How Rapid Insights can help shape health and care services in the future

In this blog our Innovation Hub Director, Aejaz Zahid, discusses the outcome of a Rapid Insights Report. The report is part of collaborative work with South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ICS to capture best practice examples of how healthcare services have responded to the initial outbreak of the pandemic.

When the COVID19 pandemic took hold earlier this year, all areas of health and social care were suddenly faced with unprecedented challenges. Many services could not continue in their existing form and the healthcare system needed to adapt quickly to this rapidly changing landscape. We didn’t really have much information about this new virus, how fast it could spread or what the mechanisms were.

Services needed to consider how best to protect the safety of patients and staff, given numerous uncertainties while weighing up the risks of various alternatives. Some services had to be put on hold as it was assessed that patients would be put at greater risk with face-to-face appointments.

The rapid adoption of digital solutions proved vital in allowing some services to continue caring for many patients. Alternatives such as video or telephone consultations became a digital front door for such services.

Although we saw many healthcare services implement significant changes very quickly, there were still considerable challenges to address. For example, people with long-term conditions still needed regular access to care and support. As the pandemic developed, we started to see new ways of service delivery emerging in such areas. For instance, rehabilitation services (e.g. for Stroke), which would normally be delivered in a healthcare facility, began adopting digital solutions such as the use of Virtual Reality, remote sensors, online videos or live video conferencing, allowing therapists and patients to interact remotely and measure progress. These kinds of innovations were vital to maintain continuity of care for many patients and to prevent their condition worsening.

Furthermore, innovation took many diverse forms. In Barnsley, for example, we observed an impactful multi-agency collaboration come together between the CCG, the local authority and the hospital which involved data analytics across a number of different shared datasets to create a “vulnerability index”. Using this index the team were able to identify households at greatest risk from the pandemic and enabled the health and social care services to quickly target support to where it was needed most. This project also incorporated the unique skillset of around 30 librarians who had volunteered to support the pandemic effort during this time.

Through the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN’s rapid insights and evaluation work supported by the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Innovation Hub, our aim has been to systematically capture these impactful innovations and examples of best practice. A key objective of this work is to evaluate the potential for long-term implementation and scale up some of these innovations. We are also seeking to identify those enablers which have facilitated the rapid adoption of these initiatives and what resources are required to sustain these new ways of delivering services.

One of the strategic goals of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ICS Innovation Hub is to create and nurture a repository of innovation case studies that health and care staff and organisations can easily access and contribute to. Information that can be easily shared so that staff can learn from best practice as well as connect with peers who share similar challenges, working together to co-create solutions which can benefit the system as a whole.

The methodology developed for this work will continue to be useful for the Innovation Hub in helping inform transformation decisions across the Integrated Care System. It is a legacy we hope will stay with us even after the end of the pandemic.

Find out more about the digital solutions and best practice emerging from the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Rapid Insights report