Against the backdrop of a pressurised National Health Service the need to improve and change models of care in the United Kingdom is clear. Indeed, the NHS Five Year Forward View is targeting £22bn in efficiency savings by 2020; and the scale of this challenge is underlined when one considers that NHS demand is growing by four per cent each year and current funding growth is only at a rate of one per cent in comparison. The NHS needs to drive further efficiency savings as a matter of urgency, and patients should be empowered to improve their own quality of life during and post-treatment.
Some of the core tenets of the Five Year Forward View can only be realised if there is more collaboration between the government, NHS, third sector, industry and patients themselves. Partnerships play a key role in working towards the shared goal of making the NHS a world-leading organisation.
The UK is on a challenging journey, but obstacles can be overcome if we adopt a fresh approach to working collaboratively. Baxter is a recognised supplier of products and services to the NHS, supporting patients at all stages from hospital admission to managing a long-term condition at home. We see ourselves as an integral partner to the NHS. We work with clinicians and patients to share our expertise on how to integrate and change patient pathways which can drive efficiencies as well as improve outcomes.
Medical technology (medtech) is a growing sector which encompasses innovations that can be used in any care setting: hospital, community or home. Increased out-of-hospital care offers significant advantages to both patients and providers alike. Home therapies enable patients to take control of their own treatment, drawing on clinical expertise expediently to support and inform their choices.
Baxter has a number of examples to demonstrate how this is possible. An outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy (OPAT) service that we set up, in partnership with an NHS Trust, gave a carefully selected group of patients the chance to receive intravenous antibiotics at home. It has saved the hospital up to 2,700 bed days. OPAT reduces the length of hospital stays and allows patients to continue their treatment at home and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital. In some cases, it can completely eliminate the need for hospitalisation. Baxter provides the home delivery of medication, the support to train patients to self-care, or the nurses to administer the drug as required.
Renal dialysis is another example where product innovation supports treatment at home, gifting patients sustained autonomy. Baxter’s cloud-based communication platform, called Sharesource, connects home dialysis devices to Renal Units enabling clinicians to monitor and manage their patients daily. This simple technology has the potential to increase both patients’ and clinicians’ confidence in home treatment and reduce avoidable and costly hospital visits – costly not only to the host hospital but to the patients in terms of travel and time.
Treatment parameters are set and each therapy is uploaded to the server automatically, in near real time. The technology enables clinicians to review, change and manage patients’ therapy remotely. The clinic’s dashboard shows who has had dialysis, which patients have had problems and what the problems were for individual patients. It also shows how the prescription compares to their delivered dialysis session. It also records critical information and any alarms that occurred during treatment.
The two-way connectivity provided by Sharesource lets clinicians change the device’s default settings such as prescription parameters, dwell time and total therapy length. This enables more timely intervention by clinical teams, optimising the patient’s therapy. Having a two-way connection to the patients’ home therapy instils greater confidence in patients, carers and healthcare professionals. The technology gives valuable reassurance to new patients who may have previously seen in-centre treatment as the safer option: “my doctor can keep an eye on me”.
Ultimately, if delivered successfully and supported adequately from the top down, the advances in medtech can signal a real step-change in the quality and efficiency of care which the NHS can offer to patients. Medtech can support stemming the tide of ever-expanding hospital clinics. It can be a liberator for patients, because it gives them control, and can be a liberator for providers because it allows them to redistribute their time and resources more effectively. Increasing the opportunity for patients to receive their treatment and care at home is not a dereliction of duty, it’s not cutting corners. Rather, it is a chance to deliver an improved experience for the patient at the same time as managing the demands on a heavily pressurised healthcare system.
Andy Goldney is general manager at Baxter UK, Ireland and Nordics.