IEG4 Insights

The right investment: How to efficiently implement Continuing Healthcare

Posted by Jackie Gill on Apr 3, 2024 2:54:17 PM
Jackie Gill

`When it comes to ensuring that people with complex health needs receive the best care after being looked after in a hospital setting, having a joined-up Continuing Healthcare process (CHC) is essential. And yet, about half of the Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in England fall short of the 28-day deadline for arranging Continuing Healthcare for patients'. IEG4's CHC Product Manager Jackie Gill discusses how to efficiently implement Continuing Healthcare

When it comes to ensuring that people with complex health needs receive the best care after being looked after in a hospital setting, having a joined-up Continuing Healthcare process (CHC) is essential. And yet, about half of the Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in England fall short of the 28-day deadline for arranging Continuing Healthcare for patients. The process can feel cumbersome, particularly when paper trails and siloed systems are still prevalent. Whilst the Public Sector has made progress when it comes to integrating different services, there is still significant work to be done if we are to excel in providing the level of care people deserve and expect.

It’s more challenging than ever to justify investment in Continuing Healthcare innovation, when, financially, it makes sense in the short term to cut away anything viewed as ‘nice to have’. However, there is a need for a mindset shift towards long-term gains, as digital tools that support integrated continuous care truly do, and provide a positive return on investment.

With that in mind, what are the true benefits to combining local public services with health and social care? How do we realise them without severe financial implications? And, how do we lessen the strain on public services while providing the right level of care for patients leaving hospital?


Understanding the investment

When considering an investment in the adoption of new and/or technology, the very first thing many ICBs or other public sector organisations consider is budget. In a letter to local leaders last year, NHS England said the running cost allowances for ICBs will be subject to a 30% real terms reduction by 2025-26. This will mainly be met through staffing cuts. With staffing power reduced, it’s understandable that now might not be seen as the best time to start funneling investment into something that doesn’t have instant tangible benefits. It’s tempting to lean towards either keeping things as they are, or opting for a quick fix to deal with the easy to cure symptoms rather than addressing core issues and future-proofing processes and systems.

However, to fulfil their purpose, integration must be a focus for ICBs moving forward and they must optimise the use of the resources available, even as they are being reduced. This can be achieved by streamlining service provision and cutting down on the amount of unnecessary manual administration used for the CHC assessment process such as manual documentation, duplication of communications between staff and patients and clunky evidence gathering practices.

Digitising processes to make them more efficient can be seen as a suitable way of adapting to this new level of staffing. Remaining staff will be able to communicate and collaborate better, and the entire process will feel much smoother and be more efficient.


Understanding the return

When it comes to a lack of progress in updating the CHC assessment model, the impact on staff is pressing, but the impact on patients and their families is immense.

By implementing digitised CHC, it enables the creation of a more seamless and coordinated approach to service delivery. Integration of digital tools can lead to improved access to care. While it may be seen as simply a matter of speed and convenience for patients, it’s important to understand that speed and convenience can be a matter of life and death, and quality of life for people spending weeks languishing in a hospital bed or at home with no follow-up care in sight.

Additionally it allows for a more holistic approach, treating people as the individuals they are rather than a problem to be solved. An assessment process that seamlessly takes their unique housing, employment, and support network situation into account naturally results in faster and better outcomes for people under the care of CHC, and this makes them feel seen and understood. When you identify individuals at risk earlier on, you can intervene sooner and provide preventative services from health screenings to increased social support. Proactive prevention at its best.

If we approach investment in innovation from that perspective, ICBs have the power to totally transform the patient experience as people receive personalised long-term care, tailored to their specific circumstances and needs.

When professionals and agencies involved in care provision can easily communicate and share information and resources, the patient will instantly feel the positive impact. Families also benefit, as they can be confident that their loved one is receiving support from multiple and cohesive avenues.


Barriers to success

In reality, we know it isn’t that simple. Realising the true potential of truly integrated care and proper implementation of CHC would be simple if the digital foundations were already in place. Digitisation is a component often bypassed, but always needed.

The amount of administration involved in arranging a holistic care package for just one person is huge. And it’s made even more difficult if the only option available for service providers is constant manual data entry. Tracing a physical paper trail is tedious, even within a well organised system. It’s even more pertinent to consider this when staffing levels could soon take a significant hit.

Implementing a digital solution can take care of every step during assessment and ongoing care, allowing for optimal case management, transparency between different services, and much faster access to information at what is already a stressful time.

Combining local public services with health and social care holds enormous potential. By working in step with the changing needs of our society, the public sector can create a more efficient, effective, and person-centered approach to meeting the diverse needs of individuals and communities, particularly in the face of complex and interconnected challenges. More than ever, people do wish to be seen as more than a number on a piece of paper, and putting them at the centre while enabling digitisation is the only way we will achieve the best outcome for everyone.

Topics: digital transformation, automation, service design, Continuing Healthcare, channel shift, customerengagement, Innovation

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