Guest Q&A with Imran Rahman, CEO of CHEC
Q: What are the current pressing issues that you are seeing in the healthcare sector?
A: The ongoing NHS crisis has seen waiting lists reach a record high of 7.2 million, with waiting lists unlikely to fall until summer 2024. The NHS has reached its breaking point due to a combination of factors, including limited funding and resources, staff shortages, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, an increased demand for healthcare services and strike action.
Due to the multitude of pressures, there is no simple solution to strengthen the NHS. The Government’s additional £3.3 billion commitment as part of last year’s Autumn Budget has been welcomed, yet more must be done to rebuild the NHS.
Q: What is CHEC doing to support the NHS?
A: CHEC’s role is to help reduce NHS backlogs. To support this, CHEC last year expanded to provide diagnostic endoscopy services as well as ophthalmology. With ophthalmology backlogs the second most severe in the country, with over 628,000 patients on the waiting list, CHEC’s aim is to provide much-needed support. The current situation is bleak: 72% of optometrists said they had seen a patient in the last six months who had treatment delayed by over a year, while 43% had concerns about patients who could lose sight unnecessarily.
Community health services like CHEC help support local patients with tailored, specialist care. Using a shared care partnership model, CHEC assists the NHS, treating patients to cut waiting lists and increase the capacity of NHS staff through longer-term condition management such as glaucoma, as well as surgical interventions. This helps make high-quality, efficient healthcare more accessible for patients.
Q: How has CHEC integrated technology to improve patient outcomes?
During the pandemic, downloads of healthcare apps on mobile devices increased by 25%, with 54,546 apps available on the Google Play Store by the end of 2022. Throughout the pandemic, the sector saw rapid digitalisation to improve accessibility of services, particularly for people living in rural or remote areas. Notably, 31% of adults found it difficult to access care due to concerns over catching Covid-19, demonstrating the importance of increasing the availability of health services.
We launched our bespoke Patient Booking App at the start of 2022, which was the first patient booking app to be used by a community health service. The app allows patients the flexibility to book appointments at their convenience, with the app giving a range of flexible options. The app has been used to book over 385,000 appointments by more than half of CHEC’s patients since its launch and has helped to reduce last-minute cancellations.
Our Patient Booking App makes the appointment process more convenient for both patients, allowing appointments to be booked anytime, anywhere, and reducing the need for time-consuming phone calls. This also streamlines the administrative process for CHEC, increasing efficiencies and further enhancing patient choice.
Q: What do you think the future of ophthalmology will be like?
The shift to digital not only makes healthcare more accessible and efficient, but can improve research, innovation, and treatment in the sector. The use of robotic arms such as the da Vinci Surgical System appear to be the future of ophthalmology, improving precision and reducing human error during eye surgery.
Furthermore, the growing use of AI will see machine learning integrated into many internal processes. AI can help analyse medical images and records to determine potential health risks or abnormalities in patients, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration, enabling doctors to identify issues as early as possible. AI can also triage patients and prioritise care based on the urgency of their condition.
The growth of healthtech has seen healthtech investment skyrocket in recent years. Healthtech investment in the UK is now only second to fintech, and healthtech investment in the UK is the highest in Europe, and third highest in the world.
High-growth healthtech startups are thriving, with seven of the UK’s 47 unicorns part of the healthtech space. The ‘Golden Triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London is home to more than 700 healthtech startups, with innovation in the sector driving unprecedented investment. Investors have recognised that healthtech developments will push forward progress in healthcare, and equip the NHS with the tools it needs to survive.