Technology in Healthcare: Helping the UK’s NHS One App at a Time
The National Health Service is one of the UK’s most beloved institutions—we are prouder of NHS than we are of the Royal Family or the BBC. The recent announcement by the British Red Cross that it deployed emergency aid to the NHS in response to a humanitarian crisis has therefore unsurprisingly proven extremely controversial.
Less widely reported is the fact that the Red Cross has actually been working with the NHS for a number of years on a contract basis—with trusts and local authorities funding its work to help relieve key pressure points on the NHS. Simply put, NHS administrators need to find innovative solutions to help them to keep it going. While any mention of stepping up ICT expenditure for the NHS tends to generate its own set of headlines, the increasing pressures of an ageing and growing population mean technology is going to have to take a greater weight in future if the Service is going to survive.
For instance, advances in video technology and telemedicine are driving dramatic improvements in healthcare. Technology is reducing hospital admissions through virtual consultation and effective patient education. It’s enabling high-quality care in remote and underserved areas. And improving coordination among healthcare teams—by improving clinician training and streamlining administration.
Video and telemedicine solutions allow specialists to see more patients than is possible through face-to-face visits and benefit from a reliable source of referrals when in-person care is required. For local health care centers in remote and underserved areas, they can connect to specialists, assessment teams and other providers via video. And video can also connect physicians together to collaborate on complex cases, share the results with peers, and offer remote training and mentoring without taking precious time out of their demanding schedules for travel.
However, making video a viable solution, assumes the right resources can be identified and engaged in these consultations at the right time. This can be challenging considering such a large, dispersed and often mobile workforce. And, in the case of an emergency, when time is of the essence, it’s critical to find the right resources and bring them together quickly and effectively, providing the right communication and collaboration capabilities to help them make decisions and take action faster.
And video isn’t going to solve all the problems the NHS is facing. Even if video conferencing enables doctors to use their time more effectively, the NHS is still facing a shortage of medical staff. The government is pressuring doctors to agree to work longer hours, but again there’s only so many doctors to go around.
Could artificial intelligence (AI) provide an answer here? A chatbot may never replace a consultation in your doctor’s surgery but it could help to screen calls, providing a non-emergency medical triage service. As with other chatbot services, the call can always be handed over to a human specialist advisor, or the patient could be encourage to contact their GP directly.
So, for any politicians or healthcare administrators out there, if you really want to save the NHS then you need to get creative with how you deploy technology. The pressure on the Service is only going to increase, so we need to think how we can relieve it.