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The Holy Grail? NHS, IT and creating impact

Recently I wrote a guest editorial for the newsletter hosted by Roy Lilley on three IT related areas which would make it easier and safer for patients to “get in; get diagnosed; get fixed up; get out; and get on with their lives.”  

It sounds simple; yet making technology work for the NHS is the Holy Grail, the elixir that we have yet to find.  Boiling it down to three things to make it easier and safer for patients to: get in; get diagnosed; get fixed up; get out; and get on with their lives…is difficult. 

A shopping trolley at Xmas would have less in it.  What are my suggestions?


1. Online diagnosis  

There has been much coverage about the merits and pitfalls of tele-diagnosis.  GP surgeries and GPs are overburdened and under resourced.  In the 21st century rural connectivity remains poor compared to UK cities.

Luddites and sensible minded people will say that physical examination is necessary or preferred.  True, but we don’t have enough GPs.  Patients often do not know how to access services and just turn up at A&E.  

Online diagnosis followed by a real life interaction from a clinician would increase GP productivity, increase access to a clinician and act as a solution for GP surgeries with capacity issues. 

Keep people out of A&E wherever possible. 


2. Magic Bands

Any readers who have visited Disney World will know that Disney embraces technology and innovation.  They developed animatronics, the robots on their rides, now they offer “magic bands” for guests to put on their wrists.  

These act as your room keys, allow you to check in, charge things you buy.  Imagine the possibilities when applied to the NHS.  

Your health history and your medication barcoded and tagged against your band.  The clinicians and services interacted with logged against your band.  Hospitals could monitor flow around the hospital and predict bed capacity.  

The possibilities are almost endless.


3. A real time, connected database with customer focus

Patients are patients, but they should be treated as consumers too.  Markets and competition may not be the way forward within the NHS but a service orientated approach within healthcare is.  

In the commercial world, businesses need and use complex data management systems every day.  It’s how they manage and interact with their customers and how they predict what goods will be demanded and when.  It’s how they function and succeed commercially.  

The NHS is far behind. I know, many readers will lament and groan at the thought of a revived NHS database. The last one was a “fiasco.” We cannot stand still whilst a technologically antiquated NHS staggers along like a weary Titan.  

We need joined up connectivity across the healthcare system.  

Joined up records with real time, accurate information. I imagine the cost would be exorbitant, but I also imagine that the productivity gains would be impressive.    

Is this an unachievable wish list?  I think not.  It requires joined up, national thinking driven by engagement with patients and those on the coal face.  As the proverb says, where there is a will, there is a way. 

What would your three areas of focus be?  I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts and comments on this blog or any others that I have written, all accessible on the Interim Partners website. 


David Rason is the Consultant for Healthcare at Interim Partners.

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