Helping ICSs at every stage of the journey

6th June 2023

Our ICSs face a series of challenges but getting the tech basics right is a vital step says Civica’s Paula Ridd

From finding the time to innovate to picking the most effective technology – all without losing that all important empathy for the patient experience – the UK’s Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are dealing with so many hurdles every day.

Designed to be partnerships of organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined up health and care services, our ICSs are all at different stages of maturity in their thinking, scale and priorities. This was very evident in a recent roundtable I was pleased to speak at, hosted by health industry publication HTN Now. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for ICSs, whether looking at technology use, resources or innovation journeys.

Creating the space to transform

One message which resonated loud and clear was that professionals working in ICSs just can’t find the time to innovate. They are working in often frenetic situations, dealing with both increased workload and staff shortages. Trying to transform services while coming off the back of the COVID19 pandemic (which accelerated so much in the short term but meant longer-term projects were dropped) is going to take time away from the day job.

This challenge around finding the time to innovate was echoed by the roundtable panel who really believe that to win trust for transformation from the wider clinical community, we need to create time to allow clinicians and clinical leaders, finance leaders, management and patient group representatives to stop and take stock.

Here at Civica, we're thinking like an ICS too. How can we continue to join up our solutions and the data between our products, to help trusts solve their issues? As the ICSs are maturing and balancing different perspectives, suppliers such as us have a call to arms to support with this digital transformation agenda.

Where does tech fit in?

Technology is just one part of the jigsaw – but a vital one. There’s a perception that Trusts are approached with the ‘shiny new toys’ but aren’t getting the basics right first. There’s also a wealth of brilliant technology that could help but how does the NHS pick it up and use it effectively from a cultural and transformational change perspective? Having the knowledge and being able to use the tools to their best advantage is a leap that can’t be underestimated.

Of course, the health and social care sector does not need to approach this alone. It’s our role to help get the basics right in the first place. We have the digitisation tools for specialist pathways and we can start with implementing these to take away some of the day-to-day issues. Then we can start to use more advanced technology such as Artificial Intelligence to get quick and accurate insights from the data collected to build more efficient and effective patient services.

Real insight from data

It’s vital that we engage more with the health and care sector to understand the variations across our ICSs. It will make us think about how we can behave differently and approach challenges in more productive ways. At the roundtable, we discussed leveraging experience that has gone before; we can play a key role in brokering this as we are continuously learning as we implement projects across the ICSs. We need to harness these insights so they become actionable to help work through the challenges.

Data plays a crucial role. We’d like to see a much more ubiquitous joining of data across all care settings, so that we can provide actionable insights that consider all the data in any one system. Taking a population health view on data so we can join up educational and social data alongside health records – this collaborative approach will better our understanding of insights and increase our knowledge of how to action them. In turn this will allow ICSs to focus on their true mission to put patient care at the heart of all decision making.

Paula Ridd is Strategy Director, Health and Care at Civica