The NHS provides a public service that is funded through taxpayer’s money. It seems only natural, therefore that such a service is kept accountable and transparent to the public. Yet far too often the public is regarded as part of the problem instead of part of the solution. This situation must change – and fast, if the NHS is to meet the plethora of complex challenges it faces, and propel itself into what the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has called “the decade of patient power.”
In any case, for innovation to succeed it must be both understood and accepted by the environment it looks to change. Healthcare therefore requires a deep level of empathy to understand the needs and requirements of individuals. Remarkable things can happen when empathy plays a key role in problem-solving. In today’s global marketplace, organisations across the board are being asked to design for increasingly diverse users, cultures and environments. Without this consideration for empathy, change can become a point of friction that wears an organisation down to breaking point. Equipping healthcare professionals with the ability to recognise, absorb and empathise with patient narratives will help to re-imagine a health service that is not only centred on the patient and their experiences, but also one that is co-developed by patients as a key stakeholder.
Here at DrDoctor, we have broken down the role of patients in healthcare innovation into three key areas:
Patients as Influencers of Care
Patients, and by extension the wider public are increasingly contributing towards NHS-led workshops, ideation sessions, interviews and written diaries aimed at constructing patient narratives. Co-producing solutions for the health service through drawing upon multiple stakeholders will unquestionably help to realign the NHS to a more patient-centred focus. Storytelling is a perfect example of how service design can be driven by the patient within the NHS. As the repository of experience, patients contain almost everything that is required for a deep, appreciative understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of present NHS services. Whether during the booking of an outpatient appointment, in a patient’s chief complaint, or a family member’s saga of surgery, the events of a patient’s experience provides a comprehensive insight into the challenges that the NHS faces today.
Patients as Managers of Care
One way to combat the issues addressed above is through giving patients the autonomy to manage their care, through the application of simple everyday technology. DrDoctor has been working with a number of hospitals and clinical commissioning groups across the UK to introduce an automated text messaging system that saves time for staff and makes access to appointments easier for patients. We have found that giving patients the ability to change or re-schedule their appointments through SMS can push down ‘do not attend’ (DNA) rates by 20%. Soon the first channel for delivering primary care will be through digital channels, not clinics, giving patients the freedom to manage their own care.
Patients as Champions of Care
Increasing patient-led participation in healthcare innovation, while providing a degree of autonomy when it comes to patients self-managing their care will ultimately lead to patients becoming more educated and engaged when it comes to their own health and wellbeing. This has the propensity to reduce strains on NHS resources, reduce waiting times and DNAs. The notion of self-care may seem like a long way away. However, through a symbiotic willingness from patients, staff and management, supported by digital transformation, the NHS can function much more efficiently and effectively.
Pulling it all Together
Designing services, environments, interactions and processes for the human experience poses a formidable, but highly worthwhile challenge for healthcare improvement professionals. This is not just about being more patient-centred or promoting greater patient participation. It goes much further than this; placing the experiences of patients and users at the centre of the design process in order to create innovative solutions within healthcare. However, this needs to be coupled with clinically evidence-based practice and adhere to the four ethical principles of nonmaleficence, beneficence, autonomy and justice.
If you’d like to find out more about how best to implement patient led care at your Trust then do get in touch!