Oliver Chan from Cloud2

Author: Oliver Chan

Can digital technology help the NHS to transform patient experience?

After witnessing agricultural and industrial revolutions, we are currently experiencing the information revolution.

Statistics show that more data has been created in the last three years than ever in the human history. While the retail sectors have led the usage of large datasets in their strategic and operational needs, it’s interesting to see the health care industry progressing in to the digital world.

The NHS, founded in 1948, has undergone various transformations and is continuously rocking in providing best-in-class patient care amidst various economic hardships. It has now planned to invest £4.2bn in technology, including £1.8bn to create a paper-free health and care system. This is one of their major transformations intended to develop a “fully interoperable electronic health records so that patient’s records are paperless” by 2020.

Why invest in digital transformation?

The NHS has identified three core challenges in their Five year forward view such as, to bridge the gaps between care and quality, finance and efficiency and health and wellbeing.

In a nutshell, they have planned to enhance patient care with the best in class operational efficiency. They also intend to safeguard and upgrade three key quality aspects such as, patient safety, clinical effectiveness and patient experience during this transformation.

Can digital technology help the NHS to close these gaps?

The answer is yes. By integrating the patient information seamlessly across the health care providers, a real-time information is fed to the clinicians that enable them to make (evidence based) effective decisions. It will also provide clarity to the clinicians in assessing patients and developing appropriate treatment plans avoiding unnecessary diagnostics. E-rostering, asset tracking and stock management will help to make effective resource planning resulting in using the available resources efficiently. In operations term, lean approach can be practiced and any activity in the value chain that is not adding value to deliver patient care can be eliminated. Over all, digital technology will transform the ability of the NHS to predict, diagnose and treat disease.

For example:

A portal that enables a patient to schedule, track and access treatment plans will help the patient to schedule appointments with their GP, view diagnostic reports from the healthcare provider and treatment planned by the clinicians in a single window. It should also help the patient to access e-prescriptions. A mobile app that further simplifies the process will help patients to stay connected with the healthcare providers. An online chat option that links the patient with a clinical specialist will give instant information sharing - enhancing patient service. This sounds exciting doesn’t it? But practically today we don’t have this in place, mostly the process is manual with phone calls and letters for appointments etc. Yet, this technology is greatly in practice by the e-retailers, who keeps their customers updated throughout the product delivery lifecycle.

How to achieve the objective?

Key areas where the NHS is planning to develop their capabilities to achieve a paper free at the point care is formulated. Local commissioners, providers and social care partners have developed the Local Digital Road Map(LDR) and Digital Maturity Self-assessment to achieve the digital ambition.

What are the challenges?

  • BI Architecture: An agile BI architecture that not only caters for current needs but also for future requirements is to be carefully designed. In future, we may monitor every citizen’s vital signs from remote and provide instant care to keep them healthy on the go.
  • Latency: The big question is, how online (recent) do we want the data to be? Based on the need, the technical requirements are to be chosen cautiously.
  • System integration & capacity: It is highly complex to build an integrated architecture that connects between various systems. An architecture that is compatible to communicate within the NHS ecosystem is to be constructed. As the data keeps getting on air it will test the capacity of the BI system. This will demand a cloud based architecture.
  • Information governance (IG) & data security: A cloud based architecture stores data in cloud that may not abide to IG policy. However, the industry has realised the need and have started building localised data centres. For example, Microsoft leads the crowd to provide cloud services from UK data centres.
  • Data Quality: The quality and accuracy of information supplied to the clinicians is highly crucial, as important decisions are made based on this. Trust on a BI system is lost if the quality of data is not as per standards. Gartner predicts that 50% of data warehouse projects would fail if organisations do not focus on data quality at source system levels. Automating data input using IOT at source level with less human inputs would certainly help to address the data quality issues at large. However, ensuring the data quality dimensions such as, “completeness, consistency, unique identifiability, currency, timeliness, accuracy, validity, reasonableness and referential integrity” are addressed at source system level (ETL process) will help realise the estimated benefits from a BI system at large.

There is going to be a remarkable transition in the way health care is delivered. Digital transformation is one of the best revolutions that will help predict and prevent diseases and improve health and wellbeing. It will be an exciting ride to experience as the industry progresses. Addressing to data quality should be a major focus as it not only builds trust on the reports but also acts as a fundamental need for predictive and prescriptive analytics – the next big wave in digital transformation.

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