in Bristol is one such example – bringing together representatives from across organisations to support the development of a shared care record for direct care.

There are of course plenty of examples around the country where local areas are transforming health and care and using information and technology to support this. Our work in the Local Government Association – through joint work with Association of Directors of Adult Social Services - is in part seeking to highlight these and facilitate learning between local areas. Local government, and social care more broadly of course, has a critical role to play in the commissioning and delivery of health and social care.

The work by the Integrated Care Pioneers such as in Leeds with the Leeds Care Record, open source programme led by Ripple, the Connecting Care programme in Cheshire and the open data platform in Camden are a few examples of where technology is already supporting such transformation.

However, it is clear that organisations individually and local areas collectively are at different stages of digital transformation and maturity. This transformation requires digital leadership and, importantly, requires effective knowledge sharing, co-design and collaboration both within and across local communities.

If we are going to see the digital ambitions for health and care realised then there needs to be continued engagement with local areas but, more importantly, we need to work together to support local digital leadership and more effectively enable digital maturity across local areas.

I would encourage you to review, comment and engage on the NIB roadmaps and plans for delivery. The plans may not necessarily be for the next 30 years but it is important that we collectively shape the direction of travel and help build such capacity and maturity.

Interestingly, one of the things that ‘Back to the Future II’ predicted was widespread adoption of the fax machine. That is one area I’m sure that many of us will agree we want to see eradicated rather than adopted!