Helping to achieve the NHS’s long-term goals

Exclusively written for Digital Health London
by TechnoJBirch

For years, industry leaders and experts have been encouraging the NHS to adopt new technological healthcare innovations. It’s no secret that the public health sector is under immense pressure to do more with less resource. Despite several policies and laws directing NHS to use technology to its benefit, it is still seen as being “inventive but not creative.”

Innovation is essential to enable NHS to achieve the goals set out in the government mandate, to deliver better healthcare for patients and improve productivity within the social care system. Healthcare providers, commissioners and local authorities are asked to deliver better care service to a growing and ageing population with fewer resources and less funding in a relatively short timeframe.

The future of the NHS and its financial sustainability are at risk if it doesn’t look to innovate right away. The commission has set out a ‘Five Year Forward’ view with £22 billion efficiency savings that need to be met by 2020.

Traditional efficiency that currently drives the healthcare system can only take the NHS so far and will not be enough to deliver the targets set while demand for medical services is foreseen to grow at a fast pace.

There are enormous challenges that the health system currently faces, such as:

• Health inequalities
• An ageing population
• Increasing expectation on healthcare solutions
• Rigorous discipline in terms of public finances
• Public health challenges related to obesity, diabetes, and dementia (cost: £26 billion per year)

The NHS faces some major decisions and innovation is critical in finding solutions to these many challenges.

George Freeman, former minister for Life Sciences explained that the NHS needs to embrace innovation and become a true adopter of technology “to help tackle the urgent productivity challenge of delivering better health outcomes for every pound.”

How do we foster innovation?

1. Cut the red tape
2. Embrace failure and promote a learning culture
3. Culture changes start at the top
4. Adopt technological healthcare solutions

Innovation is more commonly associated with the usage of technology. The UK healthcare sector leverages different digital platforms to connect physicians with patients and vice versa seamlessly in the virtual space. Telehealth services are becoming more in demand, especially for senior citizens and patients with special medical cases. By 2020, doctor’s virtual consultations will double, driven by the rise in dependency on mobile technologies.

Mobile devices and tablets are perfect for keeping patients in constant communication with their doctors. Even the iPad, which was once a device used purely for entertainment purposes is now being leveraged for its communication features especially for senior citizens. O2 mentioned in a post about the iPad that it has become a “powerful productivity” device that transforms the way we do business. These technologies encourage us to be more productive due to the 1000s of productivity apps and fast wireless connectivity available to consumers nowadays. No wonder many medical professionals are now using iPads to help them manage and monitor patients.

However, medical software providers should focus on making these services easy to use, convenient, efficient, and effective to users that can address their healthcare needs. Some people argue that IT companies are building medical tech software and devices that are driven by financial goals rather than addressing the real needs of the patients. The main goal should be to help people receive better healthcare services rather than generating revenue.

There’s no silver bullet that can fix the current challenges of the health system overnight, but tech innovations will be able to ensure future sustainability. There is certainly a greater need to build a culture across the healthcare service that values and promotes innovation. If we are to unleash the full potential of the NHS and its health services, then the government needs to nurture professional communities that promote innovation and implement it to achieve long-term goals.