The need to place the patient at the centre of the model of care is widely accepted and is thus reflected in the Health Plan. Meeting this need is a substantial improvement in services and involves changes in the way these services are provided and that is precisely what innovation is all about.
What is needed, therefore, is to ask ourselves what instruments we have to incorporate innovation in public services and facilitate this change of model.
The RITMOCORE project, coordinated by the AQuAS, is in fact a public procurement of innovation initiative which aims to incorporate innovation in the provision of services to patients which carry or need a pacemaker. The end aim is to achieve care of higher quality, more personalised and ultimately, of more value for those patients who have been fitted with a pacemaker.
Public procurement has revealed itself to be a lever for change regarding the model of provision and organisation of health services and of the relationship with providers. This is why the AQuAS has driven several initiatives at a Catalan and European level in this area, such as numerous European projects or the recent call by CatSalut for PPI projects.
Catalan hospitals (Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge, Mútua Terrassa and the Hospital Sant Pau) and English hospitals (Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Countess of Chester Hospital) have undertaken a joint bid under the clinical and administrative leadership of Hospital Sant Pau, and coordinated by AQuAS which will be published at the end of 2018. This bid will make it possible to contract a service that will make the tracking of all patients with pacemakers effective and stimulate their activation, and it will enable the selection of the most appropriate devices for each patient, promote the coordination between levels of healthcare and permit the management of change of the ICTs that are needed: an integral service in line with what the health plan requires.
This inspiring project provides a practical approach to everything regarding the key issues in re-orienting the model of care. It forces us to deal with the constraints of the regulatory framework of public procurement and make continual assessments of risk, but above all, RITMOCORE forces us to manage the complexity of multidisciplinary environments (medicine, nursing, contracting, finances, etc…) that provide a very enriching opportunity and a challenge at the same time.
Complexity is inevitably a source of innovation. Providing ourselves with the instruments to exploit all the potential in favour of the care of people is our responsibility. Society, the healthcare environment and collaboration with the private sector are highly complex realities which offer the opportunity to generate, adopt and spread innovation.
The management of information is key to the health system from the perspective of a greater integration between patients and professionals of different levels. Shared information, transparency, evaluation and the readjustment of healthcare processes need to be primary lines of action so as to situate the patient at the centre of the different interactions with professionals of different fields.
The expansion of information technologies has created new opportunities which enable people to participate actively in the monitoring of care processes offering a unique opportunity to facilitate communication and improve a patient’s commitment. The new model of care which the Health Plan Catalonia 2016-2020 proposes is aimed at putting more focus on patients and to that effect, tools have been developed that improve the relationship between citizens and the health system making it all easier.
In Catalonia, we have a personal health folder available since 2009, Cat@Salut La Meva Salut (LMS), accessed by using a digital certificate or using a user name and password which are provided by a citizen’s primary healthcare reference centre.
La Meva Salut is a personal digital space for consultation and interaction, which puts relevant health information generated by public healthcare centres in Catalonia at the disposal of citizens, in a safe and confidential way. This information includes such things as the current medication plan, vaccines administered, diagnoses, clinical information, results of tests and complementary examinations
When considering La Meva Salut, we can say that it is a strategic project which promotes the participation and co-responsibility of citizens in prevention and the care of their health, fostering awareness and knowledge related to their pathologies and making it possible for them to participate in the clinical process of care.
La Meva Salut offers cross-cutting and strategic services of the Catalan Department of Health and it also allows different health providers to incorporate more personalised services according to the more specific needs of patients in each entity, which are standardised in La Meva Salut.
In this way, La Meva Salut offers a unique gateway to the virtual health system allowing citizens, who identify themselves only once, to use services of different centres in an integrated and personalised way. Some of these services already in use, are, among others: changing primary care doctors, requesting appointments to see a primary care doctor and for international vaccination services, service of patient communities (allows groups of patients to be created for sharing opinions and dealing with different pathologies with the help of an administrator that is usually a health professional), and the monitoring of patients with chronic pathologies.
The most noteworthy cross-cutting services that the Department of Health has made available are:
• Consultation of waiting lists for surgery
• Consultation of pending appointments and tests of any health provider in an integrated way
• Obtainment of organ donor’s card
• Consultation of the Advance Directives document
• Inclusion by the patient of clinical variables in their clinical history
• Secure mail service, eConsulta
eConsulta is an asynchronous and bidirectional remote communications tool between a citizen and health professional that complements face-to-face care. The access by citizens is only possible via La Meva Salut, in a safe environment which guarantees confidentiality in communication. Citizens are authenticated each time they enter and the professional can only consult or respond from their work station; in this way, the information is stored in the repositories of the Health Dept. incorporating them into the electronic clinical history of each citizen.
This is a new channel of agile communication to resolve a citizen’s consultations in a virtual manner. Either the professional or the patient can begin a dialogue. The access of citizens to the health system is thus made easier and a solution is provided to a part of healthcare needs without needing to programme face-to-face visits, with the corresponding saving of paperwork and time this means for citizens and professionals.
Data used in eConsultation in Primary Care in Catalonia*
What do these two tools, La Meva Consulta and eConsulta, offer the professional?
We can answer this question briefly and clearly:
These tools represent a new model in the relationship with citizens where they are invited to participate in the care process and, moreover, have the possibility of adding information (via La Meva Salut)
The new channel of communication generated by these tools allows notifications and documents to be sent in a safe way and, ultimately, to establish a non-face-to-face type of relationship with patients. In models such as Kaiser Permanente in the United States, the number of face-to-face visits has been reduced considerably
Tele• Substitution of face-to-face visits with virtual visits such as the updating of the online medication plan, results of normal tests and the monitoring of some types of pathologies
As happens with any change, the inclusion of technologies in processes requires users to adapt to new uses despite these having clear benefits.
This new way of interaction between patients and the health system has come to stay as happened in other sectors, such as in banking, for example, where processes have been changed significantly.
On the other hand, technologies increase the levels of security of access to information, enabling alerts of pathological results to be generated, providing support tools to clinical decision making, improving the self-management of agendas with the use of eConsulta, substituting low added value tasks with others that require a clinical interpretation and dedication to patients that need more time and knowledge.
The challenge in Catalonia is the deployment of a new model of care that promotes the use of online services, with the objective – once implemented – of fundamentally changing the care process in health centres by empowering patients and achieving a safer medical practice.
With careful development and the joint effort of professionals and citizens, each one in their role, these services can be incorporated successfully into the organisation of healthcare.
Post written by Òscar Solans (@osolans), functionally in charge of eSalut (eHealth) in the Catalan Health Department.
With the experience acquired during these seven years, what improvements has the project provided in your opinion?
I think the most important has been stability and in ensuring a health care continuum for our boys and girls. We have been able to give 100% cover from the start in primary and hospital paediatric care and in on-going medical care including localised standby calls. This has meant excellent access for the population, with a 100% success rate of pre-arranged appointments for the same day, and, in addition, with a high success rate at primary level, with an increase in standards in the quality of care.
This has led to a drastic decrease in emergency visits to hospitals as well as in admissions and transfers beyond the borders of the territory. Although there are fewer admissions, a fact that brings with it an increase in the complexity of child admissions, the average hospital stays for these admissions have been reduced.
In keeping the umbilical cord tied to the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu for training paediatricians and in the referral our patients, it has meant that this rate of success has in fact increased in our territory.
In this way, children and their parents are always attended by the same paediatrician, or team of paediatricians, where all know the problem at hand and provide solutions following the same protocols that would be followed in the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu.
Another noteworthy element is that by integrating ourselves within the Maternal and Child Unit of the Alt Urgell, with obstetricians and midwives, we have widened the homogeneity of interventions to include the whole mother-baby area and this has allowed us to begin projects such as early postpartum discharges with follow ups by paediatricians/midwives together and postpartum support groups which have been very well received by the population.
The web set up in 2011 has also brought us closer to the population enabling us to spread information on paediatric subjects. In particular, the virtual doctor’s consulting room is a frequently used tool by parents to clarify doubts with great flexibility and without having to travel to the doctor’s rooms.
Good results and awards endorse the entity’s task that you began which has been able to guarantee efficient paediatric, primary and hospital care. What are the keys of this success?
I think having the autonomy to manage ourselves is fundamental. Being able to manage our own agendas, timetables and cover for each other, among other things, has allowed us to adapt the task of caring to the reality of the territory and also to the realities of each professional by trying to reconcile our work and family life. What is more, it allows for on-going training.
The other key point is the relationship with a top-level centre like the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu which ensures we get on-going training and it solves problems of professional isolation that we might experience in zones a long way from the metropolis.
In a way, we feel we have a ‘big brother’ that helps us when there are difficulties and who accompanies along our journey.
Do you think this innovative model of self-management could be applied to other medical specialities and extrapolated to other regions?
I am absolutely convinced that it is a model which can be reproduced in almost all areas of care and in all regions. The important thing is to find professionals who are willing to accept the challenge and that the administration believes in it and is willing to back it.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) have played a key role from the beginning. Of all the innovative actions you have fostered, which one has worked the best?
The web page and virtual consulting room without a shadow of a doubt.
The web page, with its internal part, gives us access to all professionals and it is where all protocols are hung and this means we all work in the same way, including family doctors that are on call in different doctor’s rooms in the Alt Urgell and who have access to it.
The virtual doctor’s consulting room, likewise, means parents’ doubts can be clarified in a relaxed way and without interrupting visits (as always happens with untimely phone calls). On-site visits that require time investment by parents and, above all, discomfort are thus avoided.
You opened a virtual doctor’s consulting room on your web page five years ago, addressed to parents and tutors. Do you receive a lot of consultations via this channel?
As a matter of fact, no. We get 12 consultations a day on average, shared between the four paediatricians on duty in the region (paediatrician and paediatric nurse).
It must be stressed that we have very good accessibility to on-site visits and we attend a total of 3400 children meaning that numbers are logically not very high. The family’s and professional’s satisfaction, respectively, is very high.
Innovation has been the motor of your initiative. Do you have plans for implementing a new project this year?
In December last year, we incorporated the obstetricians from La Seu d’Urgell into the cooperative society. In practical terms, they were already working in close collaboration since 2012 and now form part of the cooperative; this fact consolidates the project a lot.
We would like to have the midwives from the Alt Urgell in the cooperative because with a few small changes, this would allow us to improve care, especially in community health which is lacking at the moment in our region.
This year, CatSalut has asked us to implement the model in other areas of the Pyrenees where there are problems of cover and it is now one of the issues we are looking into.
Interview prepared by Neus Solé Peñalver (@neussolep).
From the blog AQUAS we hope you are having a good festive season and would like to thank you for reading and following us.
We publish weekly in Catalan, Spanish and English on subjects related to the projects that are being carried out at AQuAS and we also publish contributions from guest authors. The editorial line of the blog includes a focus on assessment from different points of view and areas of the health system.
Along these lines, we have dealt with healthcare and quality results presented by the different agents who make up the healthcare system, the whole range of observatories of the Catalan Health System (including that which deals with the effects of the economic crisis on the health of the population and innovation), qualitative research, integrated care, the assessment of mHealth, inequalities in health, patient involvement, doctor-patient communication, shared decisions, patient and citizen preferences, variations in medical practice, the prevention of low-value clinical practices, the impact of research, information and communications technology, data analysis in research, tools for the visualisation of data, innovation and health management, the gender perspective in science, statistical issues, clinical safety with electronic prescriptions, chronicity (not forgetting chronicity in children), the effects of air pollution in health and current topics.
It often occurs that old habits, bureaucracy and certain fossilized procedures hamper the chances that innovative projects, which have been proven effective for patients, may be extended from one organisation to another. Which are the causes that lead to this situation? And which tools can be offered to professionals?
Domingo Blanco described the experience of the online pre-surgery programme started in 2006 by Hospital de Viladecans, which since has proven that not only unnecessary consultations in the centre can be reduced when planning a surgery, but it also helps avoiding repeated tests.
The team led by Dr Blanco, who is presently striving to extend this experience, is dodging some obstacles, such as the difficulty of gathering the patient’s complete clinical record. “There is no unified clinical record, there are difficulties to connect primary care and the hospital, and there still is a lot of fragmentation”, he admitted.
Despite the great savings for the healthcare system obtained with this online programme, it is far from being generalised. He hints at the reason. “There is a resistance against change, and the enemies of innovation are healthcare professionals themselves. We lack courage and also the support from organisations”, he added.
OIGS, a place to share innovation in healthcare
Within the structure of AQuAS, healthcare professionals can find the Observatory of Innovation in Healthcare Management in Catalonia, a space to share innovative experiences in management, fostering a collaborative environment and the exchange of knowledge.
The OIGS currently includes 180 innovative experiences that have already been implemented in the health system, and have generated change, and which can also be transferred, as well as 37 certified experiences, as explained by its coordinator, Montse Moharra.
The OIGS also offers a place for learning on innovation in management, with more than 600 professionals participating, an assessment quality certification procedure for the experiences, and the identification of strategic alliances and good practice.
The use of ICTs and the ePatient
The founder ofDoctoralia, Frederic Llordachs made an appeal for the participation of healthcare professionals and to anticipate the patients’ needs thanks to the use of ICTs, in a world where 80% of the population has an Internet ready mobile device.
“Patients do already demand that you schedule their visits using WhatsApp, and they look up health topics on the Internet. We are talking about an increasingly more empowered ePatient, who wants to be the centre, who demands autonomy in decision-making and who is more and more expert,” he pointed.
25% of users search the Internet for information on healthcare topics, and 35% of people in Spain use the web to schedule visits with healthcare professionals, while they forsake other media, such as the telephone. Within this setting, Llordachs advocated to jump the obstacles, and that healthcare professionals themselves generate the change.
A contributor from the audience stated the need to guarantee transparency and to include innovation projects in result-based services purchases, and also in the writing of healthcare agreements.
At the time of carrying out an innovative project, a key element is that it originates from a need, that it is placed under a continuous improvement, and that it is eventually assessed, to test its results and possible benefits.
Post written by Gemma Bruna (@gemmabruna), journalist specialised in health and head of Communications of the Catalan Society of Healthcare Management (@gestiosanitaria).