Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Clinically Integrated Systems

Following on from my thoughts about disruptive innovation, what structures in the UK and Irish setting might prove disruptive? Starting from the assumption, which may be mistaken, that some disruptors will be players in the current system, what could one possible future look like?
I believe the likeliest candidates are current general practice and primary care structures. They have the benefit of decent infrastructure, a critical mass of clinical, (not just medical) staff, and a population base that is large and varied enough to allow sub-specialistation. What are the missing ingredients?

  1. Seamless integration between priamry care and hospitals; to deliver this, I believe there needs to be consultant presence in the primary care teams. Consultants would work between hospital and primary care, with benefits to staff and patients, (improved access to specialist opinion, greater communication between professionals, enhanced learning opportunities for all)
  2. A payment system that rewards health, and is not just based on following processes, (e.g. check blood pressure every visit). What would this look like? Look at it from the patient perspective. What he/she wants is health, as few visits as possible, as little interruption to daily life, mot missing school or work. Can this be done. I believe it can, but it will require a fundamental shift in the way health, (as opposed to healthcare) is delivered.
  3. A recognition that an unplanned hospital admission represents a failure of care for the team providing care
  4. Quality and outcome metrics allied with an IT system sensitive enough to provide real time data
There is an interesting paper just published on the BMJ site by Chris Ham discussing this. They report the experience of Torbay, summarised below:
  • Reduced use of hospital beds (daily average number of occupied beds fell from 750 in 1998-9 to 502 in 2009-10)
  • Low use of emergency bed days among people aged ≥65 (1920/1000 population compared with regional average of 2698/1000 population in 2009-10)
  • Minimal delayed transfers of care
"hospital providers could also take the initiative in moving in this direction, especially in areas where general practitioners are relatively weak and specialists strong. London is a case in point, not least because it has several academic health sciences centres that present the potential to extend high quality care from hospitals into the community. In this context, integration might build on the strengths of academic health sciences centres by allocating them a capitated budget in conjunction with general practitioners and community health service providers. Patients would be able to choose between integrated systems based on academic health sciences centres and could also access care outside these systems in order to create an incentive for providers to deliver responsive care of high quality."

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