PharmaTimes talks to Juliet Bauer about her role as  MD of Livi UK and the digital healthcare landscape

What is your background and current role?

I am the UK managing director of Livi, the UK arm of digital healthcare provider Kry. In the UK we partner with the NHS to give people access to digital healthcare.

I have a background in digital transformation, and before Livi was chief digital officer at NHS England for three years where I led the digital patient services transformation programme. I am also a patient governor for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

What does your day-to-day job involve?

Day-to-day I steer the direction of the UK business and oversee strategy and operations including our partnership with the NHS and healthcare providers. It’s exciting being able to combine my experience of the UK healthcare system with a passion for digital transformation. We’re working to drive real change and open the doors for better healthcare and quality of life for more patients.

What do you think lies in the future for digital healthcare in the UK?

Digital healthcare is not a new phenomenon but over the last year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has taken centre stage – both in accessing GP services virtually and in communications around the vaccine roll out. Done well, digital should also increase capacity in our healthcare system, and help GPs deliver the best care possible by providing a simple and efficient patient management platform.

In future, more people will access healthcare services digitally, with digital services working in tandem with in-person care. We’re seeing a transformation in how care is delivered in the UK and we now need to build the framework to deliver it properly. When digital is done well it can be a real game changer.

What key challenges must be overcome to boost patient access to healthcare via digital channels?

With COVID-19 threatening to widen health inequalities across geographies, age and social demographics, digital tools that work for patients can make care more inclusive and help those struggling to access the system. Access to healthcare is everyone’s right and removing barriers that prevent patients being able to access care is a key challenge to overcome. This can be done in numerous ways, including, for example, having a British sign language interpreter joining virtual GP consultations, facilitating more languages when booking an appointment and ensuring tech support for anyone struggling to use the app.

A deeper solution to this challenge is working with healthcare systems, governments and clinicians to redesign and improve how people access care, with inclusivity a core principle. Ultimately it is about using digital tools to create a healthcare system that puts patients first.

Where do you think optimal use of digital tech could make the most difference to patients?

Digital tech has the power to improve patient experiences and outcomes across the board.  One area where real progress could be made is mental health, providing patients with the preventative tools and help they need. With the pressures of the pandemic, there has been a surge in people seeking mental health treatment. This has created a backlog of patients and the numbers are only likely to rise further as the impacts of the pandemic continue to resonate.

Digital consultations are an effective way to help ensure patients can quickly access high-quality care for a mental health-related illness. Digital technology can offer simple and safe access to diagnosis and treatment. Clinicians and healthcare providers can reassure patients that there is mental health support available for those who need it. In some instances, remote consultations can seem less threatening for someone struggling with anxiety or agoraphobia for example.  A GP is looking for the same signs during an online consultation as they would in-person. Digital also has a role to play in treating chronic conditions.

What drives your passion for your area of work?

Working to improve digital healthcare is a deeply personal mission for me. In 2015 due to a very challenging second pregnancy, I was rushed to hospital for the 14th time, not knowing if I would have the chance to meet my daughter. We both received life-saving care and my experience of dealing with the ongoing complexities of the healthcare system was the impetus behind my career change. I want to use digital technology to improve access to care for all.

I am passionate about promoting women in tech and am part of networking groups to promote women in senior leadership positions.

What are your passions outside of work?

Surfing, which is not the easiest hobby for a Londoner.

What keeps you awake at night?

The idea that decisions made now about how digital healthcare services are commissioned could lead to more, not less inequality for future generations. With the technology available to us, there is no good reason for access to quality care to vary depending on where you live or who you are. We must work together to ensure everyone has access to high quality care, when, and where they need it.