Ben Farrar, Traka’s dedicated Healthcare Market Development Manager, explores his experience of partnering with NHS teams across the UK during the pandemic and the ways the NHS can embrace technology to support transformational health services for the benefit of citizens, patients and staff.
In a recent statement in the House of Commons, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid spoke of how “the NHS has responded with distinction during the country’s fight against the virus.” As he continued to discuss the way forward, he spoke of the need for “not just recovery, but also reform and to make sure that the NHS is there for all of us, no matter what lies ahead.”
When we think of the NHS, we focus on our pride for the relentless work that they do. We recognise those carrying out essential roles, who have selflessly continued their day-to-day duties in support of us all. At the same time, we see how the NHS on a local and national level, continues to face unprecedented demand and severe operational pressure as we emerge from the pandemic.
As we look to “complete the transition back towards normality,” we need to provide support, both physically and mentally, to enable NHS staff to make informed decisions and continue to deliver strong performance.
Whilst the Government has pledged ‘strong action’ and ‘significant investment,’ operating with NHS Trusts, small changes and the use of data, mobile, digital and technology have been proven to make a significant difference to the way teams operate and their ability to deliver optimum quality of care to patients.
Focus on the role of technology
Technology is cited in the increasing focus within healthcare moving forward. The Healthcare Secretary has already mentioned his intention to publish a digital health plan later this year, which will outline plans to help in recovery from the pandemic and promote change across digital health.
Realising the potential of new technologies is already one of the key ‘opportunities’ outlined in the influential Public Health England’s 2020 — 2025 strategy, and so the importance of technology has persisted as a theme.
With most hospitals working towards embedding new technologies, healthcare buildings and landscapes are adapting and extending existing facilities to improve efficiency, workforce wellbeing and clinical outcomes. With the right infrastructure and technology, staff are enabled to work with the agility needed to meet changing demands and increasing patient expectations. Most importantly making a difference to patient care and experience.
One of the key issues Traka has been involved in with working with NHS trusts is implementing automated medical library locker systems that don’t require 24/7 administration. By creating this efficient work process, NHS staff and key workers such as facilities team members can have instant access to devices such as radios at the beginning and end of their shift.
This eliminates the time spent looking for a locker (if one is available at all) and also enhances access with a specialist code, eliminating the need to manually locate devices (which often end up lost or taken off site in error.) This instant access to equipment means NHS staff are assured their possessions are safe and accessible quickly and instantly so that they can focus on starting and ending their shift in more relaxed way.
Likewise, the same is true for managing keys where controlled drugs are stored in cabinets, of which also requires a high-level of access control. Using intelligent key management systems, ward staff can use existing credentials, allowing only authorised personnel to gain access to cabinets. This helps save time searching for the right key at the right time, minimising disruption or delay to patient care.
Saving time is also an essential consideration and part of the NHS Long Term Plan to embrace iPad technology to confidentially store patient data and records, that is easily available and charged as required across shared health management tools. Such a commitment, that the Long Term Plan suggests, “All providers, across acute, community and mental health settings, will be expected to advance to a core level of digitisation by 2024.”
With the ambition in certain Trusts that every junior doctor will have access to an iPad, the availability and storage of such technology falls to the security, compliance and facility teams to manage. In line with the NHS Long Term Plan, there is support for these to be managed remotely via mobile technology not radio for convenience.
This adoption of digital solutions aligns with the idea of “realising the potential of new technologies”, which was outlined as one of the key ‘opportunities’ in Public Health England’s 2020 — 2025 strategy.
Relating mainly to wearable technology and the impact it could have on public health, this still highlighted the importance of the enhanced data and surveillance capabilities that can be achieved by implementing the right technologies.
This is just one example of how technology and intelligent key and equipment management solutions have increased accountability and helped staff work more flexibly and in response to changing needs.
The NHS and Technology: A Summary
The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online and changed patient expectations and clinical willingness to embrace technology and adopt new ways of working. In addition, it facilitated new collaborations both in the centre of the NHS and wider local health and care systems.
Together, these changes have enabled previously unimaginable progress in digitally-enabled care pathways. As we look forward, we can continue to support more efficient work practices and enable a more integrated approach to a smooth-running health care system.
From motion sensors to monitor space usage and help improve efficiencies to adopting wearable devices, technology has great potential to improve how the NHS delivers its services in a new and modern way, providing faster, safer, and more convenient care.
The technology-enabled NHS is also about making the work lives of our clinical staff more sustainable, enabling our clinicians to spend more time with their patients and less time on administrative tasks.
As Jacob West, Director of Health and Life Science at Microsoft UK states: “By working collaboratively with the technology industry, the NHS can be in control of its own future, shape its services and empower its staff to provide more personalised care and a better experience for patients, whilst also reducing waiting times. The NHS has an opportunity to build on the digital foundations accelerated by the pandemic, to create a truly integrated healthcare system, fit for the future and those who serve it.”
For more information on Traka healthcare solutions please visit: https://www.traka.com/global/en/solutions/sectors/healthcare