For anyone that doesn’t know me I have two job titles… Chief Executive, which most people understand, but also Chief Mischievist, which is less well known and essentially means that I am challenged with asking that difficult question.
As a simple premise, healthcare is a complex issue. I (and the rest of Spirit Health) are on a mission to make it easy, affordable and accessible for all. Finding ways to keep the world’s population healthy is a challenge, especially as, in most parts of the world, it grows and ages. If a company thinks they can fix that problem alone, well, that’s just a bit stupid. People who know me know I often joke about my ego. Even I am not quite arrogant enough to attempt to launch a solo expedition to fix healthcare.
The challenges I’m talking about are not a secret – stretched capacity, staff shortages, increasing costs – and many more. While the global healthcare industry has made great strides over the years, we still have a long way to go. While nothing’s certain, one thing I do know is that we can’t fix these issues on our own.
As time passes, I have a growing sense of frustration that with all the technological advancements, data we are collecting, and the number of hugely intelligent people in the industry, we aren’t utilising what we have at our fingertips to revolutionise patient care for the better. And we’re not working together effectively enough to truly make the leaps forward that we’re capable of.
There seems to be a level of discomfort when it comes to data. People get scared when it’s brought up because there’s a fear of safety and data integrity. Now, I am not saying that this isn’t understandable, because it is. Especially when it comes to sensitive data.
That’s why interoperability is such a hot topic. We need seamless flows of information to see the effectiveness of different interventions. When organisations keep things to themselves, no one can learn.
In the UK, NHS Digital’s service management team manages over 70 IT systems spanning health and social care(1). We just don’t need that many. If all IT systems talked to each other, then at least it would work slightly better. But they don’t. When we are building solutions, we need to make them as easy for others to collaborate with as possible to avoid system duplication. We should be looking at how we can make sharing data, for the primary use of an individuals’ health, the default to reduce the lost opportunities.
Frameworks and standards come hand in hand with digital health tech. The problem when we work in silos is that frameworks can be interpreted differently across the globe. Take HL7/FHIR for example, this is a recognised international standard, of which Clinitouch (our remote monitoring tech) is compliant. But it’s constantly interpreted differently in different deployments and countries. If we speak to one another, share learnings, and work out how to tighten this up, collaboration will be much easier within the digital health space. Let’s not reinvent the wheel every time.
One of the biggest barriers to effective collaboration can be the people. The more people you have involved, the more complexity it brings through different motivations, incentives and politics, along with the exponential number of interactions required to stay in contact and aligned.
This is why I’m so keen that at Spirit Health, we selectively work with partners that believe in our mission - this has helped us develop strong partnerships which have lasted years. Don’t get me wrong, you will still come up against some frankly immovable organisations. They make it possible to work with them because they have to, but they also make it as difficult as they can.
While this is frustrating, it’s a good reminder that collaboration isn’t always easy. You have to be adaptable and recognise when short-term pain is necessary for long-term success.
I should make it clear that I do think the problems facing healthcare can be cracked. But it’s impossible for one organisation to truly understand the depths of these issues from all perspectives. That’s why we need collaboration – for that full level of understanding. I often describe it as a three-layered triangle.
At the top you have a basic understanding of how healthcare systems are supposed to work. Stuff you can learn from the internet. On the second layer you have how healthcare actually works. You learn this once you have been working in the system for some time.
Then there’s the third layer. This contains the specific nuances of the people, their patients/customers, their practices, and their motivations, all learned over many more years. This may look a lot different to what is trying to be portrayed on the first layer. The nitty gritty stuff!
Earlier this year, we took an unprecedented decision to pivot our go-to-market strategy for our remote patient monitoring tool Clinitouch, towards that of exclusively selling through partners. The truth is, we don’t know our international healthcare customers like we know the NHS, and we need to work with people that give us insights into that third layer of the triangle. The NHS has been a warm, fluffy blanket for us for over 15 years. But to stick true to our mission and make health easy, affordable and accessible for all, we need to expand internationally, not just focusing on the UK.
The decision has been a real sea change from our previous trajectory, and one that someone described to me as “brave”. Looking back, I now think it’s an absolute no-brainer. We’re now on the hunt for International and UK partners who feel the same as we do.
We can’t revolutionise patient care by ourselves, so come and join us. If you’d like to speak to us about bringing remote patient monitoring solutions to your country or sector and believe as strongly as we do in working in partnership - I’d love to chat about how we can overcome the challenges above - together.
Get in touch through our Partner Program.