This latest instalment in a series of articles giving insight into how HomeLink Healthcare works behind the scenes, asks our Co-Founder and Non-Executive Director Dr. David Lomax about his role within the company, the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opportunities that exist within the wider industry.
I’ve been in medicine all my life. I went to medical school and qualified as a doctor and then completed my postgraduate training in anaesthesia and intensive care. From there I worked at the College of Anaesthetists in the ‘90s. Today, I remain a consultant at St Mary’s Hospital, part of Imperial NHS Trust.
All of which means that with HomeLink and a similar Hospital at Home organisation I founded previously called Medihome, I’ve had parallel careers for the last 20 years or so, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed because of the variety in brings and the amazing people involved.
In fact, despite my medical experience I always had a slight entrepreneurial spirit and enjoyed the ‘business’ side of things, which is one reason the HomeLink journey has been so rewarding.
Of course, it has been a steep learning curve, but I think everyone on the team – especially those of us with backgrounds in the NHS – have made so much progress in establishing a new healthcare model and ensuring it works. It’s been a fascinating process.
The introduction of the care in the home model, pre-Covid, meant that when the pandemic hit in 2020 we were in a position to move quickly to help the NHS and others out.
Of course, the terrible impact of COVID-19 presented challenges for everyone, but as we’ve moved towards what we all hope will be the end of the virus peak, there’s a huge opportunity for us to work with the NHS to help free up vital hospital beds and treat patients safely in their own home.
This has the double effect of helping to reduce the spread of the virus, while helping to avoid hospital readmissions – or admission to hospital at all. That objective is now key within the NHS as it looks to manage the backlog treatments, particularly elective surgeries.
I’m one of the Founders of HomeLink Healthcare, along with a few other ex-colleagues from our previous company Medihome, who passionately believed in the Hospital at Home model when we opened for business in 2016. We took all of our learnings from our time at Medihome and pulled our experiences together to create the best framework of Hospital at Home care possible at Homelink.
I brought in one of the early investors and to begin with was very hands-on, with lots of brainstorming and idea generation while we got our leadership team in place. Once our CEO & Clinical Director Jill Ireland was on board everything just took off, quickly attracting other investors and a board, at which point I stepped back from day-to-day operations.
Today, I’m a Non-Executive Director at HomeLink, supporting our highly-experienced Chairman and management team as and when required. It’s been a great honour to have been there at the start and to have seen the company and its people grow so quickly.
Quite simply, I think we’re going to be left with huge waiting lists in the NHS as a result of COVID-19, so the priority is going to be working with our commissioners to help them find ways to work through that efficiently.
And while we’re doing that everyone will need to work hard to keep the virus itself at bay – the vaccination programme has been amazing in that respect and gives us all a solid platform to build on.
Part of the process involves keeping patients at home rather than in a hospital and that’s where our team can really make a difference – monitoring patients with chronic health conditions and people who are recovering post-COVID. The key is to avoid patients getting worse, spotting any deterioration very early and initiating treatment at home accordingly.
Embracing technology to assist with care in the home is absolutely the way the world is moving, so we’re working hard to develop solutions in that area, with a few techniques already deployed successfully.
And then, of course, there are the great strides that are being made with artificial intelligence (AI), particularly when it comes to patient wearables and monitoring technology. That will help us both now and in the future.
I would hope that the clinical tail of the pandemic will be gone, or at least disappearing into the distance. That said, the virus is going to affect individuals for a long time to come, particularly psychologically in terms of social distancing and concern over transmission, even with vaccines circulating. It’s going to change some people’s social behaviour within the community in that respect.
However, I think as far as the care we’ll be providing in the long term, the government agrees that the future of the NHS is home care, especially when it comes to improving social care.
I also think there’ll be opportunities to offer patients more types of treatments in the home, whether that’s administering drugs to treat chronic lung disease, or providing renal dialysis. Those are the kind of things we’re actively talking about and working on.
And don’t forget, technology will be at another level in five years time. The whole point, I think, is the way care is delivered is going to change. The GP’s role is going to change over the next decade, too, if you look at what Babylon is doing to help doctors consult with patients remotely via an app without a surgery visit.
I’d like to meet Dr Ali Parsa at Babylon. I just like the way he innovates and the way he thinks is quite interesting. There’s probably a connection we could have as well in terms of what both our companies are trying to achieve. I’d also like to meet the new head of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, to discuss many of the positive things we’ve been talking about here.
I just find it really exciting to see and interact with the people we’ve got working with us at HomeLink Healthcare – it’s such a great team, and I think all the frontline professionals who work for us enjoy it, too.
And the fact we’re supporting the NHS and doing such a good job helping our patients too is very rewarding.
“I am so grateful to have been referred to HomeLink Healthcare, they have really helped me get back on my feet. If I had stayed in the hospital I would not have achieved everything I have done”
“The visiting therapist took her time with me, was always providing encouragement and without that I wouldn’t be at the point I am today.”
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