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The adoption of digital technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed hospitals to manage clinical capacity, reduce the risk of transmission and provide personalised care. But the benefits of digital-first care extend beyond the pandemic.

On 23 February, Huma and iPLATO (myGP) hosted a joint webinar to discuss how we can bring digital-first care to patients at scale.

Our expert panel, made up of North West London ICS Primary Care Clinical Lead Dr Kuldhir Johal, Huma CEO Dan Vahdat and iPLATO CEO Tobias Alpsten, shared their experiences and thoughts on how partners can work together to make digital-first delivery of care a reality across different disease and clinical pathways.

Watch the full webinar on demand

Here we share some of our key takeaways from the webinar:

  • Real-time monitoring can improve our understanding of disease and personalise care

Dr Kuldhir Johal shared how the real-time data they’d been able to gather from COVID-19 patients in North West London informed evidence-based medicine at a national level. Using Huma’s technology, Dr Johal and her team were able to set thresholds for escalating care that were shared with NHS Digital as part of their national evaluation. She said: “I think this is a brilliant example of a condition none of us knew anything about, but we've managed to learn as we've gone along over the last couple of years.” According to Dr Johal, remote patient monitoring technology can also expand our ability to provide personalised care throughout the whole patient journey.

“Historically, personalised care has always been about personalised care plans for outpatients or inpatients. But this is about making it about the whole patient the whole time. And that’s the real game-changer.”

  • Digital solutions must work alongside existing care pathways

Healthcare workers may be concerned about disruption to existing processes, or additional time and effort required on top of already demanding workloads, to implement digital solutions. But for Dr Johal and her team, digital-first care wasn’t about working differently but working together uniformly.

“We have clear pathways in place, and the digital technologies enable those pathways to be delivered in a timely manner. The time factor was critical in relation to COVID. Because if a patient deteriorated within 24 hours, you wanted to escalate their care sooner rather than later.”

Dr Johal discussed how Huma’s clinical dashboard was critical, as it allowed clinical teams to put thresholds in place and prioritise patients. By having flexibility, in terms of how the information was collated into the dashboard, the technology could fit within existing pathways. “In our model, it didn't matter whether you did or didn't have [a patient] app. It was about managing the whole process in the system.”

  • By joining forces we can provide a better service

Launching new digital solutions and leveraging technology to deliver improved outcomes for healthcare systems depends on collaboration. And not only collaborating with those using digital solutions such as patients, clinicians and care providers but also other partners within the digital health ecosystem.

Speaking on the recent announcement of Huma’s acquisition of iPLATO (myGP), Dan Vahdat and Tobias Alpsten highlighted how the two companies will support patients throughout the clinical pathway and work together to expand coverage across the UK.

“Huma provides patients with an application to support them and help manage their condition as soon as they're diagnosed. Whereas iPLATO (myGP) engages with everyone, making sure that everyone's population health is in a good place, proactively,” said Huma CEO, Dan Vadhat.

iPLATO’s CEO Tobias Alpsten, added: “For several years, our CCG customers and NHS partners have continued to ask us ‘Can we do remote patient monitoring too?’ This is where the Huma partnership comes in. It’s such an attractive thing to add alongside our ‘digital front door’ solution. So now we’re able to offer our NHS partners a fuller, better service that underpins the whole patient pathway.”

  • Patients like to know they’re being monitored

iPLATO CEO Tobias Alpsten highlighted the power of clinicians and GPs in supporting patient engagement and adherence with technology. He said: “The moment a patient thinks that their doctor is watching adherence and engagement goes up. So we do think of it as a hybrid world. We need to find ways of augmenting the clinical experience with digital.”

Dr Kuldhir Johal supported his comments drawing on her own experience adopting Huma’s technology to manage COVID-19 patients in North West London. “With the Huma app, when a clinical record is reviewed, just as people will be familiar with using WhatsApp, you get a double tick. Patients knew intuitively that somebody was looking at their information, which gave them confidence, and this confidence has continued.”

  • We need real-world evidence to support wider adoption

Whilst the benefits of digital-first delivery of care are clear, questions were raised during the webinar on the evidence available to support the adoption of new technology at scale. Huma’s Dan Vadhat and iPLATO’s Tobias Alpsten expressed that although evidence to support digital health has traditionally been quite poor, both companies are working to change this.

iPLATO has partnered with experts in behavioural economics and nudge theory to better understand what kind of messaging works best for their target audiences. And at Huma, results from global, national and regional projects are helping to build a stronger evidence base to support digital care.

As Huma’s Dan Vadhat summed up: “Some of the stats that we have published through our national or regional projects show that digital care and digital-first delivery of care makes sense. You can suddenly double the number of patients you can look after, or reduce readmissions of those patients by 30%, which is a massive number.”