The health and care system in the UK has been woefully slow to adopt the types of digital technologies that have transformed the rest of our lives over recent years (think banking/shopping etc.). What part should out-dated legacy computers and fax machines play in any consumer-facing system when 21st century technology is available in every other walk of life? Think about it, when was the last time you even saw a fax machine? Or at least one sitting in a corner partly camouflaged by a layer of dust?
Amazon's Prof Rowland Illing summarises four key aims for overhauling digital systems as follows:
1. Improved patient experience,
2. Improved clinician experience,
3. Better health outcomes, and
4. Lower cost of care.
For well over a decade, Total Health have been emphasising the need for improving patient and healthcare professional access to clinical choice, integrated systems and mHealth. However now, finally, there is acknowledgement that digital technology offers the only hope that the beleaguered NHS has to bring about real transformation to the way that healthcare is delivered, so as to bridge the gaping funding, efficiency and quality gaps that currently exist.
Multi-billion pound boost for digital overhaul
In the Budget earlier this week Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that he would be giving the NHS a further multi-billion pound boost, specifically to bring about a digital overhaul. So, how could digital technology help?
Integrating non-communicating systems
Bridging traditional structural and hierarchical boundaries that exist across all parts of the health system will be fundamental in bringing about real change. Due to the way that the NHS was historically structured, primary and secondary care are two quite distinct entities that are not capable of communicating fluently with each other. The ideal health-tech system should therefore ideally be able to integrate all parts of the diagnostic and treatment process.
This would allow the way in which patients navigate between departments and specialisms to be streamlined, removing tiers of bureaucracy and waste. It would also facilitate better clinical decision- making by allowing access to data at every stage of the treatment pathway and hence improve quality of care and outcomes. Finally, a system that allows patients to take control of their own historical and current electronic health record would bring about real empowerment. Funding is now available to make this happen, but only time will tell if there is also the desire.
Secure, compliant, data-driven healthcare solutions
The biggest global IT players are moving into this zone. Amazon have already announced their AWS accelerator program for digitalising health delivery in the NHS and are seeking applicants.
The Director & Chief Medical Officer, International Public Sector Health for Amazon Web Services (and writer for Total Health), Prof Rowland Illing explains, "The goal of the AWS Healthcare Accelerator is to cultivate and promote innovative startup solutions that achieve the quadruple aim of improved patient experience, improved clinician experience, better health outcomes, and lower cost of care. In seeking out secure, compliant, data-driven healthcare solutions, AWS will support public sector healthcare enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation".