Technology is the beating heart of the NHS
By Richard Oswald, Sales Consultant at telent Technology Services
On 5th July 2018, the NHS turned 70 and we have seen countless individuals and organisations since celebrate the achievements of one of the nation’s most loved institutions. As a British born organisation employing around 1.5 million people in the UK, there are so many of us here at telent that appreciate the vital role the NHS plays in our lives.
It’ll come as no surprise then, that our talented team are incredibly passionate about supporting the NHS, through the technology solutions we offer, and ensuring it can operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Then and now
Thanks to technology, the NHS has delivered huge medical advances and improvements to public health. For example, in 1972, Computerised Tomography (CT) scans revolutionised diagnosis, offering three-dimensional images by combining a series of x-rays. Three years later, the University of Aberdeen obtained the first clinically useful image of internal tissues using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). It is now an invaluable diagnostic tool in the NHS.
And let’s not forget the launch of NHS Direct in 1998, a service that offered alternatives to traditional GP services such as walk-in centres and telephone advice.
Now, in the 21st century, we are seeing technology become the beating heart of the NHS. In 2007, the NHS Choices website launched, offering information about health, lifestyle and NHS services, while NHS Direct was replaced in 2014 by the now very successful NHS 111, a non-emergency number for medical help to reduce pressure on ambulance and A&E services. New figures from NHS England show that record numbers of people are getting urgent NHS care over the phone. In fact, 20,000 people every day are now getting urgent health advice and, during July, just one in ten callers to 111 was advised to visit A&E.
To enable those answering 111 calls to suitably advise patients on the best decision, they must have a reliable communications network. Uptime, availability and dependability are must-have attributes to the network. If an IT system experiences downtime, the promised 24/7 call centre support suffers, leading to longer waiting times, and ultimately more people heading to A&E.
Times have undoubtedly changed over the years, and the NHS recognises that technology will be key to securing its future and delivering even better outcomes for patients. The Five Year Forward View sets out a shared strategic vision for the future of the NHS, which includes preventative and predictive technology measures to deliver a more responsive NHS.
Among the plan, there are steps to introduce Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to enable closer collaboration between NHS organisations and local authorities. What’s great about these connected systems is that they share resources, have robust processes, as well as store information, such as the critically important patient care records.
Even this month, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced a £200million fund for trusts to deliver better systems, and introduce a new NHS app. The funding will eliminate GP’s struggling to pull up a patient’s record and have to repeatedly ask for their medical history. Technology is transforming the NHS, improving efficiencies and advancing productivity.
Connectivity is important for every organisation – not just those in healthcare. An MIT study concluded that the strength of digital technologies – such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud – doesn’t lie in the technologies individually. Instead, it stems from how companies integrate them to transform their businesses and how they work. This is the future NHS strategy, so we can look forward to seeing how the ICSs progress.
Other key measures in the NHS’s strategy include:
- Free WiFi in all GP surgeries to encourage the uptake of online health services. Plans are also in place to rollout WiFi in hospitals by 2019.
- NHS apps to encourage self-care. The extensive library of apps, assessed by a process developed with NICE, can help people manage and improve their health.
- Digitising hospitals. Selecting the most advanced IT hospitals as Global Digital Exemplars to become world class exemplars for the rest of the NHS to learn from, as well as launching the NHS Digital Academy to train the next generation of Chief Information Officers and Chief Clinical Information Officers.
- Urgent and emergency care support. Technology to support NHS 111 Online and electronic prescriptions as well as enable better sharing of patient care records.
A responsive NHS needs a responsive infrastructure
There is no question that we find ourselves in the era of digital transformation – everything is connected and shares data. Organisations are trying to compete and must re-imagine how to deploy, consume and fund I.T. If the real-time data gathered at the intelligent edge was leveraged and analysed in a way which drives better patient experiences, this could improve patient care, cut unnecessary time, and speed up all process and ultimately patient flow throughout a hospital.
The NHS cannot rely on traditional IT to help move its ambitious strategy forward. It will need a robust and secure infrastructure, with flexible capacity, to support the mountain of data produced by that technology. By moving to a consumption-based model of infrastructure, switching to an OP-EX model while remaining in charge of its own data and reducing the strain on CAP-EX budget, the service can be left to flourish. Properly leveraged, we will see real-time data analysed to drive better patient experiences, improve patient care, cut unnecessary waiting times, and speed up processes like never before.
Put simply, the key to the future of our NHS is digital transformation; underpinned by solid infrastructure. At telent, our passionate team is ready to give that support which the NHS thoroughly deserves.