2 keys to positively transforming the NHS
We are at a point in healthcare where the system is in as much need of our care as our patients. There is a need to refurbish the current healthcare system from its core for it to continue to exist for decades to come. Such transformation for the NHS system means embracing opportunities to promote well being, prevent ill health and improve at pace.
I have been immersed in the world of health provision enabled by technology, more recently during my time with the health team at DeepMind, arguably the world’s leading AI research company. I now envision the potential of a health system, in the near future, that is evolving to be continuously learning from itself and informed by human-centred design. Healthcare leadership able to elect this change will be data-driven and anthropologically informed.
To be data-driven means to analyse data as means to elect new insights for change at pace. Data is the fuel of this process and technology is the engine. Under this mindset to constantly learn, insights uncovered from data become avenues for faster and regular incremental improvement- leading to maximising outcomes, learning from mistakes and constantly evolving best practices- all with the ultimate intention of making it increasingly possible to do more with less.
The current system is evidence-based and so it should; the issue is that this cannot be our sole source of insights for direction, and the velocity by which evidence-based medicine is translated into reality frankly is insufficient for the demands of healthcare today. Objective and subjective data generated by the system exists. Granted the structure of this data can be questionable and challenging to work with, it is time we started making better use of what we have and most importantly, translate analysis into actions.
Being anthropologically informed means to make decisions from a position of attempting to understand human behaviour and the associated social context of those insights. Such a mindset is at the foundation of enabling a human centred approach to design unlocking new ways of doing things that are simpler, cheaper yet wonderfully effective.
This approach is radical but the work of the nudge unit with the government behavioural insights team is a famous example of benefits of such approach. Healthcare is tasked with the care for human beings. To better understand and invest in understanding human nature in the context of healthcare is to better care for human beings. This approach is not only important for improving the outcomes for our patients but also for our staff, so that morale may be maintained and improved, staff is able to do their best work and multidisciplinary teams function at their highest level of ability.
In all we are at a time in the history of healthcare where aspiring and current leaders in healthcare need to recognise and embrace these two keys to positively transforming the NHS. A data driven and anthropologically informed approach to transformation are both essential strategies for enabling change in the right direction.
Ivan Beckley is a UCL Medical student with a completed UCL MSc in Health Data Science sponsored and funded by Google’s DeepMind. He started a social enterprise named Limitless Generation, a health technology startup named Suvera and became a part of the first group of UK medical students appointed as NHS clinical entrepreneurs. As recognition of Ivan’s achievements in 2015, he was awarded one of the top 10 black students in the UK by Rare recruitment and No.3 on the list of Top 100 African and Caribbean graduates and undergraduates by Powerful Media.