D2A pathways and associated practices are key tools in expediting patient discharge, relieving pressure on the acute environment and improving patient flow [1,2]. Although effective on their own, by applying technology in new and innovative ways, these pathways can be further enhanced to generate further benefits.
Supporting technology is best viewed as ‘catalysts’ for D2A pathways. When implemented effectively, they can amplify the benefits of discharge to assess such as: improved patient experience, faster discharge, and the release of capacity for other clinical need.
The role of technology enablement in D2A
The number of D2A enabling technologies is increasing continually, catalysed by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Solutions such as “Virtual Wards” and various health apps provide cost-effective ways of delivering care to more patients in a resource efficient manner [3,4]. With so many technologies, solutions, and providers now on the market, the space has become confusing. An understanding of what the technologies do, what benefits they may generate, and how they support more efficient discharge is not easily come by.
In order to help, we have clustered the current propositions into three main types: ‘alternative models of care’, ‘care management tools’ and ‘service augmenters’ which are explained below. Each of these enhances one or more of the D2A pathways as defined in our previous articles.
Extended models of care to include a patients’ home
Technology solutions labelled as ‘alternative models of care’ seek to fundamentally redefine the patient care pathway. Key solutions in this space include Virtual Wards and Telehealth Services, effectively turning our homes into hospitals.
Technology-enabled Virtual Wards are pioneering, demonstrating the ability to move patients out of the acute environment whilst maintaining the same quality of care . In Masimo’s SafetyNet solution, for example, this is enabled by remote monitoring, allowing real-time assessment of patient “vital signs” and automated alerts when patients conditions begin to deteriorate . When implemented effectively, these solutions can reduce length of stay and release clinical capacity.
Care management and enhanced communication between professionals
The second suite of D2A enabling technologies aim to consolidate the care management process, presenting a complete view of the end-to-end process. Patient discharge is managed by multidisciplinary teams, each uniquely involved in the movement of the patient out of the acute environment and their continued care in the community. Historically, communication between these groups has been limited, delaying discharge, and causing continuity issues in care delivery.
Innovative technology platforms such as ‘Hospital to Home’  provide consolidated views of both the discharge process and the overall patient care pathway, in a way that fosters collaboration between clinical stakeholders. In the context of D2A, these platforms can enable faster, more consistent discharge practices, supporting clinicians to understand discharge stages, who needs to be involved and what needs to happen when.
Accessing national capacity as and when it is needed
Driven by the growing workforce shortage across the NHSE, several 3rd party clinical service providers have been established over the past few years. These providers offer access to clinicians, via telehealth platforms, to support with rate-limiting tasks such as triage. diagnostic and outpatient assessments. In doing so they expand a provider’s workforce, reducing bottlenecks and delays.
These services can diffuse pressure, such as during Winter, to mitigate against seasonal variation for the period when it’s needed. Virtual Lucy  and Medefer  are industry leading providers of these services, not only demonstrating the ability to reduce discharge delays but also preventing patients from unnecessary admission to acute services in the first place.
Ensuring the solution is successful
The implementation and management of digital transformations is rarely done well, but there are steps that can be taken to improve the chance of success. Each technology implementation is different, with unique challenges and success metrics. There are, however, key success factors, common to all implementations regardless of technology type or use. The programme objective, intended use case and commercial viability are all essential to consider if the technology implementation is to achieve success.
A single objective should be defined to drive progress and foster alignment across the delivery team.
Often, we see large programmes of work undertaken as a knee jerk reaction to changing pressures across our health landscape, resulting in ‘solutions’ that are naïve of the problem they attempt to solve .
Providers must be proactive in defining their programme objective, setting a clear goal before work commences. It should be easily understood and clearly linked to actions that support its realisation. Having a single, clearly defined objective (for example, enhanced patient experience) will align stakeholders, keep the project on course and ensure positive outcomes are achieved.
The clarity of this objective will then lead to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs – such as a relevant PROM, percentage of patients in an acute site beyond their point of need, and patients supported at home) which can be used to assess the success of the solution.
Intended use case
Technology should be aligned to where it is needed most.
Discharge processes differ significantly, not just between providers but between clinical pathways. It is unlikely, therefore, that there will be a ‘one size fits all’ technology solution across providers; adaptation is always required to tailor the needs of each unique situation. Many providers fail to consider this, deploying generalised rather than tailored solutions. Providers should focus on strategic deployment models, delivering technology solutions to highest need or highest-pressure pathways first, and then expanding these solutions across lower priority / lower risk pathways over time.
In defining the use case for the D2A enabling technology, an understanding of the underlying population should be developed. Demographic factors such as ethnicity, gender and comorbidity are known to influence the efficacy of healthcare interventions. Understanding these factors will support delivery of tailored, technology-enabled, discharge solutions.
The commercial viability of the technology should be defined early in the project lifecycle.
The balance between costs and benefits (as captured in KPIs) underpins the commercial viability of a technology solution. Through defining a clear objective and understanding the intended use case, the benefits of a technology solution can be easily understood. The financial implications (both ongoing and upfront) of the technology should be modelled to support an equal understanding of associated costs.
Aside from Virtual Wards, which have £450 million in backing, there is no ring-fenced funding available for D2A enabling technologies. A formal business case will be required to secure funding for initial set up and continued use of these technologies. To complete the NHSE business case in full, clear definition of costs, benefits, and ROI time horizons will be required. Importantly, financial benefits must be shown to outweigh costs, with a robust evidence base established to support this conclusion.
Having understood the D2A enabling technology landscape, and how to ensure these tools work to support you, the task of delivery comes next. This is where all the value is generated. The final article in our series will focus on setting up delivery programmes to succeed, demystifying the process by establishing the key elements for success.
 Rojas-García, A., Turner, S., Pizzo, E., Hudson, E., Thomas, J., & Raine, R. (2018). Impact and experiences of delayed discharge: A mixed-studies systematic review. Health expectations: an international journal of public participation in health care and health policy, 21(1), 41–56. https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.12619
 NHS Confederation (2021). Discharge to assess: the case for permanent funding. NHS Confederation. https://www.nhsconfed.org/system/files/2021-07/Discharge-to-assess-funding-briefing-for-HMT.pdf
 Independent Healthcare Providers Network (2020). Our Virtual Ward improves patient flow at Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Independent Healthcare Providers Network. https://www.ihpn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/HAH-discharge-case-study.pdf
 Shah, S.S., Safa, A., Johal, K. et al. A prospective observational real world feasibility study assessing the role of app-based remote patient monitoring in reducing primary care clinician workload during the COVID pandemic. BMC Fam Pract 22, 248 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12875-021-01594-7
 Health Innovation Network South London (2021). Rapid evaluation of Croydon Virtual Ward. Health Innovation Network South London. https://healthinnovationnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Croydon-VW-Evaluation-Report-to-NHSX-v10.pdf
 Masimo SafetyNet. https://www.masimo.co.uk/products/hospital-automation/masimo-safetynet/
 Hospital-to-home. https://hospital-to-home.uk/
 Virtual Lucy. https://www.virtuallucy.co.uk/
 Medefer. https://medefer.com/
 James Illman (2022). ‘Patients at risk’ from ‘hastily rolled out virtual wards’. Health Service Journal. https://www.hsj.co.uk/quality-and-performance/patients-at-risk-from-hastily-rolled-out-virtual-wards/7031648.article