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George Crooks OBE


30th April 2021

George Crooks

Developing health and care services that are fit for the future

Who would have thought when we sat down with our families over the festive period in 2019 that our world would be changed so dramatically by the spread of the coronavirus?

The global pandemic has brought several issues into clear focus for me, and I would like to share my reflections.

In most countries, I believe the lack of investment in health protection and digital support systems has been brought into sharp focus.

It does not seem to matter how coherent a government’s policy may be or its legislative activities in respect of Covid-19 management, the individual behaviour of each and every one of us has been the main determinant in the effect the virus has had within our communities.

It is notable how the use of digital tools and services have increased exponentially, primarily in how we have been leading our day to day lives – how we stay in touch with family and friends; carry out day to day tasks like shopping, educating our children; and support many of us in working from home.

Even health care systems around the world, never really known for their speed or enthusiasm for adopting digital technology enabled solutions, have moved at an unprecedented rate in exploring, developing and deploying technology supported solutions for safe and effective health and care services for the populations they serve.

While the global challenges presented by coronavirus have taken a significant toll in both mortality and morbidity on our fellow citizens, we have recognised the importance of individual behaviours and the need for collective responsibility in how we conduct our lives for both personal and the common good.

The coronavirus has demonstrated the effect that digital technologies have in influencing those behaviours, for good and bad!   It has evidenced how digital tools and services can play a significant role in the support of transformational service change across health and care.

However, we cannot afford to be complacent.

While we are heartened by the rapid speed of adoption of video consultations across community and hospital care in many countries, we must remember that these technologies have been around for the last twenty years or more, and the time from invention to implementation is no different from that of penicillin, which took around 16 or more years prior to its acceptance. In that case it took a world war, in our case the global pandemic!

We cannot afford this lengthy delay in adoption to be our future.

Technology affords us the opportunity to activate, engage and empower citizens ethically and effectively.   We can support people to make better informed health and wellbeing choices, through the provision of easily accessible information and advice.

By developing solutions that allow the blending of consumer generated data with formal health and care data, we can develop a true picture of the lived experience of our population.

If we took the even bolder step of supporting our citizens to take full control and become the point of data integration by giving them the tools to curate their own data, we could enable them to:

  • make better informed health and wellbeing decisions
  • access formal public services including health care on their own terms
  • become active participants in the delivery of their own health care

By doing this through a process of conversations and consultation, we could build both geographical and virtual communities of care to support our citizens.

The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged the world to not only behave but think differently.  If its legacy is a global community better informed and enabled to use digital tools and services as part of their everyday life, in ways that can add real value to each of us as individuals, and to the communities in which we live, I believe we have a better chance of developing health and care services that are fit for the future.

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