27 June 2022
Health systems must be flexible to keep up with changes in healthcare. They need to be ready to: adapt to crises; introduce new ways of diagnosing, treating or managing a disease; and implement more efficient and equitable ways of providing care.
What is readiness and how can it be achieved?
Health system readiness means the relevant people, policies, processes, infrastructure and resources are in place to facilitate the adoption of new approaches of care into clinical practice in a timely manner. Alignment of these components requires policy engagement in the health sector and beyond.
Ensuring the sustainable integration of improvements in care is a core component of a quality health system. Decision-makers must plan for the sustainable and timely integration of new technologies and processes into care. Without appropriate integration, the use and quality of innovative care approaches could be affected. A systems approach is needed to achieve readiness for new diagnostics and treatments.
Assessment frameworks can help to identify system deficiencies and the actions that can be taken to address these and increase readiness. By identifying these gaps, we can establish exactly which areas should be targeted for improvement.
When is the right time to think about readiness?
In healthcare, there are many areas of unmet need – areas where delivery of care could be more efficient, where there is need for more and better diagnostics or treatments, or where patient outcomes could be improved. It is important to identify these gaps, and then ascertain if there is anything that could be done to close them. Finding solutions to these problems may prove challenging in some areas, but in other areas there may be an opportunity to integrate a new component of care into a health system to support improvement. It may be the right time to think about readiness if:
- there are few treatment options available
- access to diagnostic and therapeutic approaches is limited
- there are up-and-coming revolutions in care.
Readiness for integrating a component of care should only be considered if there is adequate provision of basic care within a health system. If there are substantive gaps in basic care or essential infrastructure, it may be too early to look at readiness for new interventions.
It is important to consider readiness at the correct time. There need to be enough data available, so you can be confident that there is enough value in adopting the component of care. It is, however, important not to wait too long to start integration, as this could delay the provision of care.
Health system readiness is essential to ensuring the delivery of efficient and equitable care. As medicine and technology advance, health systems need to be ready to integrate new approaches of care into practice. Without readiness for the appropriate integration of components of care, we will not be able to improve population health, patient outcomes and, ultimately, people’s quality of life.
This is the first in a series of opinion posts about increasing health system readiness – so keep an eye on our insights page for further instalments on this topic.
Oriana Carswell, Project Officer at The Health Policy Partnership