Lancashire & South Cumbria Health & Care Partnership digital strategy in focus

Lancashire & South Cumbria Health & Care Partnership – the Integrated Care System (ICS) in the region – has outlined its digital strategy and digital future.

The document – entitled ‘Our Digital Future’ – explains that the ICS plans to measure the success and impact of its strategy ‘from the perspective of the person – not the organisation, technological infrastructure or the needs of health and social care systems’ and stresses that ‘this serves as a significant shift’ in its thinking and approach.

In the foreword, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Chair of the Digital Health Board, also highlights, however that: “Digital will not work for everybody…for those who would like to use digital but cannot, our aim will be to find ways to help them get online. As our digital offer grows we hope people will find it easier and more convenient to use online services, but technology will never replace the care and compassion that comes from our dedicated workforce.”

The strategy then goes on to outline a set of ‘shared principles’, which are aligned to five inter-connected themes: supporting the frontline, integrating services, creating the future, managing the system more effectively, and – featured most prominently – empowering the person.

Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria’s six shared principles for supporting the digital strategy are as follows:

  • To create digital solutions with the people who will be using them
  • Judge progress against this digital strategy from the public’s perspective
  • Create an environment that empowers the ICS’s frontline
  • Use data to prevent, predict and respond to ill-health
  • Work together to reduce complexity in order to improve quality and safety
  • To engage with academia, industry and others to accelerate innovation.

The ICS also sets out the context for its renewed focus on digital – explaining that the region’s 1.7 million population has above national average rates of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, hypertension, asthma, dementia and depression, and that around one-third of people who end up in A&E ‘could have been seen by their GP or another community service’.

It’s hoped that – through the use of technology and apps – for individuals living within the ICS region, the refocused strategy will lead to: being able to access and add into their own electronic health care record, and using it to manage appointments and other ‘health business’ online; having access to ‘good quality information’ to support decision making and personal management of health and wellbeing; a ‘growing range of options’ of services and support available for people to access them remotely; the ability for people to use digital tools to make changes and to monitor the impact of those changes; for people to feel confident that their data is stored securely and only shared when and where it is needed.

When it comes to supporting staff, specifically those on the frontline, the ICS says that there is ‘both a workforce and a financial gap’ and that ‘something needs to change’.

The organisation’s aim is that its plans will enable staff to: be confident and enthusiastic in using new digital solutions to help empower people to manage their own health and wellbeing; support people to manage and coordinate their own care and share experiences through the care record; have the time to innovate and to develop their skills and confidence in using digital solutions; have access to all the information necessary to do their job and collect and use data as a fundamental part of their role.

Goals around using tech and digital for further integration, meanwhile, include sharing data rather than duplicating it, continuing to develop a shared care record, accessing and processing data as soon as it is recorded, and linking people to information, resources and support.

Ideas for managing the system more effectively also include getting the ‘basics right’ and ensuring organisations are secure against cyber-attacks, having a ‘single approach’ to governing information, and always ensuring the public are aware of how data is used. Additionally, the ICS plans to ‘standardise and redesign’ its digital systems with the aim to ‘release more time to deliver care and improve safety’.

Additionally, the document shares hopes and plans for the future – which include continuing to use robotic aids for surgery, and developments around genomic medicine and artificial intelligence (AI).

On what all of this could mean for the future of Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria and the local population, the ICS says it intends to: support people to innovate, thereby ‘creating space and time to tackle common problems and share good practice’; connect people to specialist resources, including to partners in industry and academia; consider the potential of new technologies; build a reputation for innovation to attract ‘the workforce fo the future’; and use ‘the best available data’ to ‘drive continuous improvement’.

The 16-page strategy concludes by sharing its next steps and asking people to get involved in shaping its plans.

Lancashire & South Cumbria Health & Care Partnership’s ‘overarching ambition’, it says, is to ’empower people, by giving them access to clear, relevant, and reliable health information’ and that ‘over time this will lead to better health outcomes for the whole population’. This will be achieved through annual delivery plans that involve collaborative programmes and will be judged for progress year-on-year, based on the principles outlined in the document.

Access the strategy in full online, here.