How digital can help Integrated Care Systems

At last month’s Digital Healthcare Council members meeting, we were joined by Toby Lambert, Executive Director of Strategy and Population Health at North West London Integrated Care System. Toby spoke to members about the challenges and opportunities facing ICSs and what ICSs need from innovative organisations.

Toby highlighted some of the challenges faced by ICSs including an aging population, a cash limited healthcare system and the wide ranging impacts of delayed transfers of care. North West London ICS currently employs more staff than ever before, but it is delivering less, specifically with compliance processes for chronic illnesses. ICSs in general are focusing on how to join up the system more effectively and bring care closer to home, which is where the importance of the newly formed relationships between health services and local authorities comes in.

North West London ICS has seen numerous positive changes since the formation of ICSs, including better access to data – enabling better understanding of communities and allowing systems to measure the effectiveness of interventions. Toby also noted that communities have better relationships and engagement with the NHS, using the example of the Covid-19 vaccine roll out and that services are better equipped to  offer broader interventions that aren’t always medical, for example social prescribing.

So how can digital innovations help ICSs?

Toby underlined the importance of digital technology in helping ICSs deliver on their objectives which are to: improve overall population health outcomes, reduce variation in outcomes, experiences and access, improve overall value for money, and deliver wider economic and social benefit. Toby encouraged members to make clear to ICS contacts how a new product or idea will help patients and help achieve ICS objectives. When discussing a new partnership or pilot, innovators need to make clear what part of the system they need to access and what exactly for. Toby acknowledged that ICSs need to also need to be better at articulating what they’re looking for and the specific problems that digital and tech can help solve.

Responding to questions from members, Toby discussed that the best approach to take when approaching an ICS with a digital solution is to link your innovation to the ICS objectives and the wider benefit for patients. He also shared that once ICSs have developed a single framework for doing things then identifying a point of contact will be clearer for organisations wishing to partner with them. We ended the discussion exploring the different commissioning models that ICSs are exploring such as risk and reward sharing.

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