The NHS has never been under greater pressure to cut costs, reduce deficit and hit targets; all whilst improving health outcomes, patient experience and transforming into a modern paperless organization.
In Lord Carter’s report on the “Operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals: Unwarranted variations,” he estimated that if the NHS reduced unwarranted variation, at least £5 billion of the £55.6 billion spent annually by acute hospitals could be saved.
Although the bulk of the Carter analysis centers on the savings to be found in procurement, pharmacy and agency costs, Carter recognizes that, “bringing together a system approach to care pathways,” is required to build a single version of the truth.
Armed with the aim to deliver better care, reduce unwarranted variations and cost, Care Pathway Management can help NHS providers achieve these goals.
What is Care Pathway Management?
Care Pathway Management guides the patient, clinical and administrative staff through a single, real-time view of the entire patient journey from referral to outcome. It integrates clinical and administrative systems, and gives providers the ability to design and implement their own pathway rules, to allow for the appropriate personalization of care at the point of delivery.
It can be applied across different healthcare specialties and across outpatient environments.
For patients, this means they see the right doctor or specialist more quickly because their referral is tracked and triaged electronically. They never have to repeat information and can also manage appointments online. All stakeholders (including physicians, patients and other providers) can also be updated in real-time via text, email or web-portal. Administration is personalized, automatic, timely and accurate.
For providers, a Care Pathway Management approach to healthcare delivery is:
- Measurable – both in terms of efficiency and outcome
- Predictable – demand is visible and can be anticipated
- Controlled – variance is eliminated.
Let’s consider an example. A UK provider of specialist eye care services who works with time-critical eye conditions, leveraged Care Pathway Management to significantly reduce waiting times across a large number of NHS trusts whilst simultaneously driving down the cost and improving the quality of care delivered.
The provider worked with Lumeon to design workflows that blend key clinical decisions with administration processes. Important clinical data is captured about each patient early in the process, either by administrators or via online forms filled in by patients. Smart workflow rules guide optometrists to move patients through an appropriate care pathway, automatically screening out those not suitable for scan and highlighting those at risk.
Leveraging a reviewer portal, diagnosis and necessary treatment is verified in minutes by senior consultants who work remotely, reviewing images and decisions as they become available; this enables the ophthalmologists’ time to be scheduled more effectively and the provider can leverage a wide network of senior professionals, both locally and across the country.
With Care Pathway Management, the provider has reduced patient appointment times from 4 hours to 1 hour, reduced Ophthalmologist review time by 88 percent, and reduced treatment costs by 80 percent.
As the NHS looks to implement Lord Carter’s recommendations for reducing unwarranted variation and lowering costs, innovative approaches to improve the process will become key to success.
Care Pathway Management is one approach that providers can utilize to ensure that success.