Can technology cure the NHS?

Let’s face it – the NHS is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to tech.

While other sectors have launched themselves into the digital world, the UK healthcare service is seriously lagging behind. 90% of the NHS uses the outdated Windows XP operating system, which is not only slow, but has left the NHS vulnerable to cyber attacks. Most people think fax machines are ancient history, but the NHS is still the largest consumer of fax paper in the world. Electronic prescriptions are only just starting to be introduced – and although 90% of us have internet access, only 2% of adults book their GP appointments online.

THINGS ARE ON THE UP!

The NHS is nowhere near using technology to its full potential, but things are looking up.

In October 2014, the Government launched the NHS Five Year Forward View to create a sustainable, affordable and paperless NHS by 2020. Since then, trusts have slowly started to embrace technology like eprescription systems, training eportfolios and digital records. In fact, 96% of GP practices already use digital record systems – which is great – but it’s all happening very slowly.

SO CAN TECHNOLOGY CURE THE NHS?

Yes!

It’s not going to happen overnight, but technology could be the answer to the NHS’ problems. Technology can help diagnose patients… can help trusts share data… can help increase productivity and reduce costs… can help train members of staff… and can help improve patient care. The positive impact tech could have on the NHS is clear, it’s just putting it into practice that’s the issue.

WHAT’S GETTING IN THE WAY?

1. Funding

Funding is always a contentious issue in the NHS, but investment is desperately needed to protect the future of our healthcare system. Last year NHS England awarded £100 million to some of the UK’s most advanced trusts to help them lead the digital revolution. It’s hoped their influence will spread to other trusts, but realistically, this investment only scratches the surface. At the end of 2016, the Government promised to spend £4.2 billion on technology for the NHS by 2020, but justifying this kind of expenditure is a challenge when frontline services are struggling.

2. Reluctance to change

Even though they work for one of world’s largest employers, NHS staff are used to using outdated systems, so they’ll need a lot of training to get up to speed. Users will also have to be convinced that new technology will improve efficiency and make their life easier. Only when you have 100% buy-in will technology really start to make a difference.

3. Communication

In such a massive organisation, it’s easy to focus on the small details rather than the big picture. For example, 96% of GPs use a digital record system, but they don’t communicate with other IT systems across the NHS. This means when a patient arrives in hospital, there’s no record of where they’ve been or where they might be going. A smart, communicative approach is needed to really make an impact.

4. Patience

As we said, change won’t happen overnight. Technology always takes a while to implement, but the investments made today are guaranteed to help cure the NHS of tomorrow.

 

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