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Wil's Blog

Wil's Blog

Innovation in Patient Pathways

Tuesday 3rd March 2020

In my last blog, I discussed how innovative technology will be a central component in the improved detection, diagnosis, and treatment of heart valve disease.

However, when we talk about innovation improving treatment pathways, we are talking about more than just cutting edge technologies. We are talking about innovative, cutting edge, thinking and practices too. Therefore, for the NHS to deliver The Long Term Plan looking at new structures across the patient pathway will be key, as well as empowering the workforce to work smarter.

If we are to succeed in increasing the diagnosis, detection and treatment of heart valve disease then we must ensure there is a workforce capable of delivering on those commitments. There has been much talk of increasing the numbers working in the NHS as well retaining the existing workforce, but we cannot just stop here. We need to ensure that the processes and structures we are working with give clinicians and care givers the power and authority to deliver optimal patient pathways.

Callum recently attended a Westminster Forum on the next steps for cardiovascular disease and The Long Term Plan, and one of his key takeaways resonated with me. He said that, Nick Linker, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England and NHS Improvement, said, it isn’t just about extra people but allowing people to work smarter and in different ways. This will take time, training, new technologies, interdisciplinary working and more authority for staff, but it is absolutely integral if we we are to deliver the Long Term Plan.

As I’ve previously highlighted in regards to sonography departments, the challenges facing the NHS workforce are complex, and as illustrated by the diverse number affecting sonography departments, it is not simply a numbers game. This is about making sure the staff that are working for the NHS are able to deliver to the best of their means.

Diversifying training and empowering workers to carry out checks will be important, but also thinking of new ways avenues for checks and services through different service providers. This year we will be trialing our Flu Jab Project, where patients who present for a flu jab and meet a specific criteria will get an automatic stethoscope check.

A big focus in discussions on patient pathways and optimising referral to treatment time is getting it right first time. Getting it right first time will require education, information and technology, but it should be the basis for optimisation of patient pathway. By working smarter and diversifying where are first points of contact are, we can get it right first time. and in doing so provide the best possible patient pathways for valve disease patients.

At an individual level, we need to be thinking about new ways of finding hard to reach groups within our communities, as well as looking at new ways of delivering information and educating people to see the signs and symptoms in themselves and others. We need to find ways of reaching the people, and then when we do we have to ensure that we are making every contact count. This is where technology can help new and innovative structures by ensuring that we are empowered with information we make that contact count wherever the patient presents. .

Nationally, prevention, innovation and delivery of care will be driven by regulation, legislation and guidance. Heart Valve Voice’s Gold Standard of Care will be central to ensuring regulation and guidelines deliver the best possible outcomes for patients. However, the national landscape is more than just guidelines and the NHS is a complex organisation with different bodies, trusts, committees and disciplines all working hard to deliver for patients.

There is some incredible interdisciplinary work and work across trusts being done by some brilliant creative minds across the country. We need to make sure that we are harnessing that creative thinking when it comes to patient pathways to ensure that we can deliver for heart valve disease patients and the Long Term Plan.