Using healthcare data in a more meaningful way

by Martha Bramley on 12 March 2017

Webcredible hosted an evening of talks about UX in healthcare in partnership with The Clinical User Experience Society (CUXA). We had 3 presentations and it's the first one I shall focus on here given by Dr Caz Sayer, Chair of the Camden Clinical Commissioning Group.

The challenge

Dr Sayer told us about the challenges she is facing in Camden Borough of London.

  • They are facing £20m less funding next year and thinks they need to transform the model of care going forward to avoid cutting services.
  • 1.2% of the population in Camden use 13% of the health spend.
  • Compared to all GP, social and community spending - hospital costs are by far the biggest chunk of their annual budget, but it is here that symptoms are treated rather than trying to address the underlying causes.

Dr Sayer asserts the existing NHS would be more appropriately called the National Illness Service – the NIS! It doesn't work as it is and it's hard for patients to navigate the complex system and is created for the benefit of organisations. Hospitals are doing what they have to do as the system around them is broken. Which in turn perpetuates the deficit as a whole.

It's great to see familiar UX principles around data analysis, research and service design being adopted in such a smart and forward-thinking way.

The approach is to use data in a smarter, service-user-led way to transform service provision

At present she says Camden's healthcare data is not used to understand the population's needs. So her aim is to use qualitative and quantitative data to better understand service user needs and achieve better value for everyone who uses and provides healthcare services. She recognises that "if you fundamentally want to change things, you have to be able to measure it", so investment in data analysis at the start is key.

Qualitatively, she has spent a lot of time working with patients – of which they have 1000 they are conducting research with, to help inform their approach.

We looked at a case study of people from 3 generations of a family of long-term conditions, and who were higher than average service users of the healthcare system. What it illustrated in this instance, was repeating patterns of domestic violence and abuse, mental health issues, and high levels of alcohol abuse & smoking.

These circumstances and subsequent substance abuse, leads over time to long term health conditions, which she calls complex co-morbidities.

So what is the solution?

She believes that it costs far more to allow serious problems to develop over a person's lifetime, than it would be to identify those people and give them support earlier on, which may avert the problems they encounter later in life.

So she proposes that the system takes a pro-active role in preventing illness and social problems, rather than simply reacting to it when it happens.

Breaking patterns requires early intervention and long term care, so she thinks commissioning should start at an individual level and that services should wrap around the person from childhood.

In this way, everyone benefits – the individual service user, the Commissioning Care group and the health service providers – its' a win-win situation, and who wouldn't want that?

It's great to see familiar UX principles around data analysis, research and service design being adopted in such a smart and forward-thinking way. We wish Dr Sayer every success in transforming service provision in the London Borough of Camden, and look forward to hearing more in the future.

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