The global health crisis has ‘shocked’ businesses across all industries into accelerating their digital transformation plans, in order to keep operating as successfully as possible.

Of course, Healthcare organisations have had much more immediate care issues and pressures to deal with during the last year of the pandemic but it is clear, more so than ever before that technology plays a key role with helping healthcare organisations on their digital journey.

For example, the COVID-19 vaccine trials alone have provided significant data challenges to overcome, and the mass vaccine rollout will require significant feats of technology as much as medicine.


Playing careful catchup

Historically, the move to digital-first has been slower in healthcare because of compliance, regulation, and the by-nature physical delivery channels of the industry. COVID-19 has forced entire businesses in other sectors to quickly shift to working-from-home scenarios – in some cases re-establishing entire call centres remotely –healthcare organisations had to tread more carefully. While the NHS, for example, was able to procure a 12-month licence for a video appointments platform in secondary care within a couple of days of Boris Johnson effectively announcing the first national lockdown, achieving the same capability for primary care was more challenging.

At the start of 2020, and therefore prior to any lockdowns, virtual appointments were hitting the headlines of industry news-sites such as Digital Health, but these were effectively pilot schemes involving only a handful of NHS Trusts. The NHS planning guide for setting up virtual appointments laid out in March 2020 ran over nearly two pages. Not only was this to establish effective use of the right technology, as well as ensure patients and GPs alike trusted the new process, there was also another major stumbling block to overcome: how to safely incorporate patient data into the digital mix.


To save or invest in the riches of patient data

According to research by Qlik, two-thirds of NHS Trusts hold their data on over 100 different systems. Meanwhile, the call for an open-source approach to EHRs continues to gather pace. Clearly, the idea of more patient-centric care is the focus, albeit with some confusion and disagreement over the way in which to achieve it.

Moving forwards, healthcare organisations should be taking advantage of the momentum in digital transformation provided by this difficult and challenging time. A big part of transformation success will lie in establishing a unified source of patient data truth that provides the solid foundation for more personalised, coordinated care. This will build on the potential new normal of virtual appointments by aligning to data-rich virtual treatment pathway.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has noted the importance of increasing investment in telehealth since COVID-19, to aid not just more efficient digital consultations, but also remote monitoring and collaboration as well. Data-sharing is a key component of this, and the RCGP has seen a doubling in participating practices sharing GP data with its research and surveillance centre.


The Priory Group: a data-rich case in point

A good example of how this can work can be seen in the private sector. Prior to the first lockdown, the Priory Group healthcare organisation had begun to move to more flexible ways of working but, when COVID-19 struck, was not ready to deploy at the required level.

Nevertheless, the shift to effective remote-based care had to happen very quickly. From its limited unified platform that connected some departments to provide limited personalised care, the Priory Group integrated Salesforce across its systems to achieve a company-wide view of the patient engagement process. The new integrated portal enabled patients to self-manage their appointments and care as much as possible, while therapists could quickly access clinical notes remotely.

The sharing of patient data within the Priory Group was a crucial step in this transformation process, enabling complete integration and interoperability across core systems. This enhanced care coordination by empowering care teams, providers and community organisations to collaborate on patient health as well as more efficiently and transparently managing transitions of post-acute care and patient discharging. The addition of real-time analytics has provided therapists with dynamic dashboards to gather insights on wider treatment and population health trends to help improve individual patient care pathways. As a result, patients and therapists can now accomplish more personalised, coordinated care experiences from their own homes.

At Salesforce, we’re committed to helping healthcare organisations create personalised, coordinated care experiences through data value.

To find out more about our thinking on a true, transparent and trusted approach to patient data and the value it can add to each care pathway check out our resources on our Healthcare Solutions page