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Future of Healthcare Q1 2023

Health system readiness reduces high levels of burden on the NHS

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Lucy Morgan

Associate Director of Research and Policy, The Health Policy Partnership

An increased capacity for diagnostics should enable a more targeted approach to healthcare, meaning better outcomes for patients and optimised use of NHS resources.


Readiness refers to all parts of a health system being prepared to adapt rapidly and sustainably to ensure innovations can be easily integrated.

Why is system readiness essential?

Health systems around the world are becoming increasingly stretched, but innovations in treatment, diagnostics, models of care and data collection are making care delivery more effective, sustainable and equitable.

Making sure health systems are ready to integrate these innovations will benefit individuals and societies alike. Current advances in precision medicine serve as a perfect case study for why system readiness is needed.

Readiness for precision medicine

Precision medicine uses an individual’s unique biological material to guide the choice of treatment, increasing the likelihood of it being successful. Besides the obvious benefits of providing an effective treatment for the individual, precision medicine can also reduce the financial burden of care associated with ineffective treatments.

Holistic and proactive planning will ensure innovative care can reach the people who need it.

Innovative diagnostics are central to precision medicine

Treatment with precision medicine depends on appropriate patient identification, and key to its success is the availability of safe and accurate diagnostics. Readiness for innovative treatments using precision medicine must therefore be matched by integration of appropriate diagnostics. This requires system-wide planning, with equal emphasis on policy and practice.

From a policy perspective, the Government must support the development of safe infrastructure and sufficient workforce capacity. The regulation of treatments and diagnostics should be distinct but linked, to reflect the different intentions of these two components of care while ensuring their approvals proceed at a similar and appropriate pace.

In practice, supply chains for materials used in diagnostics must be streamlined and reliable. Referral pathways should guide the use of diagnostics with clear direction for future disease management. Finally, ongoing data collection should support the analysis of diagnostic efficiency and accuracy to ensure patients and healthcare professionals have relevant information.

Getting system readiness wrong

The lack of consideration for whole system readiness can result in a therapy being licensed and available while the necessary diagnostic is not. For example, in the UK, supply chain delays on diagnostics used to complete certain PET scans make it impossible to identify people who might benefit from innovative treatments that are already available.

This adds unnecessary pressure to an already burdened health system. Holistic and proactive planning will ensure innovative care can reach the people who need it, ultimately increasing the sustainability of the health system.

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