The Role of Modern Communications in an Integrated Care System

The NHS Integrated Care System (ICS) aims to remove existing silos between hospitals and Primary Care, physical and mental health services, NHS and council services, and instead deliver the support people need in the form of a joined-up health and care service from local councils, the NHS, and other partners.
This approach presents healthcare providers with the opportunity to explore new service workflows and technologies as they seek to keep up with evolving patient expectation and demands.
The communications challenge
To successfully meet patient health and care needs, an ICS should consider how to best improve patient visibility and patient access across all care services in their region. Modern communications and collaboration services can potentially play a pivotal role with this. Technology solutions that can help ease the administrative burden on staff and patients are especially valuable - anything that can alleviate the frustrating time-demands that get in the way of health service access and provision has to be a win.
For example, the automation of certain patient services such as management of appointments, renewal of prescriptions, service-payments, or even some medical triaging could be beneficial for patients and hospital administrative staff. Likewise, improving clinical staff mobility using smartphones enabled with role-based communications that are integrated with a hospital’s electronic health records, will help to improve care-team reachability and ultimately improve patient-facing engagement.
Think Connected
The challenge faced by ICSs is that, rather than solving pain points in isolation, they must both improve experiences at a local level and scale the solution across a whole region. They must enable secure and compliant cross-site communications and collaboration, as well as data sharing for integrated but remote multi-disciplinary teams in both primary, acute, and the wider community care area.
The answer is for healthcare providers to think connected about their communications services. When it comes to collaboration and communications, thinking connected is transformative because a well-designed system that spans the entire patient journey – before visit, during visit, after visit – has the potential to improve patient engagement and access to care, create a more satisfying patient experience, and enable team members to focus on the delivery of great care. In addition, this kind of joined-up communications system can foster cooperation and enable consistent experiences for both patients and staff across multiple Trusts and organisations not just between healthcare provides within an ICS.
An ICS that thinks connected across all its healthcare providers is not only aiming to improve patient outcomes. By using communications and collaboration services to ‘join the dots’ in practical ways between an NHS Trust and other organisations within an ICS body, duplication can be avoided which will help maximise return on investment.
Steppingstones to Digital Transformation
The idea of digital transformation can be daunting, especially if there is an all-or-nothing mindset. Instead, it can be helpful to take a ‘steppingstone’ approach that focuses on future-proofed, coordinated solutions that address the specific challenges currently being experienced by patients and staff.
Communications and collaboration services are foundational first steps in a steppingstone approach of the digital evolution of health services and there are three key practice areas where they will help maximise the positive transformation of the patient and staff experiences and engagement:

Improving patient access to care
The best communications and collaboration solutions enable more compelling and engaging remote patient treatments and monitoring whilst continuing to maintain quality of care as well as secure, reliable access to healthcare services over existing, and new, digital communication channels such as video and chatbots. Ensure the solution can integrate and interoperate with patient data and enable effortless, non-repetitive, digital data capture and organisation. The management of administrative services such as appointments, prescriptions, test-results, and referrals should work in a way that suits all parties as well as provide controllable access to clinicians and specialists.
Creating a better patient experience
The aim is to be able to integrate digital therapeutics across a range of communications and collaboration systems and devices to create scalable, on-demand services without overwhelming staff. This involves making digital services understandable and accessible to all patients, no matter what their age or technical proficiency, and the ability to create more personalised care experiences, rooted in scientific understanding, which can be scaled cost-effectively.
Enabling team members to focus on great care
By removing silos and complexities from Trust-wide communications and collaboration services, inefficiencies across calendars and roles can be reduced along with resource reachability and better usage, which in turn reduces wait, diagnosis, and treatment times. At the same time, this helps maximise specialist resource utilisation for where it is needed.
Find out more about how thinking connected is enabling healthcare providers to streamline essential services, improve employee experiences, and enhance patient care by interconnecting and scaling their systems across multiple regions. Start the journey by benchmarking against industry standards to establish readiness for implementing foundational stepping stones and learn actionable insights and recommendations.