Humanising Healthcare: Understanding Patient Demand - A Better Way for the NHS to Work

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The NHS must change the way it operates to effectively meet future challenges.

The starting point for improved services at less cost rests on more intelligent use of data to inform future performance improvement through system and service redesign.

The NHS has exhausted other ‘misguided’ approaches – for example: standardising; over-medicalising; functionalising; and commercialising operations. Today, we need to humanise healthcare and focus as much on care needs as medical treatments.

Hamish Dibley, independent healthcare consultant, talks about his work in applying a patient-centred approach to healthcare analysis and service design.

This alternative approach to realising better healthcare services and less cost begins with looking at healthcare not from an activity perspective but from a person-centred one. Unlike existing practice, this approach establishes time-series data to interpret the true nature of person demand for acute services, in order to better understand the root cause(s) of service challenges facing commissioners and providers alike.

Understanding patient demand is the first step in arriving at intelligent system and service redesign solutions around patient cohorts. This informs a more integrated and preventive system that will successfully alter the nature and consumption curve for care, and reduce costs across the system.  This work serves to inform and constructively challenge current cost improvement plans and quality improvement programme planning, as well as provide the basis for broader schemes, such as NHS vanguard projects or joint improvement work with CCGs. Moreover, this way of working provides a better approach to overcoming the principal performance challenges facing all healthcare economies – A&E breaches, delayed transfers of care, and waiting time lists for planned care.

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