How Technology Can Reduce Pressure on Frontline Staff

At times of winter crisis, there is plenty of soul-searching and theorising about how best to overcome the challenge. Now that health services are experiencing year-round pressure, the discussion and debate is never ending.

When I first qualified as a doctor, I was working in a very different health service. If you have ever watched a 1950s film that depicts a hospital ward round you will know what I mean. Usually a consultant was followed from bed to bed by junior doctors and nurses who hung on his every word and tried to answer his questions.

Rarely was the patient addressed directly and, more telling, was the absence of any administrative support staff. Administrators were confined to the ‘back office’ and never seen on the ward.

Today’s health eco-system is noticeably changed and there is an acceptance that ‘administrative healthcare’ has a significant role to play.

There is hardly ever talk of the back office and there is a recognition that administrative processes are an integral part of addressing the relentless and increasing demand for healthcare.

The CQC now has a focus on administrative process in its investigations. This is hardly a surprise given the importance of administrative processes involved in delivering care and also the importance of meeting regulatory standards and fulfilling compliance obligations. In the CQC’s own review into its effectiveness published last year, it recognised that some NHS organisations felt that it focused too much on process. Yet, this focus on administrative process is unlikely to change and many argue that it will continue to gather pace.

Technology-based systems have traditionally been used to simplify and automate many labour intensive administrative tasks. For example, technology can vastly simplify the task of managing patient administration processes. It is not uncommon for there to be multiple patient administration processes in a single provider; in one acute hospital and community health service provider we have worked with there were over 60 separate process tasks.

By helping NHS trusts prioritise these processes and identify the responsible individuals for each sub-group, we have been able to help streamline Trusts' administrative healthcare processes, driving efficiency and improving patient care.

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Dr Young trained in medicine in London and continues to practice as an emergency physician for one day each week at St Thomas’ hospital, London. For the last 16 years, he has spent the majority of his time in a range of editorial, evidence-based medicine, clinical decision support and healthcare IT strategic leadership roles.

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