I recently used an online company to do a finger-prick blood test instead of going to see an NHS phlebotomist and was amazed by the speed and ease of the service. It’s a good illustration of how the NHS could - and should - be evolving to improve the patient experience.
The potential for transformation in the healthcare sector is huge: patients want it, frontline staff want it, and NHS leaders want it. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is a real technology advocate and aims to make the NHS the most cutting-edge in the world, and a Computacenter survey of more than 100 IT professionals across NHS trusts backs this up. The demand for new technology is high, with a wide-ranging wish list: for example, 30 per cent of respondents want to implement tablet devices in the next 12 months, providing technology at the point of patient care.
But implementing and transforming technology needs financial resources – with many trusts claiming that budget constraints are the prime reason for their inability to upgrade ageing IT infrastructure.
With the current political turmoil, it is likely that modernisation of the NHS will take a back seat. But we can’t afford to neglect this: to deliver better patient outcomes and value for money, we must push the digital roadmap forward. Computacenter is playing its part by working with NHS Digital and individual trusts to not only accelerate the adoption of new technologies but also to maximise benefits realisation.
Investing in the future
Greater digitalisation will require new skills, new processes, and new policies. Navigating this new landscape will not be easy: as well as highlighting a lack of budget and resources, our survey revealed that some IT system upgrades are not pursued as they are just too complicated.
Security will be a key priority – both at a national and a local level - as healthcare data becomes digital. As part of our work with NHS Digital, we have deployed a network analytics solution that will help to identify patterns of potential threats across the NHS Digital Health and Social Care Network.
NHS organisations will need to develop new skills to aid the implementation, optimisation and management of these and other new technologies. At Computacenter, we are committed to investing in future talent both within our business and beyond. Each year we employ in excess of 100 young people across a number of different technical and business programmes to give them a springboard into a career in the tech industry. We also promote school and university outreach to show students the opportunities that can arise from working with technology. We are delighted that these efforts have been recognised; Computacenter recently won an award for the best medium-sized organisation’s undergraduate industrial placement programme.
The transformation of NHS IT is critical to the future of healthcare delivery and enabling a more preventative approach: modernising IT is the top priority in 2019 for our survey respondents. The government has already recognised the importance of technology and now is the time to step up its commitment.
The NHS faces unprecedented financial and operational challenges, and patient care is suffering despite the determined efforts of frontline staff. We want to help the NHS with its needs of today and also prepare it for the digital opportunities of tomorrow.
When it comes to health, a better experience is important for all of us: the quicker patients and clinicians receive information, the quicker they can take action to improve wellbeing. Receiving that blood test result so promptly meant I could make more informed decisions and catch any small health issues before they become big health issues. With the right technology, this can all be done in my time and without consuming valuable resources at the local GP surgery!
Find out more about Computacenter’s work in the public sector here.