Last month the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a £487 million funding package to transform technology in hospitals, making “care better for patients” and “life easier for staff”. Here Paul Timms, Managing Director, shares his thoughts on how these funds could be best used within the NHS.
The starting point should still be the NHS infrastructure. There are some great examples of specific sites around the UK that are operating an optimised infrastructure, however nationally there is a still a need for this to addressed. Nationwide, health and care organisations are not operating within the minimum annual investment to deliver services digitally. The wider adoption of services, such as GOVROAM, allow multi-disciplinary teams (MDT) to operate technology regardless of the location. Wireless is undoubtedly key, but it is dependent on establishing the right infrastructure to support it.
Maintaining a continued drive towards interoperability should also be a focus. Building on record sharing that scales up from a single Trust to an STP and eventually across an entire region. Combining interoperability with data sharing standards will allow clinicians to access increasing amounts of data for a specific patient increasing informed decision making. The end goal will see local health and social care records being accessed from anywhere across the UK.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The use of AI across the NHS will certainly increase, and we have already seen the benefits of AI in both Voice Recognition and Enterprise Image Management. This is only just the start and we can expect to see shared machine learning continuing to drive AI forward. AI is set to transform health and social care with the reduction in time for professionals spent on routine work allowing for more time to be spend on treatment and complex cases. The range of roles that Ai machines can cover is only ever limited by our own imagination.
Currently 40% of all hospital encounters could be avoided if there was a better link between patient data and clinical services, and the increase of Home Hub technologies would enable significant change. For example, the development and adoption of clinically approved smartphone apps would enable patient data to be collected at home and then computers could process that information to guide the medical advice given. The advice could range from do nothing to immediate action required and a subsequent hospital appointment made. It is estimated that this type of approach could save an average hospital up to 50,000 outpatient appointments per annum and release valuable resource for more complex duties.
The funding could also be essential to the continued use of technology in research. The inclusion of genetic markers has already seen some remarkable advancements with regards to rare diseases, cancer, stroke and many other serious conditions. Local use of a population health solutions integrated across health, social care, environmental, housing, transport, education et al will drive health/care/life improvements across specific cohorts, that without the integrated care record would never be spotted.
With an ageing population and tighter budget controls, significant challenges lay ahead for the NHS in the coming years. However, with the right investment and the further development of enabling technologies and services, the NHS can continue to deliver exceptional levels of care to the UK public.