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The Near Me platform has expanded rapidly from hosting 300 video consultations pre-pandemic


Innovation to underpin healthcare


As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, politicians, policy advisors and economists are all asking the same ques- tion: how do we build back better? At ABPI Scotland we are


having the same conversation and believe that the improved use of data and digital solutions must be our biggest learn- ing from the pandemic. At its heart, the ability to turn data into information, and informa- tion into insight, will improve care for patients. Already during this crisis we


have seen the NHS adapt, innovate and bring services closer to patients with un- precedented speed. Whilst most of us


“Te initial plan was to implement the initiative in 30 practices but during Covid we have been able to scale that up to 60 practices. Tat specifically allows for alignment and visibility so that the end user – the patient, or anyone who is using the practice on the patient’s behalf – can immediately access all the NHS Inform resources.” Looking ahead, it is evident


that despite issues that remain with the digitally-excluded, more and more health and care services will be delivered online.


Research conducted by the Near Me team has provided perhaps the biggest indication that there is a strong preference for it to continue. A government-backed evaluation of the platform among 5,000 users, found that 87 per cent of the public and 94 per cent of clinicians thought video consult- ing should be used for health and care appointments, providing it is “appropriate for the consultation”. Key findings showed the public stated a small preference for use of


video over phone consulting both during periods of physical distanc- ing for Covid-19 and afterwards. Health professionals identified


a wide range of potential uses for Near Me but a clear preference was identified for use of video consulting within the ongoing management of conditions (for example asthma, mental health conditions, various out-patient follow up appointments) rather than in undifferentiated diagnosis (for example the first presenta- tion of abdominal pain). Some of the main barriers


highlighted were poor internet connectivity, lack of access to devices and privacy concerns; and for practitioners they cited fears about “missing something important” in a call. In terms of inclusion, some


groups highlighted language and communication barriers, a lack of adequate resources and support for people with learning or physi- cal disabilities, all of which will be a focus for policy-makers in due course. l


spent the early part of the pandemic grappling with Zoom and encouraging col- leagues to “unmute themselves”, the NHS ramped up and rolled out NHS ‘Near Me’. In beaming consultations into patients’ living rooms, NHS Scotland gave a peek at the type of technical innovation that should underpin healthcare for the next generation. For industry, generating


in cutting-edge research whilst enabling faster access to the lat- est treatments through flexible commercial arrangements. Te opportunity is clear but


there are hurdles to overcome before this becomes reality. As a result, ABPI Scotland is call- ing for a collaborative approach that ensures the ambitions described in various digital strategies relate to the on-the- ground reality in the NHS. In short, this means pri-


Alison Culpan: “The opportunity is clear”


oritising the collection of data and patient outcomes as a public health priority equal to that of waiting times and other issues. It means investing in infrastructure to standardise data col- lection. And it means working together at all steps in the jour- ney to ensure patients have full trust and confidence.


Whilst the opportunities


generated from the better col- lection of data are significant, they won’t be around forever. When Scotland rolled out the


insights from large data sets has the power not only to transform the way we research new medi- cines and vaccines, but also how we deliver them to patients. Te speed at which new


vaccines and therapeutics have been developed has in part been thanks to how we collabo- rate and use data for the greater good. Being able to analyse large data sets, quickly attract large numbers of patients to clinical trials and understand outcomes have all helped assist the response to Covid-19. For patients, the improved use


of data can help refine pathways and match them to more effec- tive treatments. It can also pro- vide opportunities to take part


community healthcare index number, we were the envy of healthcare systems around the world. In recent years that advantage has slipped away, and we are in danger of falling behind other countries that are moving quickly to make health- care data available. As a result, ABPI Scotland would encourage the Scottish Government and NHS to work fast and make the improved use of patient data a cornerstone of their next digital healthcare strategy. Covid-19 has already forced


so much change, but its biggest legacy might be the changes that are yet to come, and we hope this includes a data-driven NHS that delivers for patients, clinicians and industry. l


Alison Culpan, Director, ABPI Scotland


FUTURESCOT | WINTER 2020/21 | 19


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