Guest Blog: Integrating health and care and the role of digital

7 Dec 2015, 3:20 pm

by Mark Golledge, Programme Manager for Health and Care Informatics at Local Government Association.

In this guest article, Golledge outlines how digital can support the integration of health and care, tackle some of the long-term challenges and help to deliver person centred services.

Mark_Golledge_1Integration is one of those words that has a different meaning depending on who you ask.

Regardless of the way in which it is delivered, it is important that the focus is on ensuring that related services are joined up for those people receiving care as well as their carers so they get the services and support they need.

We know that the commitment to integration is here to stay – the Comprehensive Spending Review has re-affirmed that. The Better Care Fund will continue and local areas have been asked to develop integration plans by 2017 for implementation by 2020.

This is not a one size fits all approach to integration – the emphasis is on locally driven and locally determined approaches.

Digital has a fundamental role to play in enabling this. The work by National Voices on a series of ‘I Statements’ is a pertinent reminder that some of the frustration stems from people having to tell their story more than once – since often the information doesn’t flow with the individuals who are coming into contact health and social care.

Similarly, those seeking support often have to make contact with a number of different organisations, each of whom provide some of the overall support they need. Without joined up digital infrastructure and information around the individual, the 2020 aim will be nothing more than an aspiration.

There are examples from our work in the Local Government Association, including with the 25 Integrated Care Pioneers of how technology is already being used to address the challenges from health and care integration. This includes:

  • Pilot work in Yorkshire and Humber allowing professionals to be able to access information regardless of where they are working from whilst offering potential financial benefits.
  • Work led by Ripple to develop a solution that enables health and care records to be joined up both for professional and citizen access – built on the principles of open source and therefore re-usable by all (many local health and social care communities around the country such as Cheshire are now actively developing integrated health and care records).
  • Use of assistive and new technologies in Nottingham City that are joined up between health and care and help to ensure that people can maintain their independence and wellbeing and prevent escalation of needs.
  • The emphasis of this and other activity has been on the principles of ‘simplify, standardise and share,’ allowing for local delivery and local design but importantly in a way which prevents unnecessary duplication and maximises the benefits from existing infrastructure and assets.

Over the last 12 months, the National Information Board has been developing plans for how technology and information can support the delivery of health and care. Personalised Health and Care 2020 established the vision.

The emphasis is now on delivery. One example of this is the commitment to develop digital roadmaps by April 2016 that detail the local path towards a fully interoperable way of working across health and social care.

Alongside the commitments to integration, the Comprehensive Spending Review confirmed a commitment to support digital in health and care. It is absolutely crucial that this reflects the benefits that can be gained for the whole health and social care system – both helping to deliver the 2020 aim and more importantly, joined-up services for those coming into contact with them.