Digitally Connecting Integrated Care Systems

Integrated Care Systems (‘ICSs’) will be granted statutory footing in England on 1st July 2022, with 42 ICSs being established across England. ICSs are partnerships of organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined up health and care services that improve the lives of people who live and work in their area. Partner organisations will include the NHS, local councils and other important strategic partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors. ICSs are intended to better facilitate and coordinate health services to support programmes and outcomes that improve population health, whilst reducing inequalities between different groups.

Delivering system wide integrated care will be no small task, requiring the connection of existing health and care services to enhance accessibility, data sharing and communication between partners to deliver high quality, joined up patient care. With a large number of complex organisations involved in the operations of an ICS, digital connectivity will be paramount to enabling the level of interdependency needed between partners to deliver care collaboration at scale.

Digitisation, digitalisation and the better use of technology forms an integral part of the UK healthcare strategy and will be key drivers for ICSs in collaborating on patient care and optimising system capacity; however implementing solutions can pose a challenge when ICS partners are using different legacy systems or platforms to capture their digital needs. Rolling out effective, high-quality solutions that move towards standardising systems will be key for newly established ICSs, ensuring that all users can data share effectively. Better access to health information systems such as Electronic Patient Records (‘EPR’), for example, will support a smoother transition to joined-up care by enabling all partners within the ICS to update and access patient records in real-time creating a single source of truth.

As the government continues to focus the post pandemic healthcare recovery on clearing the backlog in elective care, it will be critical for providers within an ICS to have access to shared data platforms in order to streamline patient pathways and ongoing care as efficiently as possible. In particular, improving digital connectivity with investment in technology across an ICS will support and enable partners to communicate more openly and in real time, allowing for issues such as the current congestion in patient discharges to be addressed at pace between acute providers and the social care sector, optimising bed occupancy.

HealthTrust Europe believes that procuring ICT hardware, software, specialist resource and solutions at a system level is equally complex but can be simplified through procurement frameworks with the expertise to support with stakeholder engagement, developing requirements and standardisation.  For example, the use of cloud services across an ICS means that all permitted partners operating within the network can access the information they need in a fast and effective way. With external support provided by a specialist procurement partner to optimise supplier relationships, best value and to minimise any disruption to existing services. A simple solution such as this can help overcome the barriers and complexities of legacy ICT systems across ICS partners, enabling full transparency through the cloud.

ICSs partnering to procure their digital journey through free to access, purpose-built frameworks such as HealthTrust Europe’s ICT Framework can benefit from a simple, compliant and cost-effective route to market for ICSs to invest in the latest products, services and solutions to enable digital connectivity through established supply chains. HealthTrust Europe remains committed to supporting ICSs with the tools, procurement expertise and engagement to achieve best value for their system.