The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Healthcare must embrace digital methods of delivery

12th June 2014

Ewan Marshall, SpeakSet founder, proposes innovative ways to change Healthcare delivery

In the 19th century four musicians could beautifully play a Beethoven string quartet for their audience. The same is of course true today. However, today the musicians will be paid much more for their time. The quartet are unable to increase their productivity as they cannot play the piece faster but at the same time are able to ask for a higher wage. This is true simply because employers will compete for musicians who would otherwise take jobs in higher paid industries. As one piece always takes four musicians to play it and it costs more; it seems that the productivity of a string quartet will inevitably fall over time.

This same problem is seen in the NHS but to an even greater extent. It still takes nurses a similar amount of time to change a dressing or a doctor to discern what is wrong with you as it would have in Florence Nightingale’s time. There have been improvements in the productivity of the NHS in other ways. People live longer healthier lives than ever before. Drugs and treatments are more effective.

Unfortunately, healthcare delivery has not seen much innovation. 90 per cent of healthcare is still delivered face to face and just a 1 per cent reduction in the cost of this would save the NHS £200 million. Healthcare delivery needs to change.

Musicians realised that in order to increase their productivity they needed to get heard by more people; they understood that the delivery of their service needed to change. This manifests itself most simply in the record label. The organisational structure put in place allowed musicians to be heard by more people not only through gigs but also records. To achieve this, musicians needed to embrace new technology and new methods of distribution; the phonograph, radio, LPs, CDs and then digital distribution.

This is all analogous to healthcare. Originally, doctors could reach very few people in their communities. The advent of the NHS meant a doctor could see more patients because of the organisational structure. The problem is that where musicians have embraced digital forms of distribution, the same cannot be said for healthcare. Record companies may complain about dwindling revenues but this is a sign of the commoditisation of music – there has never in history, been so many sales of songs.

Healthcare must embrace a digital method of care delivery. We recognise that the face to face consultation is a hugely important part of healthcare and cannot be destroyed. So the £100bn question is; how do we use digital innovations to drive the cost of care delivery down without decreasing the standards of care?
The reason the music industry has been so successfully changed is to do with a focus on what the consumer needs. The record companies did not want to embrace Napster or iTunes but the consumer knew that was how they wanted to access music. Technology now allows us to test innovations around the user’s needs.

This lean and fast approach to innovation is what healthcare needs. As technology doubles in power every 18 months we need to focus the NHS around the constant in the equation, the patients, rather than the technology. User centred care is the only way the NHS will become sustainable. SpeakSet has been developed in this way in order to solve the biggest problems facing both our health services and our society. We focus our development around the needs of older people as they use the majority of the NHS’s capacity.

SpeakSet’s vision is to change the way that healthcare is delivered. By connecting doctors with their most at risk patients, we decrease the cost and increase patient satisfaction for the most important healthcare interactions. Through extensive user testing we realised there was a huge need on both sides of the patient-doctor relationship for simplified, medically secure, video calling on an interface that everyone could use. We allow tech literate people to access video calling on the devices they are used to. Most importantly, we allow older people without laptops or tablets to access the platform on their TV. As 70 per cent of the health and care budget is spent on this user group, this is where the NHS can make the largest cost savings using this digital method of distribution.

It is because of our user centred approach that we know this works for everyone. Not only do we save healthcare providers £2400 a year by delivering care to patients with long-term conditions, we also know from our prototyping that patients prefer it. It even increases their wellbeing. Face to face consultations are integral to care and so making them better must be first on the list in changing the way care is delivered. Let’s hope that the care delivery systems that exist, grab this opportunity to enter the 21st century and make older people’s lives better.


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