Blog post

Achieving the road less travelled: building a sustainable NHS through innovation and partnership

Partnership working will help achieve a sustainable NHS with digitally enabled staff and empowered patients.
Uday Bose

5 May 2022

The NHS has ambitious targets to harness digital health to overcome the immediate and long-term challenges of the post-COVID-19 recovery, as well as improving equity of access to all patients. It is therefore vital that we work in partnership to deliver a sustainable NHS that is futureproofed as we move to a digital-first era in healthcare.

The changes instigated by the pandemic and the subsequent vaccine response have both accelerated and reinforced the critical role that digital transformation and data need to play in creating a sustainable health service. It has helped to dispel digital doubts and created a renewed willingness to accept the need for transformation.

Patient empowerment

However, alongside this opportunity to reset healthcare with a digitally sustainable agenda, there are also challenges. It is critical that the digital drive doesn’t exacerbate health inequalities but provides patient empowerment, allowing personalisation in care choices.  

To do this effectively we need to address a number of fundamental issues: how do we innovate with patients and not for them? How do we support the system to make the gear shift from paper and scissors to digital systems, devices and streamlined care pathways that better serve patients while tackling climate change? And how do we support the huge NHS workforce to make the gear change from the way things have always been done?

“…adopting a pragmatic approach, where innovation is driven by empathy and where culture change enables us to look beyond medicines, is critical for a sustainable future”

Taking the road less travelled and adopting a pragmatic approach, where innovation is driven by empathy and where culture change enables us to look beyond medicines, is critical for a sustainable future.

A strategy of partnering is key to fuelling progress. Be it patient partnership, science ecosystem collaborations, educational partnerships, community partnerships for service re-design – we believe people and patients should be central to future transformation.

Addressing quality improvement

Being insight led is key to being sustainable because it shows us where we need to do better and address quality improvement. A survey we conducted with the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA), revealed that while 65 per cent of the public are open to trying digital health technologies, only a fraction of tools are recommended by health or care professionals. In total, amongst those using digital health, only a small proportion of recommendations came from healthcare professionals, with 17 per cent of recommendations coming from GPs, 8 per cent from hospital doctors, and 2 per cent from nurses.

Our health and care staff in the UK is the biggest workforce we have so we cannot underestimate the important role they can play in interoperability delivery, for example, or the success of maintaining digital care pathways for patients. Ultimately, sustainable development can only happen if the complexity is simplified, and ensuring frontline staff feel digitally ready is simply critical.

The pandemic has shown us the power and potential of what can be achieved when we work together.

Uday Bose is managing director of Boehringer Ingelheim UK and Ireland. You can follow Boehringer Ingelheim UK and Ireland on Twitter @Boehringer_UKI