Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are partnerships between organisations involved in health and care services, invented to bring them together as one working body, dependent on the local area they all operate in. These organisations are NHS providers, NHS Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities and voluntary sector partners, all working as one to improve the effectiveness of their care services.

These services are vital to the continued health and wellbeing of the British population, but they are stretched thin by the mounting pressures that the country’s healthcare organisations are facing, both professionally and financially. As a result, Integrated Care Systems have never been more valuable, but there is still one asset that they are not fully taking advantage of: data.

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Understanding ICS and its importance in UK healthcare

The Potential of Data Analytics

When creating a system of integrated and collaborative care, it is integral that the organisations involved have as much information to base their services on as possible. This is where data analytics comes in. Healthcare organisations, like the NHS, have vast amounts of data available to them, but their services are so overstretched that analytics aren’t used as much as they should be.

Data analytics have the potential to help ICSs improve the care that they provide by helping them identify the areas that are most in need of development. Sharing data collectively allows British health institutions to take a more cohesive approach to care, prioritising the local communities that rely on them. The Health and Care Act 2022 establishes ICSs as statutory bodies and offers them heightened financial and legal power, which, in turn, will allow them to improve their services.

With this growing empowerment, ICSs are beginning to unlock the true potential of data analytics, allowing their organisations to tackle huge problems in the healthcare industry, such as performance, budgeting, funding and the increasing demands for change, as one united body. Analysing the data collected from local areas can prompt a pooling of intelligence and resources to ensure that everyone in the community gets the care that they need.

Analytical Systems For ICSs

To make efficient use of analytics, ICSs need access to technologies that allow them to go through the data that they have gathered. This is where ELCOM can help by providing the means through which healthcare organisations can use data to inform their practices and future endeavours. Primarily, we will focus on finance in the industry, promoting visibility first in order to help ICSs gather as much data as possible and also keep local communities informed. This is an essential business move for the NHS because of mounting criticisms concerning the lack of transparency in where money is invested.

There is potential in all the data available to the UK’s ICSs, but many struggle to harness it in ways that improve both the care that local individuals receive and the ways that those individuals perceive the healthcare system. This presents a challenge where organisations are using a variety of different systems, which are unable to be either integrated or scaled. Failure to address this problem means many of the benefits of collaborative working are lost.

ELCOM offers all-new procurement solutions that could work across the three to seven trusts that typically make up each of the 42 ICSs nationwide but this would take decades to implement. Instead of using separate systems for each of the aforementioned financial aspects of healthcare, ELCOM proposal to ICS is a singular system that allows ICSs to connect all their partner organisations and the local public as one. ELCOM offers ICS a seamless and smooth solution. It can take us just four weeks to install its Data Analytics for Healthcare overlay system. A solution that overlays what’s already there — a tool which is stored in a secure cloud and can talk to each system in the ICS family, bringing the data into one place. The Data Analytics solution hoovers up every organisation’s procurement data — no matter what P2P or finance system they’re using — and marries it seamlessly with the data harvested from every other partner organisation.

As a partner of the Scottish Government, ELCOM has provided innovative analytical services, helping organisations across the UK deconstruct and understand the data that they collect. Data analytics have proven their potential in various areas of British business and finance, but the healthcare industry has always suffered from an overwhelming demand that it sometimes struggles to meet. ICSs are unlocking the true potential of services like those offered by ELCOM, demonstrating the value of united systems that streamline data to improve various internal aspects of health and care across the UK.

With 42 ICSs currently operating in England alone, it is essential that they garner as much public support as possible. Emphasising transparency with all industry spending, from purchase to payment to procurement of resources, will help immensely. This, in turn, helps ICSs to develop the care that they offer because it provides unique insights into how these resources are being put to use and how ICSs can amend any weak points in their systems.

Pain Points

For these technological services to be put to good analytical use, they need to be equipped to tackle pain points beyond the lack of transparency, too. There are several recurring issues identified within the UK’s Integrated Care Systems and also the NHS more broadly. They are:

• Organisations struggling to meet evolving healthcare needs.
• A major lack of reporting overhead.
• Multiple financial systems crowding NHS Trusts.
• A lack of oversight across procurement at ICS level.
• No sense of unity between separate data sources in one area.
• No ICS auditing capabilities.
• No procurement management and economy of scale at ICS level.
• Fractured communication between ICS organisations and the public.

Integrated Care Systems offer a stabilising sense of unity to the various British healthcare institutions that they include, so they need all the help they can get to continue down this path. However, a lack of cohesion is partially to blame for the struggles that ICSs experience as they try to function as singular bodies.

Improving local services is the first step toward tackling problems with healthcare nationwide. This becomes a lot easier with the implementation of an improved system that accepts data from multiple ICS sources and then analyses and deconstructs it to provide valuable insight into how ICSs are performing and where they need to focus their efforts. This will help to internally empower ICSs at a time when health and care are considered to be ‘in crisis’.

The Benefits of Data Analysis

With disparate data sets, a lack of clear communication and slipping performance management, there are multiple benefits to using data analytics for ICSs. In July 2022, the British Medical Association reported that data provided by NHS England demonstrated significant backlogs across nationwide healthcare, with patients waiting for procedures, referrals and treatments and staff and services stretched to their limits.

Analysing data such as this is incredibly important because it helps ICSs to pinpoint exactly where their efforts, resources and finances are needed most. It helps them cultivate a clear set of goals and make fully informed decisions. These decisions include important financial decisions, such as how much money is spent with third-party suppliers, or how spending fluctuates depending on the size or locality of the suppliers used by each ICS.

Data analysis also promotes collaborative opportunities between partnered organisations. At a time when staff are struggling to keep up with increasing public demands for healthcare, unity is more important than ever. Taking a collaborative approach to decision-making, finances and improving shared services allows all the organisations across a single ICS to come together and act as one working body. Any transactional inefficiencies, communicative issues or staff dissatisfactions can be straightened out in order to focus on providing an even more attentive level of care. Data provides all this information and ELCOM have services that can help you make the most of it.

What Types of Analysis Can Be Performed?

When it comes to harnessing data analytics for improved ICSs, there are several types of analysis that can be performed. One of the most obvious is spend analysis, which gives insights into where money is being spent and where it can be saved. ICSs need to focus their financial efforts on targeting the services that are struggling the most. This will allow them to maximise investment, funnel money into appropriate resources and promote financial transparency.

Similarly, ICS payment analysis focuses on data relating to suppliers and buyers. This is a methodical way for ICSs to keep track of where money is going and to whom, avoiding any potential losses that could take financial support away from the areas that need it. Economic development analysis of data gives ICSs further information on which businesses are trading within the wider UK public sector, allowing them to consider their places as healthcare providers and develop in response to competitors and a changing economy.

With the financial data covered, organisations can also use analytical services like ELCOM’s to deconstruct data based on people. For instance, gender and social equality analysis probes the data collected about the staff working within ICSs and any discrepancies in how they are treated. This includes gender pay gaps, any social biases at work and the levels of access that people of different genders and social circumstances have to resources within the industry. Carbon analysis is also possible, which allows ICSs to focus on the environmental side of business and estimate their cumulative CO2 outputs.

A Step Towards Improved Integrated Care Systems

With prices rising and dissatisfaction with public services growing, Integrated Care Systems must do all they can to continue providing an excellent level of care. This involves fixing internal inefficiencies with finances and the working process, as well as enhancing engagements with the public. The data regularly collected by the NHS provides information that can be used to guide future efforts, but the problem that most ICSs have is not knowing how best to analyse that data.

Luckily, with services based on straightforward analysis, artificial intelligence and financial efficiency, ELCOM are making it possible for the UK’s Integrated Care Systems to get the most out of their data. All UK health authorities, NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups can make use of these services and unlock the potential of data analytics when moving to improve financial, professional and public relationships within British healthcare.

Author

  • Carolina Duran

    Carolina Duran, VP of Marketing at ELCOM, joined ELCOM in May 2016 to lead the company's marketing team and implement a robust and efficient strategy to secure brand positioning and growth in the UK and internationally. ELCOM is a global Supply Chain Technology Provider which praised itself for making procurement smarter, more connected, and transparent.

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