A GP and leading healthcare consultant has called on the NHS to mirror the approach taken by other industries and personalise the services it offers.
Dr Steven Laitner is a St Albans GP helping to deliver improved care at community level through ‘population segmentation’.
He works with the National Association for Primary Care to analyse a linked data set which looks at the ‘three big life courses’ – children and young people, adults and older people – then breaks it down further into people who are well, those who have long-term conditions and those with complex needs around multiple physical, mental and social problems.
His project with the Alliance for Better Care federation covers 17 GP practices in east Surrey and a population of 30,000-50,000.
“The mistake [healthcare] has made in the past is to think about everybody in the same way,” he told BusinessCloud.
“Our approach recognises that there is a group of X thousand people who are really well and all they really want is rapid access to any clinician when they’ve got a concern; then there are the people with long-term conditions who need a different model of care; and then there are the people with complex needs which need to pull in other agents and services.”
These could include social workers, pharmacists, paramedics, geriatricians, palliative end-of-life care expertise and the voluntary sector. “You need data to identify the people who would benefit from that sort of integrated coordinated care,” said Dr Laitner.
“All we’re trying to do is design services according to the needs of different groups of the population and increase our level of personalisation of care at the community and citizen level. And people (the general public) do understand this.”
He continued: “I hope we see a different approach to health in this country: the time has come for us to take an approach other industries would take and segment our population base – which would be a customer base in other industries – and offer different types of services to different people.
“It’s slowly coming. Slowly.”
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The data Dr Laitner and his partner companies work with is anonymous, which presents a significant challenge. “We are looking at ways to re-identify the data, with all the due information governance that’s required within primary care, because then you can offer improved care services to people,” he said.
“If you start with the primary care data and only re-identify it at the point of clinical care, that’s a good place to start. GP practices are responsible for the health of all their patients and you can only help improve the health of the population if you know stuff about them.
“We have disease registers – people with diabetes, asthma and depression, for example – and we’re building on that to identify people who are well, have long-term conditions or complex needs.”
All this data is medical in nature, but Dr Laitner believes the NHS should be calling upon other sources too.
“If we could be more holistic in the data we use – if we could use the data from fields such as housing, employment, criminal justice and deprivation – it would help us enormously.”