The Rise of Technology within the Health & Care Sector

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The “Rise of Technology” this article title in itself sounds almost Hollywood are we about to witness the rise of rebuilding our care infrastructure around a physical technology, no, this is not the thought process although the distance that the Social Care infrastructure is from the technologies being used in most other industries is vast and not in the wrong way. 

Advanced technologies have an important role to play in improving the standards of care and those that work within it, there is a constant battle in the UK between an ageing population and the need to provide a high quality level of care, as we all know this is only going in one direction. This places an increasing pressure on health and social systems and processes with many providers struggling to efficiently maintain quality of care with shrinking resources.

With the costs increasing and funding becoming more difficult outside the private arena, the healthcare industry as a whole must look to embrace the latest technologies to help the elderly receive high quality care, reducing the need for maximum one on one assistance.

Technologies in particular which could to improve care processes, ensuring all care generations receives high quality and are affordable to a care system include: 

Cloud communications, storage and mobility:

This was discussed in a previous article for Driven by Health magazine as organisations can achieve a more efficient, cost-effective and collaborative service by combining cloud and mobile technologies. These enable companies to deliver increased personalisation of care and reliable communications in a scalable, secure and efficient way. Workplace and community mobility enhances processes in a number of ways. Cloud-based communications can enable real-time dynamic scheduling systems, which facilitates practitioners to organise home visits and plot the most effective routes to users based on travel conditions and locations. At the same time, medical staff can have access to patient files on any device at any time, which helps them make immediate decisions. Finally care instructions can be made available to the patient contact or a family member notifies them of changes bringing a loop of care together.

Interconnectivity

The progress in the connectivity is what enables collaborative communications, where smart devices are connected via the Internet to create a seamless transfer of information and automation of processes. This saves healthcare providers as it has other industries. Crucially it can give end users the ability to live at home instead of having to move to assisted living or care home environments until necessary if this technology is utilised appropriately across the board it could revolutionise how people live at home. Connected devices throughout the home can become the eyes and ears for all those in need of care, using devices that are already available day to day.

Video calling technology

Video calling via Skype and FaceTime accessed by all manner of devices can provide an important lifeline for people wanting to live independently. It can also keep family members informed and reassured while also enabling healthcare workers to provide possible remote diagnosis. This while Improving the sense of wellbeing for the people utilising the care system and hopefully reducing the number of hospital visits could mean that the pressures on services within the NHS could benefit from proactive technologies aiding workflows including medication checks and family updates.

Despite all this and the fact we live in what we consider to be forward thinking digital economy - the healthcare system has somewhat been excluded from this. The always-on connected world can make the difference between individuals being able to stay in their desired environment and ultimately alleviating pressures on the wider care system and NHS. Technology has never had more of an impact on people’s lives than today, whether it is online retail, connecting with friends or collaborating and working with colleagues across the world, digital services have transformed the way people react.

The reality is, while technology is driving medical development, day-to-day healthcare services are being left behind and have yet to become digitalised in anyway that offers real business and tangible end user advantages – this is a real concern. From managing the patient waiting room to organising staff rotas, the potential technology can provide is endless. With constant discussions around budgets and cuts at the forefront of the media, causing cut backs and disruption, which is not allowing organisations to run at their most efficient. Groups of healthcare organisations must begin to adopt cost effective, small changes to revitalise these healthcare services bringing more flexibility and agility into the wider system. It will be these small changes that have the most impact on the healthcare industry.

Still many healthcare organisations rely on paper based in house solutions to input patient data and organise staff rotas. Despite this coming with is own risks around security and unnecessary admin that could be potentially be avoided. It is easy to understand why as the real benefits are not put forward in a tangible way and with too many external suppliers selling bit part solutions with no joined up approach this end goal seems further and further away. The Key is to adopt technologies across all areas of healthcare, which ease pressure of emergency services and allow staff to build better relationships for patients. This needs to be the fundamental goal; this is currently not a shared view.

It’s a missed opportunity from suppliers to the market to offer a joined approach, which adds multiple layers of value to the sector on all levels rather than on one element of the wider problem.

So what’s next?

While there is no quick fix, it’s time for the 4 main groups in the sector the NHS, Social Care providers, the technology market providers and the regulators to start working in unison to create small changes with technology adoption. Whether it’s with mobile technology, the implementation of Wi-Fi or digital staff rotas, it is these digital services that can improve the patient experience. All to often systems are crated with an external view of the sector rather than an internal approach, which helps the collaboration of multiple avenues within the care sector. This must include not only the service providers and commissioning entities such as Local Authorities but more importantly the regulator; there is common theme across regulation that looks down on technological advances especially in care planning documentation. To ensure a national buy in this needs to link all areas effectively and with top down agreement of its advantages.

Technology is all about empowerment, therefore to empower services and suppliers to develop in unison will lead to improvements for the end users. This is the value creation and this is what we are all striving for, hopefully!

Written by Adam Hutchison for Driven by Health with Care