Overcoming NHS waiting lists with digitised care pathways

Finland-born telemedicine startup Buddy Healthcare is helping the NHS to overcome growing waiting lists and resource challenges by digitising care pathways

Growing patient waiting lists are proving among the biggest challenges facing the NHS this year, having been compounded since the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s been reported that queues to access public healthcare in England particularly could hit 10.7 million by March 2024. Alongside this, healthcare professionals are facing increasing strain, and have been struggling to keep up with demand for services.

Additionally, patients across the UK and globally are becoming disconnected from care pathways. Manual, paper-based processes that are siloed from phone or email support — such as patient records and registration forms — are still widely used, often make patients feel uncertain and stressed.

Remote patient monitoring

To help the NHS combat these pitfalls, telemedicine startup Buddy Healthcare is providing a cloud-based care coordination platform for patients, clinicians and hospital management. Underpinned by AWS infrastructure, the hospital-wide solution is accessible across the care journey from wherever the user is situated. Patients can make use of data-driven instructions and documents; doctors and nurses can take actions based on that data and the current situation; and real-time structured measures of outcomes and experiences allow for intuitive facility management. This comes via an app that is compatible with iOS and Android.

“I see remote patient monitoring as a kind of data collection, which has proved a big challenge. Solutions will often collect the data and build these nice graphs for clinicians, but do not actually aid the care process,” said Buddy Healthcare founder and CEO Jussi Määttä.

“The majority of digital systems for patients are for data collection. The patient needs to login and answer questions, but they are left wondering what they gain from using the platform.

“With us, patients are always informed of the steps they need to take next. They receive instructions, information and reminders on when to stop eating, drinking, and taking certain medication, such as blood thinners.”

By giving users this information in real-time, any possible complications that may come up during operations can be minimised. According to Buddy, customer data reveals 80 per cent of patients stay compliant with their pathways.

Improving care management in the NHS

Automated patient processes have proved key to reducing strain on NHS services and staff. For NHS Lanarkshire particularly, 8,000 patients were waiting for services across three hospitals even before the pandemic, according to Määttä.

“Each patient having surgery had in-person pre-operative appointments, which were recorded on paper and scanned to a PDF stored by the hospital,” Määttä explained. “This causes the problem of the patient report staying in a single place, meaning that the doctor needs to be physically located in that hospital.”

To solve this pitfall, Buddy implemented a patient application that delivers personalised pathways. Määttä continued: “The first step is introducing what’s planned for the future; then pre-operative assessments can be carried out digitally based on the user’s answers to basic questions.

“We filter patients based on three risk groups — high, medium and low — and those low-risk patients can access their own digital pathway up to the day of the surgery, while high-risk patients would need to visit the hospital before treatment.”

For clinicians meanwhile, Buddy informs staff of whether they are good to go for the operation the day before it happens. A green light means the patient is ready to attend the operation, while a red flag represents that the patient has come down with illness, meaning they will not be able to attend, and that surgery will need to be rescheduled.

Focusing on data use cases

Going forward, looking at the medical technology (medtech) space generally, Määttä sees the sector increasing its focus on making use of data to increase efficiently.

He said: “For the last five to ten years we have been talking about collecting and storing data, but I am yet to see innovations that really make use of that data to make healthcare more efficient.

“While we have been making data actionable, in five years I hope we can make healthcare predictable.”

Buddy Healthcare, founded in 2016, currently operates with 25 full-time members of staff, has three offices — in Helsinki, Berlin and Edinburgh — and is delivering its services across Europe in 14 languages.


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

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