Last week I had the privilege to meet a group of leaders, clinicians and let’s-make-the-future-now thinkers from the U.K. – part of a 3-year collaboration between the National Health Service and the Veterans Health Administration. I can’t thank the members of this collaboration enough, for being able to participate in several days of discussions, walking and dinners. A downright lovely few days.
The opportunity for this exchange is described in Making Connections, a transatlantic exchange to support the adoption of digital health between the US VHA and England’s NHS, by John Cruickshank, Joanne Harding, Jon Paxman and Charlotte Morris. The aim of the Exchange Programme is
to improve clinical engagement, develop
confidence new technologies work, increase leadership to drive digital health into everyday use for the majority of patients.
While some health politics does vary on each side of the Atlantic, both health systems provide public services for large, complex and aging populations. Through our discussions it quickly became clear that the drive for improvement and patient-centered care are shared, and the day-to-day challenges of busy healthcare teams and hurdles of coordinating care are the same. So deep dives and hands-on collaboration only serve to strengthen the resolve to meet the needs of patients and caregivers by developing and disseminating digital tools that are useful and valuable. I was particularly intrigued to learn more about how the NHS embraces patient and caregiver input into care processes. They talked about how this is a required element for their care delivery. We need to learn more about this participatory experience, and I hope someday I can observe it real-time.
I wasn’t able to join their visits to VA facilities in D.C., Baltimore and Martinsburg, VA, but coordinated a trip to Kaiser’s Center for Total Health. Director Ted Eytan (@tedeytan) and International Liaison Joy Lewis (@joylewiskp) provided a thoroughly engaging tour, touting (rightly so) Kaiser’s online reach with patients over 65%, and how they’re driving more care into the remote and digital spaces.
At that visit, Neil Evans, Co-Director of VHA’s Connected Health Office and a general internist at the VA in Washington, D.C., and I keyed in on this theme: High Touch and High Tech…Anytime.
A huge thanks to Jo Harding (@jhardingNHS), who leads the NHS-VA collaboration, has helped UK transform to new models of care and promotes telehealth for people with long term conditions through the Department of Health’s 3millionlives programme. And here’s big shout outs to all who journeyed here: Martin McShane (@docmdmartin), Director Domain 2; Victoria Corbishley, Head of Change Management; Gail Beer, 2020health Facilitator; Jane Wells, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust Service Director; Sian Howell, Southwark CCG Governing Body Clinical Lead; Matthew Hodson, Nurse Consultant Homerton University Hospital; Eileen Sutton, Assistant Director of Urgent Care NHS London; Josip Car, Director of Global eHealth Unit; Martin Kuper and Greg Battle, Whittington Health Medical Directors; Carol Gillen, Whittington Health Director of Operations; and Helen Taylor, Whittington Health Head of Pharmacy.
I’ll end yielding the floor to our UK colleagues, with comments from their daily blog posts–
“We could not have been made to feel more welcome and the fantastic day that they had put together and willingness to share demonstrated real pride in the service that they provide to their patient population.”
“We need to be the story tellers who convince anyone who will listen that this is a must do. We know the technology has come – email, apps, telehealth – whether we want it to or not. We know the patient centred benefits it can bring, if given time and investment to flourish. We have seen the benefits to health care professionals in releasing time to care. We need to support professionals and the public to adapt, adopt and accept the new world at our finger tips. As an American President said, ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we are waiting for. We are the change we seek.’ ”
Photos are from our visit to the Kaiser Center for Total Health.