Director of Transformation & Partnerships at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
Current pressure on the NHS and growing waiting lists are well publicised, but what is often not spoken about is that currently one in four people have two or more long term health conditions, a number predicted to double by 2035.
In Torbay alone, the number of people with two or more conditions equates to 50,000 people. The only way our integrated care organisation can manage this is to shift from reactive to proactive care, by putting the knowledge in the hands of patients to better manage their own health at home.
The rise in digital technology, accelerated over the past year, has meant that there are many tools available to patients. However, there is one key challenge. There are a growing number of individual apps for each condition, which at present, do not link up with one another.
At a patient participatory co-design event funded by the South West AHSN and The Health Foundation Q Exchange, people told us that it was all very well having apps to support them in managing their health, but if they lived with several different conditions, having several different apps that didn’t ‘talk to each other’ was actually a burden, not a help.
A need has arisen to create better unified care to help connect these conditions and reduce the burden on patients.
Effective industry collaboration
In 2018 we started working with our partner organisation Health and Care Innovations LLP (HCI) on an app for patients with MS and Rheumatology conditions. Early evaluation has shown a reduction in rheumatology related appointments of up to 50% and seven hours of weekly nursing time has been released from our education programme for patients being prescribed new medications. Plus, within six months, the waiting times for our MS clinics have diminished.
“I believe this app is a tool for empowerment. It is actually something that encourages you to be resilient, it gives you the tools to work with the information, and notice some progress for yourself and think yea, I can do this, I can cope.”
MS Patient/App user
Looking forward, the aim this year will be to make more conditions available through the app, including Cardiology, Hip and Knee pathways, Ophthalmology, Gastroenterology, Respiratory and Diabetes. This will not only bring more benefits to patients with multiple conditions, but will reduce even more unnecessary appointments. In the Hip pathway alone we aim to reduce post-procedure appointments by 80% and achieve savings of £216,000 each year. This puts us right on track for meeting the challenge of reducing our face-to-face appointments by 30%.