Last month, the Department of Health & Social Care produced their latest policy paper, The Future of Healthcare: Our Vision for Digital, Data and Technology in Health and Care, highlighting just how far behind the industry is when it comes to their IT systems. They outline a vision of using the best technology available for the NHS and social care sector in order to support preventative, predictive and personalised care. But small steps need to be taken first to start implementing basic technology that gets the ball rolling, which will begin to boost their efficiency incrementally before looking too far ahead into the vast landscape of tech solutions that are available.
The world has undergone a vast digital transformation in the past decade. From the rise of social media and smartphones to home assistants and autonomous cars, technology has developed at a remarkable rate, often leaving enterprise in its wake. Some industries ride the wave of change, while others flounder beneath the surface. Healthcare is a prime example of the latter as it struggles to catch up.
However, as outlined by the policy paper, if they just focus on catching up then they will always remain behind. Tech innovation is constant and continuous; therefore, healthcare must start its transformation now, exploring systems of the future while implementing modern day technologies, in order to maximise its gain.
Maximising data use
Technology makes its biggest impact in the efficiency it provides and creating a secure and reliable digital infrastructure allows for clearer, quicker communication between both people and IT systems. Before building a connected ecosystem that supports ‘Internet of Things’ devices, you should first understand how information flows through your organisation. Analyse where information is currently stored, where it needs to get to and whether or not your current information homes are fit for integration. Devices that talk to one another in the healthcare sector are few and far between, but with the sheer amount of data that is being handled in an industry that relies so heavily on efficiency, they are a glaring omission.
But the collection of data goes beyond the walls of a hospital, GP surgery or care centre. Patients that are wearing smartwatches and fitness trackers are gathering a wealth of health-related behavioural data – including levels of activity, blood pressure and stress – and sharing that with professionals would give them a greater insight into the wellbeing of that person and be able to provide a much better, more accurate service.
Start small, then broaden your horizons
There’s no need to be startled by the sheer range of solutions that modern technology presents. You can start by looking at the systems you’re likely already using in other aspects of your life, things as simple as ensuring your website is fit for purpose or moving your communication channels to Skype. These everyday platforms act as your gateway into the world of technological innovation – they remove the fear of the unknown and allow you to start with familiar surroundings. From there, you can begin to look further afield as to what else is possible.
We’re beginning to see the emergence of artificial intelligence just about everywhere we look, from biometric security in your smartphone to fraud protection offered by high street banks. AI in healthcare is not as far-fetched as it may seem, and it’s already having an impact in early detection of diseases and the training of medical staff, but the future holds so much more.
With an ageing population, we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic – one in four people suffer from it. AI-powered robots could tackle that by being able to hold intelligent conversations with people, processing their responses and acting on them, helping keep the mind sharp. We are starting to see that with the latest range of home assistants being released by the likes of Amazon and Google.
It also has a huge part to play in medical research; of every 5,000 drugs that are initially created, only five ever make it to the stage of human testing and just one makes it to the patient, racking up a cost of £281 million along the way. Using data procured by AI, we have the ability to reduce expenditure of time and money, making for a more efficient process.
Tech becoming second nature
The most important step in digital transformation is acceptance, and when it’s a subject as sensitive as people’s health it’s likely to be even harder to get everybody on board. But as the world around us moves forward, healthcare remaining rooted in pens, paper and fax machines is only going to do it more damage. Technology has become a mainstay in every other aspect of our lives, and so the chance for healthcare to catch up is now, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that happens.
We have a wealth of experience working with health and social care organisations of all sizes. If you’re interested in finding out how tech can benefit your business or charity, get in touch with us today.