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Population Health and HIE in the UK: Transatlantic Opportunities and Perspectives

October 26, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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Community leaders in Leeds, England have embarked on a bold new population health management initiative

In September, a transatlantic collaboration was announced that could possibly stimulate progress in care management both in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States. The collaboration involves, on the one hand, Leeds and Partners, an organization responsible for attracting investment to the British city of Leeds, along with key local health and social care services providers, including physicians and hospitals in that city. On the other side of the collaboration is Alere Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based provider of healthcare solutions, including near-patient diagnosis, monitoring, and health IT solutions, and including in particular its division Alere Accountable Care Solutions (formerly Wellogic).

As a September 11 press release noted, “The collaboration has been set up to advance the establishment of a health information exchange [HIE] in the city to support existing work on the delivery of a single election health record [EHR] that all NHS [National Health Service] services could use, tightly integrated with social care services. This would enable a patient’s entire care team to access comprehensive information and collaborate on care, while also allowing patients to engage with their care teams and take a more active role in their own health and wellness.”

What’s more, the press release continued, “As part of the collaborative framework, patient data will remain securely held by the NHS and will not be shared by the health and social care partners in Leeds. The partners expect to demonstrate how sophisticated technologies can create the clinical excellence and financial outcomes needed to transform the region’s and country’s health system.”

The release quoted Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England, as saying, “High quality information at the point of care is essential for the delivery of safe, high-quality, value-for-money care. NHS England is committed to ensuring this becomes embedded into the fabric of the NHS. The program in Leeds will help demonstrate how such an approach can help healthy people across the country stay well, while aiding people who suffer from chronic conditions better manage their care and ultimately lead more productive, healthier and happier lives,” he added.

Shortly after the announcement, Tim Straughan, director of health and innovation at Leeds and Partners, spoke with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about the public/private and transcontinental population health initiative. Below are excerpts from that interview.

At Leeds and Partners, what have been your overall strategic goals in this broad initiative?

Starting with the really big picture, I’ll mention that Leeds is a big city just across the Pennines from Manchester, one of the biggest cities in the UK, with a metro area population of 3-4 million and a city population of 800,000. And the role of Leeds and Partners is that we’re the investment arm of the local council, the city government. We’re really keen on driving inward investment into the city, and we believe that if we have a healthy economy, and healthy people, that that helps. My background is in health; I had worked in the NHS for many years. And I joined Leeds and Partners, because Leeds has decided to focus on a small number of sectors and do them really, really well, and health and innovation is one area.

Tim Straughan

Our ambition is to be internationally renowned in leading on health and innovation. So that’s quite a big goal. And within that, we’ve set up the Leeds Innovation Health Hub, which is a collaboration of all the healthcare providers in Leeds, and all the commissioners. We have provider organizations, the hospitals and the GPs in primary care centers; and in addition, since April 1, we’ve had something called Clinical Commissioning Groups, and they essentially buy or commission services from those providers.

They’re the executive purchasers of healthcare services?

Exactly. And we’ve also got the Leeds City Council, who have responsibility for adult and children’s care, and also, as of April 1, responsibility for public health. So they are a key body, where, like you, we’re very keen on integrating healthcare and social care, to shift care out of these big, expensive hospitals, to home or places close to home, and getting people to look after their own care.

So you’re getting into population health management, as we are?

Exactly. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re driving up the agenda. And within the Leeds Innovation Health Hub, it’s got the providers, the commissioners, the authority, the universities, and the local headquarters of the NHS.

So while a lot happens in London at Whitehall [the British Parliament], the equivalent of a part of your HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] is in Leeds. So we’re working on a whole health ecosystem. We want to work together as one unit across the whole system, and think we can do things together and quite powerfully, with huge benefit. And we’re doing a whole number of projects, including the creation of what we’re calling the Leeds Care Record, which includes not only the hospital data, but also the GP [general practitioner: most British physicians are GPs] primary care data, and the social care data, and eventually the home care data. There are real benefits to gain. And by joining up those data sets, it’s not only fantastic for caregivers, but also in terms of the value in terms of population-based and research-based data.

When did the Leeds Care Record project go live?