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Looking on the bright side

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Game changing neuro-rehab opportunities are emerging as a result of the coronavirus crisis, argues health and social care investment expert Boda Gallon.

The Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been multi layered. Yes, we’re faced with a fragmented health and social care system, continued uncertainty, and a gloomy economic outlook. There are, however, positive opportunities for investment and service redesign within NR and the wider specialist healthcare marketplace.

Increased investment interest for this most resilient of sectors, combined with a clearly identified need for positive change, should drive the creativity needed to embrace opportunities and deliver the much needed integration, improved productivity and efficiency of services across health and social care.

This positive outlook, however, still comes with a need to understand changes in our behaviour, to embrace change, to break down cultural barriers and focus on opportunity planning.

All of which is much easier said than done. A key lesson that has been brought home to us during the Covid-19 pandemic is that heroes are people. Ordinary, but extraordinary, people.

Once we get past fighting fires and lockdown fever most experts agree that things will never be the same. The key reason for this can be found in our primal brain and how we act and continue to live under a state of fear.

The neuroscientific term for this is “a somatic marker,” as coined by Antonio Damasio. I believe that Covid-19 is a negative somatic marker that we’ve
all had installed in our brains over the past several months and is likely to have a powerful, lasting impact on how we behave, but also a positive impact on the aspects of the cultural changes required for the health and social care marketplace to develop.

Change needs to go deeper, and Covid-19, as our generation’s negative somatic marker, is probably the best reason to change we will ever witness.

Covid-19 could also finally be the catalyst for the political will required to drive the full integration and parity between health and social care. It is no real surprise to find the recent disclosure of Camilla Cavendish’s plans that social care could be brought under the control of the NHS to honour Boris Johnson’s pledge to “fix the crisis in social care”.

This will also present opportunities and require new ways of working for people, but this will ultimately drive better and more seamless service experiences for all our patients, clients, residents, customers and consumers.

We are going to find ourselves in an entirely new online environment, with an entire generation of consumers and service commissioners expecting to interact via screens and having the aspiration and confidence of services being delivered in a ‘Covid-19 free’ environment.

This new virtual hybrid world will need to be delivered with empathy to help everyone overcome the negative Covid-19 somatic marker and still meet the basic human needs for relationships, touch and social interaction.

The perceived threat of Covid-19 does not mean that new services cannot be launched or repositioned. The opportunity is to develop more flexible services able to meet all the new behavioural, political, and environmental drivers of the ‘Covid-19 game changer’.

Providers and their people need to respond to this opportunity and reposition from fighting fires and coping around how things have always been, to repositioning ahead of the curve and innovating services towards what will be a new normal.

Digital transformation

To date the adoption of digital technology to help improve productivity and efficiency across the system has often faced multiple cultural barriers, with people often sabotaging initiatives as they either feel their role, profession or revenue streams are threatened.

Covid-19 has forced everyone to look at the current barriers in a virtual way and employ different ways of working. Hopefully, this perceived threat now presents a clear opportunity for providers and professionals to deliver complimentary and long-term hybrid solutions for their clients and staff teams that embrace the best of digital and face to face interventions, training and support.

The delivery of community rehab has always faced productivity and efficiency challenges relating to logistics and the supply of and access to suitably skilled professionals, especially in more rural and harder to reach communities.

The proposed long-term somatic marker of Covid-19 now requires services and providers to be nimble to create longer term holistic solutions of their own, coordinating the much- fragmented array of technology options.

There is a need to embrace AR/VR/AI/IOT and to learn from and adopt best practice solutions from the UK and abroad to ensure much-needed efficiency, productivity and value are provided at the same time.

The positive outcome of this burgeoning digital transformation, like Covid-19, is also multi layered.

Offering a renewed focus on flexible working, employee support, management and an array of ‘wellbeing’ opportunities for staff recruitment and retention.

Healthcare settings

This digital transformation is most keenly required to help support and shape the future of various healthcare settings.

Existing commissioning and strategic planning intentions were already focused on provision away from hospitals and more institutional environments towards community settings with more holistic and social models of care.

The impact of Covid-19 will now hopefully see this process accelerated.

Although the wider roll-out of Covid-19 testing and potential vaccines is critical, providers need to review how the design and operation of care homes can be focused on delivering a ‘Covid-19 free’ moniker.

Enlightened providers need to ensure that cross infection mitigation and the flow of people, process and supplies are given an increased priority. The ability to offer digital triage and re-establish a more effective working relationship with GPs and primary care is essential to plan both avoidable admissions to and discharges from hospital and to provide the level of clinical support that has so often been missing during this pandemic.

Repositioning care homes from what has been perceived as the riskiest place for people to be towards being the safest environment possible has to be a clear goal; as well as a PR opportunity.

A focus on delivering flexible and safe space within residential services is essential to provide for increased independence, community and family integration and improved social inclusion.

New building designs in development need to respond to this now, and existing services will need to take a more strategic review of their estate for the medium and longer terms.

New models of care already seeking to deliver coordinated pathways from hospital to home, need the potential integration of health and social care to truly flourish and develop, but the vision must not stop there.

The extended integration and creative use of housing options is essential along with digital transformation to maximise potential clinical and financial outcomes and deliver the best quality of life for people. There is a lot to be learned from each other.

Previously fragmented sectors need to look vertically up and down patient pathways and supply chains, flex their services, upskill and share staff, embrace elements of isolated good practice and design into their own facilities and services.

Embrace the somatic change

To maximise value together, disruptive innovation driven by Covid-19 needs to be embraced. The independent sector can fully support NHS strategy by complimenting the NHS and building on the many successful collaborative partnerships developed during this pandemic.

Significant public goodwill and the potential political momentum to finally drive health and social care integration can now be leveraged to force past the multiple barriers to change.

Opportunity exists for game changers willing to take advantage of keen investor interest for a market that has proven to be the most resilient in the face of a global pandemic.

This inward investment into our sector can only be a further benefit forcing much needed change, new competition and opportunity to drive service innovation.

Ultimately and most importantly this will deliver better impacts and outcomes for service users, their families, and our colleagues.

We cannot afford to stand still and need to respond to the wider behavioural impacts of Covid-19 to reposition services, partnerships and networks to ensure new models of care and rehabilitation are (re)designed and delivered in more flexible and digital enabled environments.

This will ensure that proactive providers can truly respond to the future needs of customers, service commissioners and an emerging new normal to deliver even stronger, sustainable business models.

Proactive and future proofed business models are what any Investor from owner operators, to specialist private equity and bank funders will be looking to support and develop.

Hopefully, this article will help stimulate some debate and more ideas so we can share best practice and experience together.

Boda Gallon is a health and social care consultant. Connect with him via www.bodagallon.com

Read more expert commentary from Boda here

 

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