Covid 19 has forced us all to change. Change the way we live, work, communicate and what we will no longer take for granted. During these changes, digital health technology has come to the forefront and been relied upon by health services across the globe.
Although digital health technology has been around for decades, the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic has brought its’ benefits to the fore and has kicked off a sorely-needed revolution of staff and patient services within the NHS.
Digital health technology has the ability to empower both staff to provide better care for patients and empower patients to actively participate in their care. In recent months, we’ve all seen a greater focus on wellbeing whilst preventing the spread of disease and illness within a public healthcare setting; and digital health technology is proving a vital resource.
With over 1.2 million staff in England, the NHS is the largest employer in Europe and one of the five largest employers in the world. However, HEE forecasts that if we fail to reduce demand and increase productivity, then we will require at least 190,000 more staff by 2027.
So, how can digital health technology increase the NHS’ productivity?
Digital health technology can help NHS staff maximise their own healthcare knowledge, devote more time to care for patients and meet patients’ needs more effectively. In this blog post, we’ll explore the three main benefits of implementing digital health technology into the NHS in a post-Covid 19 world.
What is digital medicine?
Before we start, it may be a good idea to define what digital medicine is. Put simply, digital medicine can be technologies and products that directly impact diagnosis, prevention, monitoring and the treatment of disease, condition or syndrome.
Digital medicine can also include telemedicine, wearables, digital diagnostic tests, bio nanotechnology, digital therapeutics and immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.
In the UK, over 90% of adults in the UK are internet users and there are over 42,000 healthcare apps – so, it makes sense that our healthcare services incorporate digital technologies into their services as many people would engage with them, thus improving patient care in the process.
But what are the key benefits of a hospital overhauling their traditional processes and replacing with digital healthcare technology?
1. Better Co-Ordinated Care
The UK has an ageing population which means the NHS is faced with a multitude of conditions, patients with different medical backgrounds and histories, many of which are old and frail. This can make providing effective care coordination a central challenge for any health and social care system.
Without effective coordination, the experience of care for the patients will be poor and there is a significant risk of duplication or neglect.
Also, patient records are often stored in a variety of different and inacessible silos across primary care, community and hospital sytems. Even if the data is stored within one single provider, data can sit in wildy different departmental systems.
Unified digital healthcare technologies attack the costs and harm that come from poor communication and fragmented care by developing systems to coordinate care and support providers in collaborting more effectively. Proven technology such as virtual consultations and triage assessment services, allow healthcare professionals to have access to all patient information in real time.
To demonstrate, there are thousands of examples where healthcare professionals will be consulting a patient and they have to follow-up by chasing a report or result and then get back to a patient at a later date. This is inefficient use of time, effort and energy – not giving confidence to the patient or their carers.
Alternatively, a trust could provide their staff with mobile access to data that allows inpatient teams to seek specialist advice from other specialties by sending an instant message. This specialist will then receive the referral details the patient’s medical history, their up to date observations, results and location within the hospital.
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2. Improved access to specialist expertise
Digital health technologies and electronic communication remove geographical barriers between patients and healthcare professionals; improving overall quality and access – delivering care to patients when they really need it.
The specialist’s workload can also be reduced with the use of digital health technology, through:
- Using an initial email consultations to order tests
- More appropriate referrals
- Reductions in the number of face-to-face consultations
For example, The University of Hull completed a study of a heart failure telemonitoring service in Hull found a return on investment of 48% based on an assumed saving of £2000 per averted admission (Cruickshank and Paxman, 2013).
In addition to communicating with patients, clinicians can also video conference, share patient records, or use pre-defined, bookable appointments for professional-to-professional consultations to improve interaction further. Such interactions can reduce referrals, improve care and educate and develop GPs.
3. Greater patient engagement
Technology is rewriting the relationship between patients, healthcare professionals and care providers. Digital health technologies allow patients to take more control over their health in addition to being able to access healthcare more quickly and comfortably.
Interestingly, 69% of doctors globally report that patients often look up conditions prior to consultation and 62% of doctors say that patients often arrive self-diagnosed (Cello Health Insight, 2014).
Digital tools for patient empowerment and self-management provide opportunities for patients’ active participation in their care, with the potential to reduce waste and improve service quality and outcomes.
Giving patients access to a portal could mean they can:
- Develop and track their personal care plan
- Request presciption renewals
- Schedule non-urgent appointments
- Exchange secure messages with their provider
- Access their health edcation library
Overall, allowing patients to feel greater control over their health and a greater understanding.
Technology is transforming healthcare and is providing a route for improved productivity and quality. Covid 19 has forced all NHS health boards to deepen their understanding of the new capabilities that technology gives. If these opportunities are fully undertaken, there could be a signifcant transformation agenda that will deliver benefits to both patients and healthcare providers.
If your NHS trust is interested in going digital to help allevitate the stress on your staff, we can support you with digital consultations, clinics and triage assessments.
In the last 12-months, we’ve treated over 13,000 patients and IDMCS are immensely proud of our overall 97% patient satisfaction feedback score.
Want to know more? We’d be delighted to speak with you – just give us a call on 01908 525 756 and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.